• Untitled, Emil Choski, 2013
  • More Art for Kids, Coco Fusco, 2013
  • The Yellow Building, William Powhida, 2013
  • Douche Bag City, Federico Solmi, 2013
  • Sketchbook Drawings for Envision New York, Amy Wilson, 2013.
  • Vacated, Justin Blinder.
Untitled, Emil Choski, 2013

I believe that inequality will be the most crucial issue facing New York in the next four years. Both the lower and the middle class are being priced out of a city torn between extreme Manhattan wealth and poignant poverty in the outer boroughs. This became especially obvious to me in the wake of Hurricane Sandy when Wall Street regained electric power after only three days, while certain areas of Brooklyn went dark for over a month. There is nothing more cruel than being poor in a place that is rich with resources and I truly believe that we should make sure that everybody has an opportunity to fulfill their potential.

My submission to Envision New York 2017 consisted of several interactive vignettes attempting to bring economic extremes into stark contrast. High-tech architecture looms over slum neighborhoods. Overcrowded and dysfunctional public transportation was shown alongside the comforts of private transportation. The power of automated law enforcement and surveillance was shown hovering over those that have little social or economic power. These contrasts are not always visible in daily life, because the extremes are separated by physical barriers or by distance. By bringing them together I was hoping to create a warning sign that could guide policy makers, voters, and activist towards a brighter, and more egalitarian future.

More Art for Kids, Coco Fusco, 2013

Children learn about the world before they can read or understand numbers. The act of playing embodies a central/essential role to their development as it does hands-on experimentation with elements of the natural world. Children begin to identify patterns in sound and visual phenomena even before they can speak. It is crucially important to integrate such playful and creative activities into early education.

My eight year old son Aurelio has been proving it to me every day.

It is alarming that 25 % of public elementary schools in New York City don’t have an art teacher, and that funding for art materials has declined by 80% in recent years. It is even more appalling that this is happening in New York City, one of the most creative and innovative hub of contemporary society.

New York City’s children need a mayor who supports their creative growth and encourages them to take advantage of the many artistic opportunity that the city has to offer.

The Yellow Building, William Powhida, 2013

The Yellow Buidling was a proposal to create a plan for artists and other working creatives to buy a commercial property as a trust or corporation that would hold the building in perpetuity as studio space.  This is posed a stewardship model based on collective need within the capitalist market system.  Private property and ownership were not abolished, but the terms were modified to provide a way around the decision making of an individual owner or developer.

There were a few key ideas to consider before getting into the complicated reality of this very idealistic proposal that needed to be articulated.  First, no single individual or group would own the building.  The basic premise was to create a trust, foundation, or corporation that would as closely as possible allow for the conditions that a building could own itself.  The idea here was to orient ownership  away from individual ownership and the profit motive.  Practically speaking, a business entity was the best way to legally own the building as an asset and manage its interests.

The building was thought to have a few major, inalienable interests included in a clearly defined mission statement that would be represented by participants in the project.  The first interest was to provide studio spaces for artists and working creatives at current market value necessary to pay for itself, and to keep the rents fixed and below market value in perpetuity.  The second interest was to use any accrued value for the building to replicate itself.  The third interest, to subsidize a certain number of artists’ studios should capital be available after expenses and reinvestment who were not part of the initial cohort.  The fourth interest was providing a limited number of ground floor spaces to commercial and retail businesses in fields relevant to the arts and surrounding community  to provide revenue to support the preceding interests.  This was also an opportunity to create a public use space for the community or provide an essential service to the community.

The building had a fifth interest in remunerating any initial capital investments with a modest return if possible. All participants had to realize that this was not a for-profit enterprise or seek ownership of a space (This includes subleasing for a profit).

The sixth interest of the building was also to provide a transparent model for its replication by others who find the building is at capacity.  Instead of appearing exclusionary or limited, the building would be able to provide interested groups with a practical manual of how to organize, raise funds, and establish another “yellow building” themselves.

This leads to the final, seventh interest of the building, which was to establish a legacy for itself by supporting artists within a market system through the application of cooperative, communal principles, as opposed to competition.  By working together, pooling resources, attracting cultural and philanthropic investors, artists might be able to challenge the current economic order and establish some control over the decision-making for their own community and gain some real agency.

Douche Bag City, Federico Solmi, 2013

Dick Richman is a greedy, dishonest, and selfish Wall Street employee who has been banished to live in Douche Bag City. The City is a hopeless place, where the greedy villains of society are imprisoned for their atrocities committed against the community. There is neither hope nor escape from Douche Bag City; there are no exits and there is no chance for salvation, only punishment and torture. Here prisoners are defenseless against the increasingly barbaric creatures and demons. Money, stocks, and wealth are meaningless.

Douche Bag City was conceived as a satire of the capitalist world drowning in the economic crisis. The protagonist, Dick Richman was confined to live in Douche Bag City, where he had the mission to survive the different chapters of a seemingly video-game adventure. In each mission he ended up being killed by a different plethora of malignant creatures including spiders, monsters and zombies.

How many Dick Richman’s are still out there?

Sketchbook Drawings for Envision New York, Amy Wilson, 2013.

“I deeply believe in the power of the imagination and the intrinsic value in hoping for the impossible.

I was interested in how the acts of dreaming and wishing can be transformative, both to individuals and to society, as potentially revolutionary acts to build a city based more on individuals and personal relationships than corporations.

These series of sketchbook drawings embodied this belief and represented a vehicle to explore the utterly unrealistic and utopian.

I was envisioning two main bartering spaces to be created within Manhattan, as a way to counteract the growing corporate feel and lack of individualized character that I sense in the city. Also, as a way to build bridges among people who might not otherwise come together.

However, I am aware that my project was absurd and not at all the kind of thing that would ever happen in present day NYC.”

—Amy Wilson

Vacated, Justin Blinder.

Vacated used Google Streetview to highlight the vacant lots where new buildings now stand in gentrifying neighborhoods throughout Brooklyn. The project found buildings constructed in the past four years (2012-2016) using New York City building footprint data, and leveraged Google Streetview’s cache to visualize the absent lots just before new housing projects were constructed. The ages of other buildings on these same blocks were also shown in each scene. Take a look at the artist’s website for a more complete view of the project.

In some photographs (such as 263 Eckford Street), it was evident how the texture and character of the neighborhood changed before our eyes. There was one other architectural modernist building on the block but most other buildings were around since the turn of the twentieth century (the 1890s to 1930s, to be precise).  Vacant lots, then, were lenses to magnify historical moments of transition. The project was both temporal and ephemeral, since it drew upon image caches that will eventually be replaced. The piece presented a virtual walking tour of impending gentrification, inviting viewers to glean other potential patterns and note other telling details on the tour, so that they could come to their own conclusions. In all of these photographs, the viewer could also note graffiti and street art nearby. This felt simultaneously apropos and ironic, as vacant lots and graffiti have often served as signs of urban decay. Now, we look at these same signifiers as omens of impending displacement, rallying cries for resistance against the gentrifiers, or intimations of rising property values and expected profits– all depending on where each of us stands. Vacated mined and combined different data sets on vacant lots to present a sort of physical facade of gentrification, one that immediately prompted questions by virtue of its incompleteness: “Vacated by whom? Why? How long had they been there? And who’s replacing them?”

(Note: The NYC building footprint dataset contained some inaccuracies. Still, these dates have been included to provide an estimated historical context.)