untitled (subway frame) 2008
untitled (subway frame) 2008
I went to the 2008 Affordable Art Fair [AAF] preview last night thinking, on the basis of previous incarnations, that the slim hour I had allotted for a visit might be enough. It wasn't, by a long shot. I was very pleasantly surprised that even after overstaying into a good part of another hour I had probably only seen about a third of the exhibitors, and I promise I was hardly schmoozing at all.
There's some very good stuff to be seen on West 18th Street this weekend, and some of it really is affordable. I think I'm using the adjective judiciously, because with prices which start at $100 or $150 much of this art will find a home with folks who may have only very modest incomes.
I'm not being patronizing about the quality of some of what is available; there are works I wouldn't be surprised to see in fairs with much higher visibility - and pretensions.
With that reference I should say that on my way down the aisles and past the bar areas I had to slip through dense throngs of well-dressed and well-lubricated bargain-hunters last night, many of whom were doing more than just schmoozing themselves: The rich love a good bargain as much as the rest of us; they'll compete even with impecunious collectors so long as the packaging looks good, and the organizers have done a very good job with this package.
Prices seemed to be pretty visible, either on the labels or lists set out. The works shown at the top of this post ranged from $150 to $6000. The Fair says the works start at $100 and go to $10,000 (well, "affordable" is always what you think is affordable).
As usual there were still a huge number of gallery names (they came from all over the world) I didn't recognize. The organizers and the galleries have done a great job this year, but if only to emphasize the idea that money is not the standard by which good art should be judged, it might be nice to see the AAF attract galleries from all levels of "respectability". Last night I saw some gallery owners walking about who weren't exhibiting at the fair. They may have just been socializing, or they may have been there for r&d, a professional investment analogous to that of galleries haunting art school studios and graduate shows. But I'm thinking that surely even a blue chip space can find work from its existing shelves or files which it could position for entry-level art patrons. Or perhaps even better, how about "big-deal galleries" exhibiting work at AAF by artists they're currently only considering representing? Of course it would mean they'd actually have to go out and look at some new art.
AAF continues through this Sunday at 135 West 18th Street.
untitled (corrugated) 2008
Why is everybody so afraid of my camera and your camera, even though they all own at least one themselves, and sometimes these same people are the ones spending fortunes installing security cameras to watch us?
I saw this Guardian piece in a Bloggy "linkage" post which appeared yesterday. The paper had published it the day before that. It's too good, and far too important not to share. And don't miss some of the links in the second paragraph.
It's written by Bruce Schneier, an internationally-known security expert and currently British Telecom's chief security technology officer.
Here's a tiny excerpt:
Given that real terrorists, and even wannabe terrorists, don't seem to photograph anything, why is it such pervasive conventional wisdom that terrorists photograph their targets? Why are our fears so great that we have no choice but to be suspicious of any photographer?
Because it's a movie-plot threat.
[delightful image created by bloganything]
Lucy Parsons on a soapbox, defending the people's park
WHY WE CARE
Union Square absolutely must remain a place for public assembly and its park pavilion must remain open to everyone, as it always has been. Both must continue to serve the whole community, and for the pavilion that service must include its traditional and essential function as a podium for public speakers at gatherings which are not permitted anywhere else in this city.
The city came to Union Square instinctively immediately after September 11, 2001. We were there many times before and we've returned repeatedly since. There we shared and broadcast our feelings about war, threats to the Constitution and any number of other issues. But none were so important as the fundamental freedoms of assembly and movement and speech. The park was always there for us. Now it needs us. Today the site of so many rallies, visible and vocal expressions of unpopular popular opinion is barricaded behind a chain-link fence. If civic authorities and real estate interests have their way, we'll never get it back.
Central Park is already gone; it's been privatized and sanitized. No more rallies there: We've been told the lawn is just too precious for regular people. Bryant Park is a club. Union Square is all we have left.
Yesterday some of its defenders rallied inside the park, eventually taking their protest across the street onto the sidewalk in front of the large windows of the luxury W Hotel's street-level lounge. There civic and business planners were meeting to discuss the future of the park. They envision that future as one which includes the privatization of this classic people's "temple" (first constructed in the nineteenth century, rebuilt 75 years ago, and always intended as a public amenity), as well as additional appropriations of or incursions into the area below its steps which has served as a great open public forum for 150 years.
The rostrum of the park pavilion is in fact no longer available, since it's in the midst of the construction project already begun. Instead, General Washington, who had gathered his troops here in 1776, and who addressed the crowd first yesterday, stood on one of the half dozen sturdy soapboxes furnished by a crew of imaginative and industrious volunteers. The beautiful and indefatigable Lucy Parsons took it from there. Upon completing her own remarks she handed the baton to Emma Goldman, who was followed by Paul Robeson. Robeson ended his words raising his voice in song, before he turned to a very eloquent Norman Thomas. Dorothy Day completed the list of scheduled guest speakers. They were all pretty hot.
After a musical and tumbling interlude and some words from Rev Billy, a community leader from the 21st-century figure appeared. Rosie Mendez asked for and was given the rally's improvised podium and an electric bullhorn to read a statement to the crowd (our standards for public speaking have slipped). Mendez is the district's local Councilperson and just about the only local elected official who actually supports the current plans for the park. I had first thought that she had come to announce her conversion to the side of those opposing privatization, but her statement very quickly told us otherwise.
The commercial media doesn't seem to be interested in covering this rally, so I feel I have to at least mention that there were hundreds of people of all ages and sorts, some super graphics and props, young patriots wearing three-cornered hats, the Rude Mechanical Orchestra, a staged linked-arms-around-the-Park moment, and some really sweet anarchists with a great black sign.
Curiously, in so far as I could see, the police absolutely did not interfere at any time during the course of the rally.
I accumulated a stash of pictures from yesterday's very colorful rally. It began at 5pm with speeches from many of the heroes who once stood on this hallowed ground and the energy continued until just about 6:30.
UPDATE: I've added a Flickr set here with more photos of the rally.
Ceci n'est pas un restaurant privé
It looks like some proud park owners were pretty busy yesterday.
Note that the white figure waving from behind the balustrade is the Rev himself.
[John Quilty's image furnished by park gremlins]
come back tomorrow and there'll be a lovely restaurant here instead
(Emma Goldman speaks to garment workers about birth control in Union Square, 1916)
Some folks have the strange idea that Union Square Park, historically (and continuingly) the site of social and political activism in New York, should remain the park of the people. Others have been trying for years to reduce or eliminate the "troublesome" more open public plaza areas to the north, west and south of the greener areas of the park. These same people also think some of its public space should be handed over to private business. These operatives include tin-pot mayors, tin-whistle police, certain tin-eared planners and a number of tin-horned businesses.
It's about Free Speech, as much as or more than anything else.
In the past it was basically only about controlling the rabble; the latest campaign to destroy the park appeals to "gentility" and comes supplied with the irresistible attraction of money as well.
New York's public parks have become Business Improvement Districts [BIDS], or at least that's true of those located wherever there's real money; the others are just left neglected and dangerous, since they are viewed by both public and private authorities as "unprofitable",
The City and the Union Square Partnership Business Improvement District plans a costly renovation plan for the north end of Union Square Park. The plan, currently being held up because of a lawsuit filed by the Union Square Community Coalition would take away thousands of square feet of potential playground, community and free assembly space to accommodate an exclusive year-round restaurant.
This amenity would be located only steps away from dozens of eateries of every description already serving the neighborhood. Union Square represents nothing like the isolation of much of Central Park - as if the hugely-embarrassing model of the ridiculous Tavern on the Green weren't disgusting enough to put a stop to this proposal long ago.
The mayor supports the BID plan, but the opposition doesn't come from Leftist heirs of the Emma Goldman, Paul Robeson and their like, the people who helped make the park what it stands for today. Opponents to the privatization plan include the familiar New York names of Carolyn Maloney, Tom Duane, Dick Gottfried, Jack Taylor, Sylvia Friedman, Deborah Glick, Carol Greitzer, Eadie Shanker and Scott Stringer. This is establishment.
So why is it still a live issue? Because there's so much money pushing it. The courts may still allow the alterations which the community opposes to proceed, but a greater visibility (I mean direct action and attendant media attention) will surely effect the resolution of the case.
There's a demonstration tomorrow, Thursday, at 5pm near the northwest corner of the park (17th Street and Broadway).
I expect it to be pretty colorful, and tuneful: The announcement I'm looking at asks us to:
Join George Washington, Dorothy Day, Emma Goldman, Paul Robeson, and Lucy Parsons. Join The Stop Shopping Gospel Choir and The Rude Mechanical Orchestra. Join Reverend Billy. Join your fellow citizens for a 90 minute festival of freedom at Union Square Park!Save Union Square 2008 promises to be at this same location every Wednesday at 5, performing, recruiting support, and urging passersby to sign an online petition and to contact local Councilperson Rosie Mendez.
[image from historycooperative]