Monday, December 27, 2010

Art about the Bowery + "The Last Days of Loserville"

I had planned on talking about East 2nd Street for a bit, and digging up more pictures of the Liz Christy garden, but yesterday's snowstorm is keeping me from getting back to the city so I can access my negatives.  In the meantime I've been digging thought the Village Voice, which, not surprisingly, holds a different blend of information covering some of the same events in articles I posted from the Times.

Mid 2000's......there is an article titled "The Last Days of Loserville", which, while covering the standard history of the Bowery, also frankly talks about why it should be saved as is, or not.   Also mentioned are a few art projects created a the time to help remember the Bowery as it was/is:


Place Matters has an interesting interactive Bowery map here.   Their organization states "Places connect us to the past, host community and cultural traditions, and keep local environments distinctive. City Lore and the Municipal Art Society founded the Place Matters project in 1998 to identify, promote, and protect such places in New York City."


The folks at Glowlab did a project for the The New Museum's "Counter Culture" show (before it's Bowery building was built). "Brooklyn artists Dave Mandl and Christina Ray ( are currently creating a psychogeographic portrait of a single Bowery block."  Unfortunately the web site does not work, but gives a bit of a description here.
  • Counter Culture ran from 7/10/04 - 8/14/04 and explored "the commerce and cultural diversity of the neighborhoods surrounding the Bowery-the future home of the New Museum-by pairing each of the six artists with a small business or organization in the area."    
  • One of the projects from this show, "From Darkness to Daylight" by Ricardo Miranda Zuniga, is still available online here.  Originally an installation piece at the now defunct SILO Gallery, this online element archives the video and audio content, as well as a host of links and other information. Worth checking out.

The above mentioned projects are all new news to me, though there are a few I remember running across previously.   There is a piece on the Triple Canopy online site from a few years ago called Virtual Bowery by Dan Torop, which turned into a project called Bowery Birds.  Reading though it now I find it more interesting in than the first time, I suppose because I to am trying to decipher the meaning of the Bowery, personally and on a public scale.  A quote from the text: "I had thought of the street as one of the secret roots of the city, a place truer than the grid of streets and avenues it sunders."
  • The text also mentions a virtual recreation of the Lower East Side sponsored by MTV called "", and I found a New York Times article about the project here, from 2008.  I tried to find it online, but it seems to no longer be archived.  It even has a Facebook page, but none of the links to the site work.  I imagine it was hard to keep up with all of the neighborhood and technological changes all happening so quickly over the last few years. 

If we go back in time, Martha Rosler's "The Bowery in two inadequate descriptive systems (1974-75)" is pretty much the definitive portrait of the Bowery in a pre-Luc Sante "Low Life" world.  


Also, Hans Haacke's "Shapolsky et al. Manhattan Real Estate Holdings, A Real Time Social System, as of May 1, 1971 exposed the questionable transactions of Harry Shapolsky's real-estate business between 1951 and 1971. The work itself include detailed and accurate photo and text documentation of these transactions and landmarks. This solo show at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, which was to include this work and which made an issue of the business and personal connections of the museum's trustees, was canceled on the grounds of artistic impropriety by the museum's director six weeks before the opening." (source: Wikipedia)


What is interesting is that while these projects have created a portrait of the neighborhood at a specific time, many seemingly have vanished.  Little is left but some references in articles, much like the buildings that once stood where Avalon Bowery Place is today.  We have physical proof of their existence through archived photos and articles, but these projects may be gone forever with little traces left.  As opposed to Rosler and Haacke's work, which is composed of hard copy images, the the ephemeral quality of web based projects makes me wonder what we'll be left with in the future.

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