Thomas Hirschhorn’s Monument to Antonio Gramsci closed on Sunday, September 15, 2013, ending a ten-week stay in the Forest Houses Housing Project in the Bronx.
The project, produced by DIA Art Foundation, featured a hand-made wooden complex that housed a museum, resource and arts center, radio station and lecture theater, all celebrating the words and mind of the great Italian 20th Century philosopher, who stood up against Fascism and wrote most of his opus from jail (Prison Notebooks).
We are particularly partial to Gramsci, a man who famously proclaimed that “Every human being is an intellectual” and that even more pertinently to our times wrote, “I live, I am a partisan. That is why I hate the ones that don’t take sides, I hate the indifferent.” Indifference is indeed the plague of our times, and we are all, in a big or small way, culpable.
Part celebration, part workshop, the public art project encouraged interactions at every level. Local residents helped building and will help tearing down the large plywood structure, decorated it with murals, run a café, a child art room, a newspaper and a radio station, and used onsite computers with free wi-fi. Artsy Manhattanites though were the ones seen attending the sometime very intellectual lectures.
Hirschhorn like to play with the messiness of life, with big ideas in poor packagings, and never is his approach more effective than in a project where real interaction takes place. As Gramsci pointed out in the 1930s, “An idea is not efficacious unless it is expressed in some way artistically.” Art makes concepts approachable, and we we could not agree more.
We completed our final workshop of the academic year last week at Chelsea LAB School. Ofri Cnaani led the workshops on the history of Chelsea as a integral component to her upcoming public art installation with More Art. Ofri engaged the students in a series of research-based sessions investigating the multiple transformations undertaken by Chelsea’s famed Meatpacking district over the last century. The workshops culminated with the students constructing a two-dimensional map of the area on the classroom floor after which they placed images of historical events and captions in the appropriate locations. The activity granted a dynamic understanding to the historic narrative and provided the students with a comprehensive and cohesive timeline of their neighborhood. After an animated brainstorming session, students came up with a list of ten questions to ask long-time Chelsea residents about their relationship to the neighborhood and the changes they had personally experienced. The answers to these questions will be used as research material for Ofri’s commission, opening in September 2013. More to come!
Exploring Spaces: More Art’s recent collaboration with Ofri Cnaani rediscovers the history of New York’s Meatpacking District
More Art is excited to be working with internationally acclaimed, multi-media artist Ofri Cnaani for our latest project. As a dimension of the project, Cnaani has been working with a group of talented students from the Chelsea LAB School. Together, they have been re-envisioning the history of the Meatpacking district through a series of interactive, research-driven workshops. The knowledge garnered from these efforts will ultimately lead to a public art installation by Ofri in the fall, commissioned and produced by More Art. To celebrate this effort, here are some extracts from what’s been discovered.
Built in 1808 for defense during the War of 1812, Fort Gansevoort was the first large structure built in what is now known as the Meatpacking district.
In 1847, rail cars driven by horses are replaced by a street-level engine-driven railroad. 10th Avenue soon became nicknamed “Death Avenue,” due to the resultant pedestrian deaths. The West Side Cowboys—a group of men given the responsibility of riding horses preceding the trains—waved red flags during the day and red lanterns at night to keep pedestrians safe.
In the 1890s, eight bakeries combined to become the New York Biscuit Company. This company merged with the American Biscuit and Manufacturing Company to become the National Biscuit Company—or, Nabisco (comprised of buildings which now host Chelsea Market and Milk Studios). The first Oreo was produced here in 1912.
In 1934, the High Line is built to transport refrigerated carts of meat, dairy, and vegetable products. The rail connects directly to warehouses and factories.
Survivors of the RMS Titanic were dropped off at Pier 54 on 12th Street by the RMS Carpathia in 1954. The Titanic would have docked at the Chelsea Piers, had it not sank.
The High Line carries its last load—frozen turkey—in 1980.