Thursday, May 01, 2008

The Storefront is getting a little 'military urbanism' makeover

[Image: (G)host in the (S)hell, by Didier Fiuza Faustino, an exhibition at the Storefront for Art and Architecture in NYC, May 13th, 2008.]

I’ve always loved how the Storefront for Art and Architecture looks like a subtle inner-city bunker right there in Soho, and how transformative it is by both day and night when it all zips up and innocuously reabsorbs itself into the veneer of the sidewalk corner space again. My dream home functions like this, too!
An upcoming installation at the gallery instantly makes me realize how intensely I miss New York City (in fact, I’m dying – dying – to get back there), namely because the only real time I spent there thus far was for Postopolis! where Joseph put me under a wicked spell that I hope never releases me from its urban grip. All I can say now is – I sure do miss that city, the Storefront, and just hanging out with everyone there. Man! It’s ridiculous I have not been out there since. It’s hellish, actually.
Anyhow, the gallery has got something cooking that is right up our alley, and if I were in any better traveling shape I’d find a way out there for all possible reasons. (Note to self: Get to NYC by year end or, or else…).
Pushing the physical and philosophical boundaries that have made the Storefront what it is for years, with its perforated façade and radical reflections on spatial practice, French artist and architect Didier Fiuza Faustino on May 13th will hijack the space and bound it in his own bordery intervention that he’s calling the (G)host in the (S)hell.

[Image: (G)host in the (S)hell, by Didier Fiuza Faustino, an exhibition at the Storefront for Art and Architecture in NYC, May 13th, 2008.]

Check it out: The plan is to engage “the gallery’s iconic swinging panel doors” with a “galvanized steel chain-link fence” and challenge “the façade’s role as a perpetually morphing mobile wall.”

"(G)host in the (S)hell will weave in and out through the openings in the facade, thus delimiting the space created by the motion of Storefront’s panels. The fencing will fasten the panels in an open position, revealing the gallery as a vulnerable, accessible space, yet simultaneously creating a cage between the gallery and the street. During the daytime, six single swing doors will allow visitors to enter the fenced-off space and then enter the gallery. The gallery will remain open, protected only by the fence, for the entire period of the exhibition."

Sounds sick. Timely, to say the least, and very nicely Subtopian.
I love the thought of just taking places – ordinary or not – and encasing them in strange meshes of urban barrier, giving them their own little tailor made military urbanism, as if to tease out some fortressized projections of themselves, or kind of help expose the spatial egos of a place and how intertwined urban space is now with security. And then just sit back and see how the public responds.

[Image: (G)host in the (S)hell, by Didier Fiuza Faustino, an exhibition at the Storefront for Art and Architecture in NYC, May 13th, 2008.]

Of course, I'd love to see how this turns out. Anything examining interwoven chain link fences and mobile walls has got our interest. I dig how it intends to blur qualities of guarded and ultimately vulnerable space together, and devise a new subversive medium out of the gallery itself – the gallery being a sanctuary of cultural openness and showcase as well as a symbol of optimal public space. The inner/outer nature of the Storefront is the perfect host for this installation.
Should be interesting.
According to the press release, “The installation will also include elements of light, sound and video. Two powerful strobe beacons, normally used in airports, will illuminate the gallery’s interior at night, transforming the inaccessible space into a visual attractor even when the gallery is closed.”
But I wonder, for all those New Yorkers who have walked by that funky art space for years, what will they think when they find that those groovy panels have suddenly become boarded up with heavy duty chain link fencing? Will they assume it’s been taken over by the cops? Was the Storefront the scene of some horrendous crime? Will it appear that the Storefront had finally been publicly condemned? Is it crumbling apart, has it become a safety hazard, is it undergoing intriguing new repairs? How will the passerbys feel about those classic entryways now being converted into some flexible militarized stopgap to appreciating a little art on their lunchbreak? Has the Storefront suddenly allied itself with the anti-homeless brigade in Manhattan illustrating now some new urban tactic to repel vagrants, teenagers, killer pigeons maybe?

[Image: (G)host in the (S)hell, by Didier Fiuza Faustino, an exhibition at the Storefront for Art and Architecture in NYC, May 13th, 2008.]

Paying the gallery a visit this time looks about as easy as passing through an IDF checkpoint in the West Bank. Nevertheless, it is sure to generate some curiosity from the sidewalk.
I had not heard of Faustino before this, but the Storefront’s website says:

“His work questions the relationship between the body and architectural space, investigating ideas of intimacy and desire within the urban environment. Through performance, installation and immersive environments, Faustino explores the body’s potential for action removed from the architectural contexts that define it. That multi-disciplinary practice explores a utopian course where architecture disappears and what remains are rituals, experiences and sequences of action in space.”

As much as (G)host in the (S)hell looks to accentuate the interior curiosity generated by the Storefront’s clever protective skin, I like how it also seems suggestive, either consciously or not, about the evolving identity of the Storefront itself as a radical prism for discussion and exhibition. Does the Storefront, not only architecturally, but even curatorially speaking, require some new form of bodyguard from unforeseen forces now: from mafioso real estate developers, or the good old boys of the architecture establishment? Do these forces find the Storefront threatening? Has the Storefront been threatened? Is this all a sardonic play on the urban fortress that has become Manhattan?
You will have to go yourself to find out how to get inside and see what waits for you there. Got the details right here.

(G)HOST IN THE (S)HELL / DIDIER FIUZA FAUSTINO (in collaboration with his Paris-based practice, Bureau des Mésarchitectures, including Mathieu Herbelin, Cláudia Martinho, Tony Matias, Guillaume Viaud.)

Gallery location:
Storefront for Art and Architecture
97 Kenmare Street, New York, NY 10012
May 13 – June 28, 2008
Gallery hours: Tuesday – Saturday, 11am – 6pm

Opening reception Tuesday 13 May, 7pm

And, for the record, as always, we are not opposed to you letting us know what you think!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Come on back and this time we'll check out some real bunkers in nyc...

8:08 PM  
Blogger Subtopia said...


yes! was sorry i didnt hook up with you before i left. we'll definitely go on a mission next time i'm in town, can't wait!

9:34 AM  

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