An Uncanny Entrance

Uncanny, from the german unheimlich.

Freud uses this to describe something which is out of your control: an animal which eats out of your hand is heimlich, while the one who bites the hand that feeds is unheimlich, uncanny. But also, Freud calls anything which seems to give you that creeping familiar, inability-to-place-something-feeling as uncanny as well. Deja vu could be defined as the sensation of uncanny.

I know this city and I have no clue where I am. For most of my adult life, perhaps it’s better classified as my entrance into higher education, I’ve been mediating between two islands: the island of my childhood and the island which seems to contain my dreams like a neatly gridded Pandora’s box. In fact my whole life has, in a way, been structured around the hour and a half that it takes a person to take the train from the Syosset rail station on Long Island to then transport themselves to Penn Station in the stomach of New York City. Meals revolved around the time it took for my mother and father to return home from their offices in the sky somewhere above Midtown. I would collect monthly commuter rail tickets, trinkets afforded to me during my interning days, like multicolored pearlescent notches in my belt. But now, that spell is broken and I don’t have the intermediary time or boundary that the train had afforded me. There’s always been a mystery which this city has been shrouded in. Until now. Now I pull back the curtain to dive in. There are too many opportunities here, hiding in alleys and under scaffolds I haven’t had the chance to investigate, that I couldn’t pass up. Now, I’m somewhere in the lower intestine of Manhattan, trying to figure out this behemoth. I gather that the best way to tackle the beast is from the inside out. So, this Gepetto has allowed herself to be swallowed up by the terrible dogfish of a city.

I have my hands quite full here. It’s day five. I am playing a juggling game with pins composed of 15 college credits, my acting career and sporadic auditions, an architecture internship two days a week, and the rest of my livelihood. Dare I say, it’s the most difficult stunt I’ve attempted.

The little things are starting to take effect: I’ve never had to cook for myself, alone. I’ve always cooked for a house of family or my honorary family of three boys in Ithaca. And if anyone has shopped at the Trader Joe’s on 14th street, you know precisely how difficult it is to play a life-sized game of ‘snake’ everyday up and down fifteen quirkily Hawaiian themed aisles of foodstuffs, shopping for one.

The city begins to reveal itself in cracks between building facades, fish-like people swerving through commuter streams, hidden between Stonehenge-like arranged sidewalk sales at The Strand.

Never before had I been exposed to all of these facets of everyday life in the city. I suppose I’ve only used it for my own interests, exclusively during the daytime, but now the city uses me and I get to become a cog in the ritualistic machinations of its diurnal urban life.

The studio, in its virginal days of assembly, is beginning to garner its familiar colorings; plants, slide rules, backpacks, coffee machines, and piles of yellow trace papers; crumpled and scribbled on alike.

The first day of work at my internship proved to be immersive as well. Within five minutes of completing the necessary paperwork, I was off adjusting Rhino models for works to be hoisted above Union Square. Being close to home, I’ll be able to watch the project unfold from my window in the East Village, and from my computer screen Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass.

And I’ve set out to build a chapel in Greenwich village. Expeditions to learn the sensory geist of the site have resulted in a poem or two.

All in all its proving to be a bigger, better, and stranger Ithaca.

With six succulents gracing my windowsill, one job underway, and studio steadily sailing towards some semblance of a building proposal, I have to say life is looking pretty sunny under the glistening Manhattan skyline.

Remembering Lebbeus

This semester in New York City has exposed us to contemporary architecture, built works, and the professional world in which most of us hope to someday practice. Sometimes, however, it is productive to be reminded of the place where new ideas come from – from the imagination of what architecture could be if physics or economy didn’t govern our actions. If architecture were treated as a living, breathing part of our world – a direct reaction to the lives we lead and the action we take – what form would it take?

The Drawing Center in Soho has an exhibition of the work of Lebbeus Woods (1940-2012), an architect who pursued experimental architecture through drawings and models. Some of his most famous works are drawings and models focused on Sarajevo (after the war), Havana (during trade embargo), and San Francisco (after the Loma Preita Earthquake). These phenomenal works focus on particular locales undergoing a particular event, and the reaction that the built environment might have to these events.

A friend recently shared a quote from Russian photographer Gueorgui Pinkhassov: “There are things happening before and after the event. These things are even more important than the event itself.”

Events have a time-initial, and a time-final, as life flows continuously by. As humans, we are attracted and intrigued by events – emotional turning points through which we gauge progress, accomplishment, time – and we are unimpressed with the flow of daily life. As architects, we must be cognizant of what came before, and what comes after events. We must focus significantly on the aspects of daily life which others may take for granted. Our designs and our influence on the built environment is temporally derived, and temporal in nature. We attempt to react to current conditions with an awareness to how our interventions will change the way that a site, a district, a society functions.

In one of Woods’ sketchbooks, he wrote in capital letters: DON’T REBUILD RECTANGLES. Perhaps this one statement encompasses a major argument he makes. As designers, we must detach ourselves from what we know in order to truly create something new. We must disassociate from the event of designing a building, and from the distinct events that mark the passing of time, in order to encompass all that it means to live within the worlds we create. After a semester surrounded by the innovative and astounding rectangles of New York City, it is refreshing to have an injection of the imaginative into our experience of the city.

Erickson_Lebbeus Woods Exhibit at The Drawing Center 6

Lucas Greco at The Drawing Center’s Lebbeus Woods exhibition

Erickson_Lebbeus Woods Exhibit at The Drawing Center 8

Stuart Pidcock at The Drawing Center’s Lebbeus Woods exhibition

Erickson_Lebbeus Woods Celebration Lecture at Cooper Union

M.Arch I students attending Lebbeus Woods celebration event at Cooper Union.

(all photos by Luke Erickson)

New York City Lifestyle

What do the BFA students do when not interred in studio, working at internships, or reading up on homework? I interviewed each Fine Arts major to find out a little about how they spend their free time. General consensus: while New York is supposedly the city that never sleeps, sleeping seems to be the favorite weekend pastime as finals approach.

The sunny weather has made it easier to explore different parts of the city. Photo by Danni Shen.
The sunny weather has made it easier to explore different parts of the city. Photo by Danni Shen.

1) Aisha Abbassi, B.F.A. ’16

Describe a typical Saturday afternoon: Well, I live in a neighborhood where there’s a good amount of shopping so I generally get caught up in a store even if I didn’t mean to go in. My roommate and I also go look for new places to eat a lot. I think being in New York is a great opportunity for trying new things and we try to take advantage of the great food that Ithaca doesn’t have. If I’m in Chelsea I also go see some galleries.

If you’re hungry in studio, where do you go? I guess the deli. There’s a deli a block away that has everything 24 hours a day. Breakfast, coffee, packaged food, amazing muffins…

If people were coming to visit the city for the first time, what would you tell them to do? Just ride the trains and smell the smells of New York!

2) Lisedy Bueno, B.F.A. ’15

Describe a typical Saturday afternoon: I like to go out to bars uptown.

If you’re hungry in studio, where do you go? Hale and Hearty and Chop’t. Chop’t is really good but extremely expensive.

If people were coming to visit the city for the first time, what would you tell them to do? South Street Seaport is a really fun place to go that no one really goes to. My friend went there for her 16th birthday. There are a lot of nice restaurants and the boardwalk is right there.

3) Sara Cheong, B.F.A. and C.A.L.S. ’17

Describe a typical Saturday afternoon: I try new places to eat or I explore a new part of the city like the Brooklyn Flea market, the Botanical Gardens, or Central Park.

If you’re hungry in studio, where do you go? The deli! Or $1 Pizza.

If people were coming to visit the city for the first time, what would you tell them to do? They have to go eat good food like ice cream in Chinatown and then just walk around parks, and go to the Brooklyn Flea market. Also go to Soho or Chelsea.

4) Jae Hee Cho, B.F.A. ’15

Describe a typical Saturday afternoon: I like to take walks around the city especially if the weather’s nice. I also like to eat. I like to read in the park.

If you’re hungry in studio, where do you go? I go to either La Petite Abeille next door or I go to the Pita place across the street.

If people were coming to visit the city for the first time, what would you tell them to do? Go around and eat. The food is the priority! They will find their way. Everyone comes to the city with things and expectations in mind. During the spring, a lot of my friends came to the art events and fairs like the Armory Show, so the art scene here is definitely a big draw.

4) Minhye Choi, B.F.A. ’16

Describe a typical Saturday afternoon: Sleep. I hang out with my roommate most weekends and we go for walks in the parks when it’s sunny out. Otherwise just eat.

If you’re hungry in studio, where do you go? I go out to eat either next door at Petite Abeille or at City Bakery. Both are pretty expensive but very good.

If people were coming to visit the city for the first time, what would you tell them to do? Go to nice restaurant!

4) Esther Jun, B.F.A. ’15

Describe a typical Saturday afternoon: I like walking, reading, and sleeping. Right now I’m reading the New York Trilogy. I like to read books that are set in the city I’m in whenever I travel somewhere new.

If you’re hungry in studio, where do you go? Around studio I like to go to the Pita place on 6th Ave and the café, Petite Abeille or City Bakery on 18th street.

If people were coming to visit the city for the first time, what would you tell them to do? Just walk around for a day. Don’t try to do anything special. Just pick an avenue like Broadway and walk from the top of Manhattan all the way down—see everything.

Second year BFA students, Rachel Margolis and Sara Cheong at the opening of "A Mercantile Novel" at David Zwirner Gallery in Chelsea. Photo by Danni Shen.
Second year BFA students, Rachel Margolis and Sara Cheong at the opening of “A Mercantile Novel” at David Zwirner Gallery in Chelsea. Photo by Danni Shen.

5) Lauren Jung, B.F.A. ’16

Describe a typical Saturday afternoon: Sleep or go to Central Park.

If you’re hungry in studio, where do you go? The café next door or the deli around the corner.

If people were coming to visit the city for the first time, what would you tell them to do? Go find a nice restaurant, or just hang out in Korea Town!

6) Valerie Kwee, B.F.A. ’16

Describe a typical Saturday afternoon: Just exploring around New York City, meeting up with friends. A lot of my friends from high school live in New York too so I mostly hang out with them.

If you’re hungry in studio, where do you go? The deli.

If people were coming to visit the city for the first time, what would you tell them to do? Go to Central Park and then see some galleries and museums. Try a bunch of cool food.

7) Rachel Margolis, B.F.A. ’16

Describe a typical Saturday afternoon: I like to sit quietly and relax. I also hang out with my friends on weekends a lot.

If you’re hungry in studio, where do you go? Deli.

If people were coming to visit the city for the first time, what would you tell them to do? Walk around and see the sunset by the water near Battery Park and swing on the playground swings.

8) Naima Reddick, B.F.A. ’16

Describe a typical Saturday afternoon: Ride the trains. Smell the smells of New York.

If you’re hungry in studio, where do you go? The food cart, Wafels and Dinges!

If people were coming to visit the city for the first time, what would you tell them to do? Explore Soho and go shopping then get out of Manhattan and go to Brooklyn Botanic Gardens or the Botanical Gardens in the Bronx! Get outside!

BFA students eating a quick lunch together at Ikea between class field trips. Photo by Danni Shen.
BFA students eating a quick lunch together at Ikea between class field trips. Photo by Danni Shen.

9) Danni Shen, B.F.A. ’15

Describe a typical Saturday afternoon: I had a few months where my friends would come into the city and I’d take them around to museums, galleries, the Highline and stuff.

If you’re hungry in studio, where do you go? I don’t eat. I bear with it.

If people were coming to visit the city for the first time, what would you tell them to do? Definitely go walk the Highline. There’s also a place called BaoHaus that is really cool for bao buns.

10) Melody Stein, B.F.A. ’16

Describe a typical Saturday afternoon: I like to visit galleries in new parts of the city and then sort of wander around that area. I have some friends in the city so it’s nice to tag along and see their favorite places to eat and hangout.

If you’re hungry in studio, where do you go? The farmer’s market in Union Square is amazing. As the weather gets nicer more vendors keep showing up selling fresh bread, flowers, vegetables, everything!

If people were coming to visit the city for the first time, what would you tell them to do? Go explore each of the boroughs! New York City is more than Manhattan and some of my favorite places are in Queens and Brooklyn.

11) Emily Teall, B.F.A. ’16

Describe a typical Saturday afternoon: Explore the city. See friends.

If you’re hungry in studio, where do you go? I go to Petite Abeille usually.

If people were coming to visit the city for the first time, what would you tell them to do? If it’s nice out they should go to Central Park. If it’s not, then they should definitely go explore some museums.

7) Jin Yoo, B.F.A. ’16

Describe a typical Saturday afternoon: I like to go to the movies or hang out with a friend. Sometimes I go thrift shopping in Brooklyn which is also fun.

If you’re hungry in studio, where do you go? I go get chicken over rice at the Halal food cart on 6th ave and 18th street.

If people were coming to visit the city for the first time, what would you tell them to do? Go to the Met, go see the Statue of Liberty, go to the Empire State Building. Run out of time doing all the touristy stuff first.

12) Katrina Yu, B.F.A. ’15

Describe a typical Saturday afternoon: Having a nice time with friends, going to movies, shopping.

If you’re hungry in studio, where do you go? Max Brenner or Starbucks around 14th street.

If people were coming to visit the city for the first time, what would you tell them to do? Go to the Empire State Building. I went with my friends and it’s really pretty.

Veronique Ansorge, Miguel Luciano, and Letha Wilson; a Day in Professional Practice and New York City Seminar

While every Professional Practice and New York City Seminar class consists either of discussion, gallery visits, guest lectures, or biennial and art fair tours, this Thursday’s guests were particularly notable. In Jane Farver’s Professional Practice class, Veronique Ansorge, the associate director of the infamous David Zwirner gallery came to the AAP space to discuss how a world-renowned commercial gallery conducts its exhibits. She spoke about her past in Germany studying economics and consulting before searching for opportunities in the art world and serving as David Zwirner’s personal assistant. While the principal portion of her work today revolves around supporting the 40 living artists who are represented by Zwirner gallery through studio visits and scheduling of shows to accommodate their individual careers and working habits, she says her background in business is just as essential as her growing knowledge of contemporary art.  The tasks of balancing commercially viable shows with more conceptual works as well as considering the needs of art collectors in accordance with the goals of artists rely on both sides of her expertise. Her lecture began the day with a new understanding of the many careers associated with the art world.

Next, all of the BFA students jumped on the L train to Brooklyn to meet with acclaimed artists Miguel Luciano and Letha Wilson. Seemingly opposites in their critical approaches and artistic practices, meeting with both of them and touring each of their studios provided great insight into these artists’ diverse ranges of approach and concern. Miguel Luciano utilizes community engagement and social practice as his principal media, and then builds sculptures, interventions, and community art projects off of his concerns. Frequently commissioned by arts organizations such as the smART Program, the Bronx Museum, the Brooklyn Museum, and even the State Department, his work reaches outside of museums into the communities it addresses. Through his kite project in Nairobi, his Piragua cart in Brooklyn, and various other vending machines, kiddie rides, and even paintings, he remains rooted in the topics and issues he chooses to cover.

Letha Wilson takes a much more formal approach to art making. Her beautiful work walks the line between photography and sculpture and has opened up two previously pigeonholed artistic mediums to new associations and critical readings. Wilson showed us her work and discussing her processes of traveling to remote natural environments to take photographs, and then printing and altering the photos using concrete and the existing architecture of galleries. She also spoke about her journey to success, and the pitfalls and discoveries she has made along the way. As aspiring artists coming into the art world, this kind of candid insight is essential. From applying to Skowhegan residency multiple times to taking time off just to work and develop her practice by traveling independently, it seems that the most enduring keys to success among all of the guest lecturers were determination, hard work, and a little bit of luck.

 

Letha Wilson discusses her life and work in her Brooklyn studio space. photo by Danni Shen
Artist Letha Wilson discusses her life and work in her Brooklyn studio space. photo by Danni Shen
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Second year BFA, Jin Young Yoo examines work on a studio visit. photo by Danni Shen.
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Artist Miguel Luciano demonstrates his piece Pimp My Piragua in his studio in Brooklyn. photo by Danni Shen

Whitney Biennial Review

The Whitney Museum is the museum of American Art. The Whitney Biennial then is nothing less than America’s show—a curatorial celebration of now: the artists, the key pieces, the strategies, the influences, the rising stars and the perennial favorites. This year the Biennial tried a new approach to composing this grand collection. Rather than a team of curators working together to gather and assemble the works, three curators were chosen to work independently, each tackling a separate floor.  Stuart Comer, chief curator of media and performance art at MOMA; Anthony Elms, associate curator at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia; and Michelle Grabner, artist and Professor in the Painting and Drawing Department at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago each brought their own unique perspectives the Biennial, unencumbered by compromise or collaboration.

However, the success of this new approach is less firmly decided. Each floor contained a lofty theme and curatorial statement of purpose, however the work that filled the familiar galleries of the Whitney seemed chosen and arranged with little regard to any specific criteria, much less the evocation of precise premises. Indeed, the entire museum was veritably stuffed with art. Often the audience was barely able to view a painting without backing into a sculpture placed only a few feet away. From wall text to floor layout, the exhibition design was uncomfortably reminiscent of the sales floors of the Armory show.

Nevertheless, among this disorganization, the quality of the work was still breathtaking. The video pieces stood out this year, including Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Véréna Paravel’s 2012 film Leviathan, a beautifully disturbing ethnographic investigation into the fishing industry. Matter of fact, starkly documentarian, and unbelievably generous, diving out of the cluttered brightness of the Whitney and into the darkness felt like immersing oneself in a different world altogether.

Both Jane Benson and Jane Farver led the class through the show. Photo by Danni Shen.
Both Jane Benson and Jane Farver led the class through the show. Photo by Danni Shen.
Second year BFA, Melody Stein looks at some of the works on paper displayed in the show. Photo by Danni Shen.
Second year BFA, Melody Stein looks at some of the works on paper displayed in the show. Photo by Danni Shen.