We stayed in Fairfield Connecticut for two nights and used it as a base to get to New York City. Such a good idea – I don’t think driving in New York City is something I ever want to do, much less driving with two bikes on the back of the car.
We spent our first day in Brooklyn. It was pretty amazing – I’d emailed a couple of tiny collections and off beat museums that were closed for the season (or the day), but they all agreed to let us in. Somehow this made it even more exciting.
First up was the City Reliquary in Brooklyn, which is a tiny museum dedicated to the city of New York in all its bizarreness. There’s really no rhyme or reason to the collection other than that they collect things that might otherwise go forgotten, get thrown out, or just be seen as unimportant to “real” museums. When we were there they were all engaged in a vigorous debate over whether or not to include a fish. The fish in question was from Fulton Fish Market, a fish market in the Bronx that had been established in 1822 and lasted until some time in the mid-2000s. In any case, one of the collection curators went to the last day of the market, picked up a fish and put it in his freezer to be taxidermied and hung in the gallery. Seemed like a good idea at the time – a real piece of NY history. But, this was against the wishes of at least one vegan board member, who didn’t want animal remains in the collection … and so the fish still languishes in the freezer (packed in Fulton Market ice), its fate unknown….
It was dark and crowded, and labels were made with a label gun, and there was a rollerskate hanging from the ceiling (also a New York City toilet alligator), so pretty great all around.
From there we went to the Interference Archive, also in Brooklyn. But, ahem, we might have gotten a little distracted en route by the Brooklyn Superhero Store. It’s one of Dave Egger’s tutorial centres (tutoring at the back funded by ridiculous/hilarious things sold at the front).
Who’s your hero? Testing out the sparkly capes.
Evil Villain mind reader (Tim was thinking about boogers).
Then we made our way to the Interference Archive, which is housed in a kind of converted warehouse in Brooklyn. Basically it’s ephemera from social movements that has been collected over the years by activists and now it’s open and available to anyone who wants to do research. It was closed on the day we were there, but they let us in to look around for an hour. It is really an anti-archive archive, especially in the way that they want people to touch and use things – it’s a no glove space. They had some pretty amazing things there – definitely documents and buttons and posters that otherwise would never have been collected. We had a good time looking through the stuff – I found some buttons and posters from the anti-FTAA protests in Quebec City that I remembered, and they had some fabulous posters from the Maple Spring. I would really have loved to have more time there just to see what’s there.
A small part of the carefully organized button archive.
Our final stop of the day was at the Library of Morbid Anatomy. I’ve been following the Morbid Anatomy blog for a long time, and was very excited to go there. It’s Joanna Ebenstein’s collection, and she’s basically been running a museum, library and school on a tiny shoestring budget. But where else can you find a collection of objects to do with death, possibly take a class on taxidermy or hear a lecture on burial practices in North America, all while looking through bookshelves stuffed with books on collecting, medical museums, death objects and so on? We talked for a long time about museums, about how she’s moving the collection somewhere bigger, about anti-institutional spaces and learning outside of the academy.
Went to an old New York favourite for Mexican corn for dinner, and then made our way back to Fairfield.
Tim stayed in Fairfield with Lucy the next day, so I was on my own for a second visit to the city.
Vodka makes you a great artist ad, side one.
Side two. Get drunk and paint everyone! Or maybe I’m missing something?
Robert Rauschenberg Foundation/Marfa Dialogues, exhibition on climate change. I thought I should prep myself for our upcoming visit to Marfa. The exhibition was okay … I liked the pyramids – they’re full of oil, clean water, and polluted water from the Rio Grande.
Maya Lin’s nail map of the flood path of Hurricane Sandy
A walk on the Highline – one of my favourite things to do in NYC.
So this slightly out of focus picture of a door is actually a picture of The Museum, housed in a elevator shaft in Cortland Alley. Cortland Alley is really scary. There is definitely rodent wildlife, and when I was there, there were definitely criminal activities taking place. As well as people walking their dogs, which made it seem slightly less terrifying. But it looks like this:
And then you look through the windows in the door, and inside is this:
It is an assemblage of collections, including “Personal Ephemera from Al Goldstein, The Rocks and Tools from Tom Sach’s Mars expedition, Objects Made For Prisoners or by Prisoners in US Prisons, Fake Vomit from Around the World, Tip Jars collected by Jim Walrod, Surf and Turf Potato Chips, and more.” I didn’t stay for long, but it was pretty fun. Reminded me a bit of the Parker Branch in London.
I was actually in NYC to meet with artist Derick Melander. I’m hoping that he’ll be able to come to do an installation with students in one of my classes next year. His work looks like this, and his Tumblr is here:
He makes work from piled clothing. It’s a commentary on the memories housed in the used clothing, and also on the immense waste generated by the textile and apparel industries. We had a fun lunch – so I hope that I get the grant I applied for!
I made a final stop at the Museum of Reclaimed History in Alphabet City, near Tomkins Square (not sure I spelled that correctly). I was pretty tired at this point, and the museum is really about tours of the neighbourhood, sort of like the Tenement Museum. There wasn’t a tour available when I was there, so I just saw the permanent collection. It’s a nice space though, and it’s in the C Squat, which is a legal squat in New York.
Not surprisingly, after having been in fairly isolated places for a lot of the past 5 months, New York was totally overwhelming. A typical conversation went something like this: “mmmmbmblblsls.” “What?” “MMMMMMBLBMBMCM” “I CAN’T HEAR YOU!” “WHAT DID YOU JUST SAY?” “I DIDN”T SAY ANYTHING I JUST ASKED YOU WHAT YOU SAID.” And so on. Apparently one gets used to talking quietly. Also to not hearing constructing, sirens, horns and people yelling at one another. But there was, as always, good food, good coffee, and super amazing tiny little museums and collections. Success all around.
Next up: New York State.