to Brooklyn, Must Alternative Arts Just Mean Gentrification?
By Matthew Russell Lee
CITY, October 29 -- How do independent artists try to avoid
being stalking horses for real estate development? What is
The questions were raised on October 29 in a self
styled alternative space on Tenth Avenue in the West 30s, when Stefan
Eins of Fashion Moda previously in the South Bronx (and now in
Harlem) spoke, along with Beka Economopoulos of the Not an
Alternative space in Williamsburg.
City Press asked each of them, and the other panelists who appeared
along with Beka, about gentrification and the limits of good
intentions. Avram Finkelstein, designer of the Silence = Death
anti-AIDS logo, said one has to consider ownership, not only of
property but also ideas. He recounted how AmFAR edited from a poster
any reference to corporate greed.
in the panel discussion at Exit Art, tales were told of alternative
spaces on Greene Street and Bleecker and Bowery, all locations now
firmly gentrified. The Asian American Arts Center has, in a sense,
been gentrified out of existence. It has retreated from a McDonalds
invaded building on the Bowery to a smaller space on Norfolk, seeking
grants to digitize photos of its former exhibitions.
City Press' question about how artists can avoid being the
vanguard of gentrification, Exit Art founder Jeannette Ingberman
whispered an answer about capitalism. Earlier, NYU academic Melissa
Bachleff Burtt had recounted stories of Yoko Ono's loft on Chambers
Street, and the 10th Street co-op scene.
of P.S. 1 and the Clocktower Gallery, among other great stories
told about the Crown Heights Police Station, saying it “made Fort
Apache [The Bronx] look like a garden party, with artists' studios in
holding cells and a commander, Adam Butcher, who spoke of poets,
painters and policemen. And now, it's condominiums.
Fashion Moda in The Bronx, answers on Soho and
Brooklyn gentrification not shown
Eins of Fashion Moda told Inner City Press that although his iconic
space on Third Avenue and 147th Street closed, he moved to a
brownstone in Harlem, and has traveled as far as Osh in Kyrgyzstan to
present about Fashion Moda. That never triggered gentrification,
perhaps because it closed. Or could that be why it closed?
Exit Art, many alternative spaces were memorialized in cardboard
boxes: the Longwood Arts Project in the Bronx, Gran Fury and others.
(The Fashion Moda box contain, along with photos of Ahearn murals, a
photo book by On the wall were posters of the Real Estate Show held on
Street in 1980, and a photo of Elenor Holmes Norton when she was with
the Studio Museum in Harlem. The show, and the boxes, are worth
* * *
Tale of 2 Girl Bands, The Raw & The Cooked,
Heliotropes and Scamps
27 -- Two female led bands rocked the Matchless Bar in
Greenpoint on Friday night, one raw and one cooked. The first, the all
female trio Heliotropes,
reminiscent of the Grateful Dead. The
guitarist and singer was in a flannel shirt; the drummer, also Asian,
stood up in a too short skirt. The African bassist was allowed to
rock out. The trio was endearing and promising, touchingly
deferential to the coming headliners, The Scamps.
hybrid quartet with closely honed songs reminiscent of the early
Talking Heads, were launching their CD. They played each song from
the CD. The lead singer and guitarist, in David Bowie-like short
hair, switched midway to a slide guitar. The space grew warm; she was
sweating and smiling.
player, a placid
Asian woman with a tattoo on her left arm, sang in unison. The bass
player, a seemingly emotionless Nordic session musician, was matched
by a drummer with tongue out and drum machine.
lineup sounds incongruous, their songs were tight, maybe too tight
for some. Comparing the two bands, one imagined the Heliotropes drawn
as is by gravity to increasing practicing and tightness, in order to
become headlines like the The Scamps, to have a better attended CD
launch event. But is bigger always better?
This reviewer prefers the endearing amateur to the finely honed
presentation. It is merely a prejudice, or preference. One might
advise Heliotrope to move out of New York, or at least out of
Greenpoint / Williamsburg, to a place like Akron, Ohio. Perhaps there
Akron in New York. Perhaps Inner City Press can find it. Watch this
Heliotropes, overcooking not shown
is virutally matchless. The former car garage to the side of
the bar has been subdivided by a door with windows. In the music
space, complete with disco ball, a long wooden bench as if from a
subway from another era has stools as Ottomen. There are sound
checks, and outside, McCarran Park.
the park, there
is a yellow school bus with at least one person living inside. Is it
Ken Kesey or the next Heliotropes? Watch this site.
* * *
from Monklike Tango to White Rabbits, Fania All Stars,
Hipsters to Salseros
22 -- This summer in the City the music has been
free. The main Summerstage in Central Park has hosted, among others,
the minimalist British duo The xx. Click here for
Inner City Press'
review. But its satellite in East River park has recently had the
White Rabbits, complete with upright piano in the renovated East
stood awkwardly and listening, filming the proceedings
on cell phones for uploading to YouTube. There was Grape Nut ice
cream and people longing for (a) Spoon.
week later in
the same venue, the tribute salsa band Fania All-Stars drew a larger
and more demonstrative crowd, this time nearly entirely Latino. A
woman in the front rows slowly waved a Puerto Rican flag; the smell
of pescado frito for sale wafted over the crowd.
borough east in
Brooklyn on August 20, an Argentine tango quartet rocked the Vora
Space at 315 4th Avenue. Most striking was pianist Octovio Brunetti,
who deployed Thelonius Monk-like chords over Mercedes Sosa songs sung
by Mariel Sol, and even a bit of salsa.
Octavio Brunetti, radiator and Rooftop not shown
largely South American and older. They looked happy in Vora's small
space, with a white painted radiator on the stage. The bartender gave
out free wasabi peas. The event packed more wallop and not only wasabi
than the season's
end of Rooftop Films just a block away, sold out to a European crowd
which tried to scalp tickets on the banks of the Canal.
back in Park Slope at 444 Seventh Avenue in the Bar 4, a rock
quartet played for what looked like their own roommates. There was
vodka on the foosball table, a white crowd gyrating. This is summer
in the City, at least some parts of it. Some heard as soundtrack: LCD
Soundsystem's "New York, I Love You." To be continued.
* * *
and Gambari, UNAMID Vote Friday
Nigeria's end of Security Council Presidency
reception Wednesday night, the de facto guest of honor was Ibrahim
Gambari. Ambassador Joy Ogwu, who has followed him in each of his
Nigerian jobs, took photos with him, as did Nigerian and other UN
staff members in attendance.
event was in
the penthouse of Nigeria House, built under Gambari's tenure as his
country's ambassador to the UN. So it was something of a home coming.
current job, the joint African Union - UN Mission in Darfur, the vote
to extend its mandate will be Friday and not Thursday. Gambari
chatted up the political coordinators of Council members such as
Mexico, Austria and Turkey. He schmoozed Western Deputies Philip
Parham and Rosemary DiCarlo.
in attendance. But that was not the point: Nigeria's
representative on the UN Advisory Committee on Administrative and
Budgetary Questions was there, kindly telling Inner City Press about
ACABQ's trip to El Fasher during one of Gambari's absences, to see
the cost of living differences in different parts of Sudan.
she helped procure a plate of food for Ghana Perm Rep Leslie K.
Christian, then clear the tables It is a down home and full service
mission, one refreshingly without pretensions.
pure Fela, spun by a Ethiopian DJ who words for the Nigerian mission.
More than one Nigerian remarked to Inner City Press that Gambari,
like Fela, might not always be welcome in Nigeria: the latter because
of protest, Gambari due to perceived defense of the military
dictatorship of Sani Abacha.
Sani Abacha was scarcely mentioned. Ambassador Ogwu, the host with
the most, said she does not envision following Gambari to a
peacekeeper mission, as she is 64, as in the Beatles' song.
Joy Ogwu and DPA, Ms. Gurlach not shown, outside
candidate in wings?
Goodluck Jonathan's picture was
up; the UN Department of Public Information's reticence to move from
Lagos to Abuja was a bone of contention. A spicy dish came with fish
bones included. The vibe was good: but where were China and Russia,
to Inner City Press that DPI is consenting to include the word
“blogger” for the first time in their accreditation guideline.
Still they are trying to confine it to a footnote. We'll see -- watch
Our own footnote,
then: the top Department of Political Affairs post with Security
Council Affairs, from which Horst Heitmann was removed without
ceremony, will not necessarily go to Ms. Gerlach. The talk now is of an
outside candidate. But why leave this post unfilled for so long?