From October 9 until October 12, Art in Odd Places Festival will take place in NYC. This year’s theme of the annual public art and performance festival is FREE. Dutch artist Ienke Kastelein participates in the festival with her project Have A Seat on the Sidewalk (Walking with Chairs) and the Dutch Marieke Warmelink and Domenique Himmelschbach de Vries will offer their free help with their project: ”Embassy of Good Will’.
The theme of AiOP’s tenth annual public art and performance festival is FREE. Open. Autonomy. Gift. Independent. Unoccupied. Commons. Wild. Nothing. Everything.
The 1970s Warriors-era New York City lives in the imaginations of many as the kind of town it used to be. That gritty, wild, at times dangerous place was also a site of agency and possibility. The New York City of present day is much more polished, and encumbered by big money than recent decades; a statement not meaning to invoke nostalgia for the way things used to be, but as a simple point of fact. New York City has changed. Chain retailers (and their shoppers), real estate developers (and their high-paying tenants), and cultural tourists (and their transient economy) now rule the landscape. Between private corporations and city-mandated public space regulations, our every move is watched, recorded, policed, and normalized. Patti Smith said it. David Byrne said it. New York City is not a place for artists.
Or is it?
Sure, money has moved in. But have the people stopped responding? Has creativity simply dried up? Or, like the city itself, has it just changed? Shape-shifted and transgressed the usual models into more inter-disciplinary, life-specific, and self-directed contexts?
This festival thinks so.
Fourteenth Street in Manhattan is at a crucial nexus of this issue. As a kind of informal divider between the “uptown” and “downtown” worlds, 14th Street spans the widest part of the Manhattan island, and has been an important site for trade, light industry, radical activism, transportation, housing, and culture. It is an artery through which crowds of New Yorkers flow everyday to work, play, live, dissent, shop, parade, and create. It has also undergone tremendous change and gentrification, with high-end retail and big box stores dotting the street to accommodate a shift toward an increasingly privatized sidewalk experience.
Art in Odd Places has integrated into this space to startle New Yorkers from their usual paths, and consider their environment in wholly unique and singular moments of creative intervention. Following its decade-long history of artful protest in New York City, Art in Odd Places 2014: FREE presents sixty-two projects that actively engage and respond to the history and heterogeneity of 14th Street. AiOP: FREE asks us to consider what it means to be autonomous in this milieu, with all of its surrounding conditions. Creating a test site for the possibilities and limitations of public space, AiOP: FREE prompts artists to highlight civil liberties, forms of exchange, and personal and collective freedoms in forming a critical idea of what our urban commons looks like, and how it functions. The festival’s ethos has always been one of sharing, openness, and accessibility; produced without a budget, outside of permitting regulations, and taken up completely on the initiative of the organizers and participating artists. AiOP is collaborative, horizontal, and constantly in motion. AiOP is FREE.
Have A Seat on the Sidewalk is a project by Dutch artist Ienke Kastelein (NL). She is an interdisciplinary artist who started out as a photographer. She is interested in the poetics of daily life and in transforming the ordinary into the extraordinary. Her whole body of work is a reflection on being present and presence itself.
For this participatory performance on the sidewalk of 14th Street, twelve white plastic chairs will be put together like a small community, inviting people to sit down. Throughout each day the artist will move the chairs up and down 14th Street. At first the chairs are put down quite orderly, but eventually the installation becomes increasingly loose. Passersby can have a seat, watch the street, and talk to one another. When they go, they must find a new place for the chair they have been sitting on––thus causing the chairs to walk up and down 14th Street.
Location of this project: 542 East 14th Street, New York, NY 10009, USA
Embassy of Good Will is a project by Marieke Warmelink and Domenique Himmelschbach de Vries. Domenique Himmelsbach de Vries (NL) reflects on social issues with humor and interaction. His art practice operates in the middle of society. Marieke Warmelink (NL), is interested in international relations, parliamentary systems and underlying motives of the decision-making. Warmelink questions leadership and offers alternatives.
Embassy of Good Will, One Hour of Free Help: Marieke Warmelink and Domenique Himmelschbach de Vries offer one hour of free help to save the social reputation of The Netherlands. They are good at solving problems: renovating houses, gardening, Turkish coffee cup reading, portrait painting, playing new wave at your party, cooking vegetarian, and giving advice about everything. The Netherlands used to be known as a safe haven for individuals who think differently. However, the past 10 to 15 years the country has been dominated by a growing fear of dissidents, which has resulted in a fertile ground for negativity. With their free help Himmelsbach de Vries and Warmelink now share their expertise, experience and knowledge on a personal level in an attempt to save the social reputation of The Netherlands. Everyone is welcome to join and debate with no limits to the possibilities of free help. In addition, contributing sponsors will be visible during the festival at the Embassy of Goodwill bulletin board, located at the entrance of Union Square 14th Street [L] Subway Station. This will also serve as a public meeting place with daily updates and reports of the free help offered and where visitors can leave notes and comments. In this way participants will indirectly be brought together and at the same time visualize the web of support. Book your free help now!
Location of this project: 44 East 14th Street, New York, NY 10003, USA