A variety of new efforts at reconceptualizing the built environment are emerging as communities grapple with vacancies caused by the economic downturn. I’ve recently become involved with one of the many new initiatives on the South Side of Chicago: The Op Shop.
As described by its founders, who run Home Gallery:
The Opportunity Shop is a transitory, experimental space for new art in Hyde Park.
The Op Shop is dedicated to creating alternative sites of exchange around art in vacant urban spaces. Come be a part of its first incarnation on East 55th Street, where local artists have produced an evolving, total installation of video, photography, drawing, and sculpture.
This large storefront, made available by Mac Properties for a token fee, offers a chance to create innovative encounters between artists and audiences, and new ways of connecting art to urban change.
Several dozen artists (including myself) have signed on to participate in this first attempt.
Here are a handful of images of the space:
The façade, including “Flood Drawing” by Anders Nilsen:
November 21, 2009:
November 29, 2009:
One of my installations:
Every weekend, motorcycle and all terrain vehicle enthusiasts gather on the north side of Camden, New Jersey. Driven from most city streets by the police, the participants converge in and around Pyne Poynt Park to race amongst a patchwork of row houses and vacant lots. The riders are predominantly male, ethnically diverse and range in age from teenagers to those in their late 20s, while bystanders span from the very young to even the mothers of some of the riders.
Despite tricks and high-speed races, police officers mainly leave them alone, perhaps figuring it’s better to sequester the riders than risking police chase accidents like the one that left one rider with a broken back and seizures. Even so, the occasional warning siren from a passing squad car is greeted with jeers, engine revving and more than a few choice gestures.
The following images are a sampling of the events and the surrounding area.
Over the summer, one of my favorite places to visit was the city of River Rouge. The city borders Detroit on its southern edge and includes the entirely industrial Zug Island.
I was recently looking for more information about the city, when I found its website and discovered some hilarious surprises in its photography gallery, which I offer as screenshots below. Following the screenshots, I offer some (admittedly narrow) suggestions for replacement images.
I spent a lot of time thinking about how I might novelly approach photographing Detroit while preparing to go there for the summer. While my main approaches were to address living with abandonment and visual representations of the public/private divide using traditional digital photography, I spent some time considering how different photographic methods might augment the typical visual experience of the city — the idea being that different methods of documentation or presentation could provide additional information about a city or neighborhood to a viewer who is unlikely to ever view the place.
Of the alternative methods I considered, I decided to experiment with anaglyphic 3D photography for its obvious ability to interject depth to typical two dimensional images. Having never worked with the process before, these images are not technically perfect, but I’m happy with them as attempts at something new. I have some concern that the three dimensionality might make the viewing experience even more foreign or unnecessarily playful, but I hope that same playfulness will more completely engage the viewer with the environment … and ultimately prompt additional questions about the documented places.
Unfortunately, the viewer needs red-cyan glasses to properly view the following images, but I have included links to two-dimensional images of a few of them for those without the glasses.
Hamtramck Disneyland was created by Dmytro Szylak. “Mr. Szylak was born in 1920, in the village of Lwiw, Ukraine, and came to the U.S. in 1949. He began building this work around 1990, after retiring from the General Motors Hydromatic Factory, where he worked on the assembly line for 32 years.” [From]
The Heidelberg Project is a community oriented art project created by Tyree Guyton.
The Hope District is a community in Detroit that seeks to provide jobs and affordable housing for all.
Milton Mizenberg, Jr. and his wife moved to the South Side Chicago neighborhood of Oakland in the 1980s. He responded to the two derelict lots across from his house by transforming them into the Oakland Museum of Contemporary Art, a public space to appreciate the neighborhood and view his sculpture. It has changed with the neighborhood’s fortunes, although it likely exerted influence over the stability of its immediate neighbors, an example of which is seen below.
The best reporting I know about the museum is a 14 minute feature on Mizenberg and the museum from WBEZ that was broadcast September 9, 2003.
The light was a little off, but it’d been too long since I’d taken a photograph of the museum.
A recent excursion to photograph street corners on the South Side prompted me to put pull out a few other favorite corner shots. Whether the buildings that occupy these sites anchor commercial districts or serve as outposts in residential neighborhoods, they play key roles in communities.
The clear isolation of the commercial buildings bounding the intersection of 58th and Prairie has made the intersection one of my longstanding favorites.