Friday, August 28, 2009

Art Party Train

Last night, I rode along on the MOVE! art party train, an event put together by the Lowbrow Society for the Arts, for "experimenting with the use of public space, playing with the traditional means of how people view art, and ultimately bringing a bit of magic to an unsuspecting rider's daily journey."

The party gathered near the New Museum, then rode the J train from Bowery to Broadway Junction. Many of the hipster partiers wore costumes. They drank beer and ate mini donuts. They filled three subway cars. They handed out flowers and played old gin-joint music from the Great Depression with banjos and accordions. Some of the music was very good.

During the ride, most of the non-hip subway riders tried to ignore the party, doing their best to stay hidden in digital pods. They went on reading their religious books and playing their video games as if nothing was happening.

Yet others participated, clapping along to the music or indulging in a little face-painting. Women commuters took flowers from the hipsters and tucked them behind their ears. Parents held up their children to see the fun.

As we moved further along the J line, the locals became understandably less amused. The racial and socioeconomic divide became starker. At Broadway Junction in East New York, we stepped out to a quiet elevated platform, intervening with a different reality. The group of mostly white partiers clumped together, away from the mostly black neighborhood people waiting for trains.

One of the singers struck up his band to sing "The Lady Is a Tramp," announcing, "This song is about how money's not important!"

A man said to a group of partiers, saying with a bemused smile, "This is not the stop to be doing this kind of thing. Don't you know where you're at?"

"We're in Brooklyn," said the partiers.

"This is not a good stop," he said. "Don't you think if you were here all alone, you'd be mugged right now?"

"I don't believe that," said the partiers.

"Believe it. You don't know where you're at."

"Yes, we do," said the partiers, "This is our train, too. We ride this train every day."

The partiers danced at the platform's edge, before the backdrop of coming trains and the signage of a gravestone manufacturer.

Back on the train, heading home, the party broke out into ebullient chaos, with kids hanging from the handrails and swinging like monkeys from the ceiling. There was something exciting about watching this scene, the sheer madness of it, the music and stink of beer, the giddy carelessness.

As if there was nothing else in the world, and no other people, but this party, these bare limbs swinging, blood rushing to the head.

All but a few of the partygoers got off at Kosciusko. I stayed on with a couple of stragglers. The empty subway floor was covered with confetti and loose change that had fallen from the acrobats' upside-down pockets. Dimes, quarters, nickels. I counted a couple of dollars on the floor.

Around Marcy Ave., a black man eating from a bag of Dipsy Doodles stepped on the train. He looked around once, looked at me, then got on his knees and picked up every piece of fallen change.

Click here for more photos


Nikki said...

Kudos to the hipster for standing up to whoever it was that was attempting to bully them, but the fact of the matter is that the dude was right. Going into an area like East New York and bursting out into song about how money doesn't matter is just not a smart move. Not only is it dumb but it's totally insensitive to the fact that the majority of folks around there are in fact poor.

I can go on for hours about how the model hipster loves to glorify poverty but has no idea what it really means to struggle but this is your blog, not mine...

Cool moves on the party on the train and all (very Michael Alig ala the Limelight days) but ease up on the money doesn't mean nothing biz... I wonder if that's what the man who dropped to his knees picking up change thought when he walked into a score on the J train.

Bowery Boogie said...

a bunch of hipsters screaming money doesn't matter in East New York is cruisin for the proverbial bruisin.

EV Grieve said...

This doesn't seem all that different to me than a pub crawl.

Jessica said...

Yeah fuck that. Im white and was hitting East New York regularly in the mid 90s. Let someone tell me some stupid shit like that. Just goes to show that racism goes in many different directions. Sounds like a fun party! Wish I was there.

Anonymous said...

Actually Jessica, they probably wouldn't tell you anything, they'd probably show you. What that guy said to the girl was more for her own good than too "bully". I know hipsters can be very sensitive since they've been told they're very important people all they're lives.

Bloomturd may have cleaned off some of the city but he's also pissed off alot of poor people (including myself) and effectively created a class structure which puts hipsters and other insensitive White Folk in the cross hairs when entering anything but the Green Zone which has been established for them. Imagine if Bloomturd doesn't get re-elected, I predict mass exodus, let's only hope.

So think about what you say before you say it cause that's what the real New York is about. What were you doing in East New York anyway, coppin' some yayo?

kingb said...

Sounds like a bunch of douchebags to me.
And you're celebrating it?

Seems to go against what (i thought) this blog is about

mingusal said...

Bunch of people acting the fool on a public train. Every day, black people, white people, Asian people, Hispanic people, immigrants who just arrived in the city last week, children and teenagers, all ride the subway with at least a minimum sense of decorum and of what it means to be in a public space. But let a bunch of apparently dumb-as-rocks overgrown adolescent white hipsters decide that they'd like to have a wild party, disguised as an "art event," on our train,and that train is suddenly nothing but their playground.

"Just goes to show that racism goes in many different directions." That's rich. Can you imagine the reaction if a large group of young black people decided to take over several cars on a train, play loud music, dance around like crazy, hang from the bars like playground equipment, and get off en masse in a white neighborhood talking back to local riders who find their actions annoying? "Wild animals" would be one of the nicest things that would be said - never mind that the transit cops would be on them and making arrests as quickly as possible.

Those party pooping sourpusses in East New York were people just trying to use the train for its actual purpose, to go from place to place. I would bet that a significant number of those people on that platform were on their way to work, for the meager living that a lot of people in this city make, at an odd hour, perhaps with a long commute in front of them. Only to be confronted with a bunch of clueless spoiled white brats from somewhere else using the platform and the train as a dance floor to convey the message that "money doesn't matter" to people who know all too well just how much money does indeed matter in our society.

That man was trying to tell you something, a message that should transcend race and class, a lesson that all 5 year-olds in NYC learn - this is no place to be acting like that.

Anonymous said...

"Whoever said being rich isn't all that it's cracked-up to be, probably didn't have a bucket to piss in".

Bette Midler, from the film "The Rose"

As a jobless NY'er, struggling to pay rent and eat, I can't muster very much sympathy for exhibits of indifferent and inane behavior such at this. I don't think it serves anyone except themselves, and maybe a bit of steam blowing.

Jeremiah Moss said...

i wouldn't say i am celebrating it. i have mixed feelings about it. i want more artists doing interesting things in this city. but the disregard for context is cause for complaint.

i hope i presented the night in as neutral a way as possible--and let you all make up your minds about it.

Najy said...

Hey guys-

I'm one of the organizers and wanted to throw in my two cents. First, thanks for covering the event Jeremiah.

Second, I'm middle eastern. Many of our artists weren't just "white hipsters"- while a majority were young, we had every skin tone (and a few animal costumes) in tow. The age range for artists was 15 to 30-something.

Third, the ride was made so that we didn't bother too many people on work commutes (it was around 9:30 on a thursday night) and we passed out free juice, flowers, and snacks for the subway riders to brighten up the ride home.

Fourth, the feedback was mostly positive from the riders. We just wanted to bring some music, dancing, and art (many people wore examples of wearable art: sculptures, paintings, photos, costumes, etc)- which in turn inspired people to miss their stop and join the fun.

Lastly, I do agree that the song was a poor (no pun intended) choice at broadway junction- but I'd like to mention that young musicians living off their music wouldn't be considered "rich" either. I work three jobs just to pay my bills.

For the people who are intelligently discussing the socioeconomic breakdown of the art gathering, I have a question:

As an organizer, I do my best to make art and art events free, friendly, accessible to a diverse group, and without pretension- but still I end up with criticism about how everyone is a "white hipster"- what more can I do to involve other communities beyond the outreach I currently do (open calls, contacting organizations of youth of color, etc)?


Anonymous said...

I really don't understand what's with white people and being proud to hang out in rough poor neighborhoods. Mainly people in their 20's.

I can tell you right now if it was the 90's this would never have happened.

Jessica-You were "hitting" east new york in the 90's? for what? To smoke crack?

And by the way-It's not "their train to" they didn't grow up off the J line. They sure as hell didn't.

Unless you been there more than 15 years don't tell us how it's "your train to". It ain't.

Just because you moved here 5 years ago doesn't make that train "your train to".

That's a real dumb ass thing to say "Money is not important". Let me tell you jerk offs something. Money does matter if you want to put food on the table for your kids!

So shut the F* up about that.

I just wanna remind you of something.

Read about that. Pratt student beaten into a coma in a rough neighborhood.

You have to respect where your at!

You can't just cross into someone else's turf and act like you belong!

You every heard of territory?

You don't move into someone's turf and act like a jack ass.

You respect people around you.
If you wanna do that, keep it in the neighborhoods where the artist (that can afford the rent) are at.
Because These people don't wanna hear your bullcrap. They got bills to pay, kids in jail, real problems you don't know about. This ain't some big playground for jerk offs from the suburbs to act like everywhere is their turf and they don't respect it.

I like how they got balls to mouth off to the guy tellin em where there at. That's real ballsy, yeah, try getting off the station and walking around the projects, why not walk into the building while your at it?

They were not scared because they know there on video camera and cops are watchin em.

These kids don't have to work.
Real people have to go to work to pay bills. I guess they don't have to worry about that.

I don't think this was a display of art, it was a costume halloween act like a jack ass event.

They deserve a major beating.

Jeremiah Moss said...

Najy, thanks for writing in.

You're right, there were people of color in the party, though most were white. I think it's inevitable, the "white hipster" thing. It's not the most diverse group, in general. Not sure how you could make it more so. Maybe readers here have some ideas.

Personally, I think a different train line might have been a better choice for the event. Maybe taking the F into Park Slope. I'm not sure the socioeconomic disparity/clash can be avoided otherwise--but maybe the clash was part of the point.

Making art, on its own, requires a certain sense of entitlement and privilege. I don't think art gets made or presented to the world without it.

Anyway, these are complex issues. I hope I presented the night in a way that reflects that and that people here will engage a bit in what is a difficult and highly charged subject.

Tim said...

What mingusal said. Jesus H. Christ I would have been irritated if I was on that train trying to get home from work.

The subway train is not the place for masturbatory childishness like this. Totally unfair for these selfish, entitled hipsters to impose upon trapped riders like this.

Carey said...

As an artist and participant in the show, and one of the "hipster girls" on the platform at Broadway Junction I'd like to address some of the assumptions made about the event and its participants.

Firstly, as long as we're talking about diversity and tolerance, I should mention that I'm not a girl. In fact, two of the three female-bodied people described as "hipster girls" go by either male or gender-neutral pronouns.

Secondly, the man who was talking to us wasn't a Broadway Junction local. He had gotten our attention as early as the meet-up on Bowery to tell us his cast story (apparently he'd been harassed and beaten up for "looking different") and was with the group from beginning to end. While he was doing his part to try and challenge the way we thought about the space we'd entered he was also, quite frankly, just complaining about the neighborhood.

Lastly, I'm not sure what people were doing independently of the family-friendly spirit of the event but fruit juice was the only beverage being served by participants. I don't claim to be particularly perceptive but I didn't see anyone drinking beer on the train and I'm certain it was not endorsed by the organizers of the event.

Anonymous said...

This write-up elicited two unrelated yet unforgettable memories. (1) On a summer night, the downtown IRT local stopped to pick up the Lincoln Center crowd. A homeless woman was sleeping in the cool. A young transit cop strutted through; he looked like the cop Thelma & Louise locked in a trunk. He began jabbing the poor woman with his stick, she'd have to get off. A voice said, "Stop it, man! Would you want someone doing that to your mother?" A primal anger emerged; everyone screamed at this cop; wisely, he got off the train, the woman went back to sleep. (2) A Sunday afternoon, I was walking West St., near 14th. A yuppy couple with 3 little ones encountered 4 transgenders who were dressed to sparkle. Kids fascinated! Daddy took many photos of the kids with the colorful ladies. Ladies loved it! Kids have no wedge issues.

Jeremiah Moss said...

carey, thanks for the clarifications. i can make those changes. did smell beer, though.

Nikki said...

to the dude that posted the Pratt link: I agree with your confusion regarding the allure of the ghetto...

I don't get it at all. I grew up in a lower to middle class area of Brooklyn (Gravesend/Avenue X) and our family had their share of financial difficulties. As an adult, (still not used to that one!) many of my interests include artsy things which bring me into hipster circles on the regular. It's really an interesting side of the fence to be on when you're in some hipster's apartment who is bragging about how bad-ass they are be/c their windows don't close all the way or their walls are structurally unsound. Believe me when I tell you that having windows that don't close be/c you simply cannot afford to be somewhere else (as was common in my neighborhood as a kid)is not a thing to brag about. It's a hazard and a liability - it's an invitation for someone to rob you. This is Brooklyn and as much as people want to glorify it and prop it up, myself included-Go Brooklyn!, it's rough here. People rob each other because they don't have anything and they need it or perhaps they just want your shit.

I realize that the idea of getting robbed may be something that brings a street-cred vibe in the hipster community.. but, seriously? You're getting robbed. What is cool about that?

There's this one chick on a friend of mines social networking site that takes pictures of homeless people sleeping in her building lobby and then posts them up boasting about how cool it is where she lives.


That, i think, is the problem that many non-hipsters have with the whole hipster MO.

Certainly there is are varying ethnic groups in the hipster-world but more often than not you've got yourself an androgynous Caucasian. The fact that every single hipster chooses to tote the same style doesn't help differentiate anything -

If you want to be different.. be different.

If you want to be Brooklyn..

But REALLY be these things!!

Snapping pics of homeless people sleeping in your lobby doesn't make you Brooklyn. It makes you an idiot. Brooklyn would call the cops on the dude to protect itself.

Really though, before you can be anything, you need to accept who you really are and the majority is an upper class, financially fortunate 20 something living in an exotic urban safari. For some of us though, this is not a vacation. It is home and it should be respected as such.

Anonymous said...

Jesus, Jeremiah. You've floored me many times, but this post takes the cake. Yeah, I'm with you, I'm with you ... until you bring us to the last paragraph: simple, concise and specific. I'm still wiping away the tears.

Thank you for this.

Godspeed to the man and his change. And to us all.

Anonymous said...

While a minority of the partiers may have been a shade darker than caucasian, the hostility towards this group is because they are enjoying (perhaps unconsciously to them) a form of WHITE PRIVILEGE -- a.k.a. the sense that you come in and can do whatever you want irrespective to the community that surrounds you.

"Hello native americans! We come from another land where we are running out of living space and we are going to claim your land in the name of freedom!"

1990s - Present
"Hello darker skinned outer borough residents! We come from another land where we are running out of affordable living space and we are going to claim your land in the name of freedom!"

THAT is what pisses people off.

I highly doubt ANY of them are even so much as native New Yorkers. If these young out of towners INTEGRATED with the existing community instead of coming in with their own ideas about how to do things then maybe there wouldn't be this spirited discussion.

Anonymous said...

I just want to thank mingusal and Nikki for breaking it down like that. Agree 100%.


Anonymous said...

this post's title or this post can be summarized as


Anonymous said...

The thing that bothers me the most about this is that the performers were disturbing commuters. For many New Yorkers, the subway is a place they can unwind in between work and home responsibilities. It is a place to read, listen to an iPod, or just sit and stare at nothing at all. Performing disturbs that, no matter how wonderful you think your performance is. Also hanging from bars like a circus act is dangerous to those coming on and off the train. You are imposing your art on a trapped audience, not someone who paid to see you, and that is extraordinarily selfish. What if someone wants a quiet ride home? And singing about how "money doesn't matter" in a recession? How dumb is that? And I don't think this type of performance at all harkens back to the old days of New York. It's everything that's wrong with the new days, and the new hipsters who are trying to run the place. Bring back Keith Haring's 80s subway art. That didn't disturb anyone and added beauty to the subway.

Bob said...

This whole stunt seems exceedingly obnoxious. Public transit is not the appropriate venue to perform your loud, drunken "art", children. The homeless panhandlers who make loud announcements about the bad breaks they had in life are bad enough but at least they're just trying to make a buck and at least they know to keep it concise and move along to the next car in an expedient fashion. This isn't art. This is a bunch of tanked-up hipster douchebags being tanked-up hipster douchebags just because they can.

You guys could have at least been a nuisance to the yuppie fascists that deserve to be inconvenienced on their way home from their cutthroat "profession" of manipulating other people's money. Instead you choose to ride deep into the heart of one of the most impoverished neighborhoods in the city carrying on with the absurd presumption that you're brightening everyone's miserable lives when in fact you're probably just pissing them off. Where are Bloomberg's NYPD henchmen when you need them?

Anonymous said...

Naji, one of the big problems is that most people wouldn't consider this 'art', they'd consider it obnoxious and invasive behavior that doesn't give anyone a fresh perspective on anything, but rather just annoys the hell out of them. They are taking your time and making it all about themselves. Just look at the photo of the guy swinging from the hand rails for an example of this. I don't know what the equivalent experience of feeling so trapped as a passenger could be. Maybe getting stuck on an elevator as a Norwegian black metal band plays at full volume. You want to get the hell out but can't. And then the black metal band hands you a flower or juicebox to brighten your day. Gee, thanks douchebag.

If these revelers had been wearing Abercrombie and Fitch shorts instead of glitter or tired animal costumes, you can bet that no one would have considered it 'art', they'd assume it was a frat pub-crawl.

Whether it was culturally imperialistic or not, it was a pretty stupid idea.

Ed said...

This may have been done with the best intentions, but one of the worst yunnie traits is to treat public space as private space. With the subway, there used to be unwritten rules as to moving quickly into the car, don't make eye contact, don't bother your fellow passengers etc. which were there for a reason. Their violation in small ways by people (not just yunnies) has made riding the subway a chore, so I don't think violating them in a big, spectacular way is called for!

JackS said...

Jeremiah, I think you covered this as best as possible. But yeah, the fruit juice claims are hilarious! Yes, 100% of nobody snuck booze or beer into their "juice boxes"...

Najy & others. You know intentions and results are two different things. Taken as a whole, this stunt is quite annoying, trite and the assumption is "Everyone's life is drab and we're the ones who will brighten it up!"

Taken as a whole it's very patronizing more than anything else.

I will say this: If this were on the L train or the F train or even the G train, I wouldn't have this reaction. But the J train heading to Broadway Junction? That is a 100% joke. News flash: Even if you are a "struggling artist" who is working multiple jobs, the simple act of being a bunch of predominantly (1) non-Black and (2) non-New Yorkers makes this stunt just wreak.

The zinger is the loose change falling on the floor of the subway car. Anyone who is truly struggling and is truly financially struggling would not have let that happen. Seriously.

I mean, when you say you are a "struggling artist" are you truly independent or is this some small game in life where if you hit bottom you won't homeless but at the worst move back into your parents place? Yeah, that's humiliating, but c'mon. Having a place to go back to if all fails is not the same as being in a position where you'd live on the streets if worse came to worse.

Sorry kids, but when you treat this city like your personal playground and have the assumption we all will instantly be "joyous" to see you play, you are asking for the response you get.

What exactly would be the response if the subway cars were filled with tons of religious folks telling others how to be happy? Did you ever think people simply want to get home and not deal with a bunch of self-important folks telling others how to be happy?

Seriously, this was a selfish act. And to do it in neighborhoods who HATE the fact that hipsters are invading? Obnoxious.

lenora jayne said...

I'm the other organizer, along with Najy, of the subway party.

To those who mentioned the swinging on the handrails, I can note that I addressed a few of these participants and asked them to stop, so it wasn't "condoned" or encouraged behavior, by any means. The last thing anyone wants, is for someone to be kicked in the face by an irresponsible individual.

@Anonymous 3:33PM
Several of our artists and many participants are actually native New Yorkers, born and raised from birth.


We chose the J train precisely because it wasn't a train full of privileged white commuters. We could have easily held this on the L-train with a car full of young party-friendly artists, but nothing is gained by that. Najy and I felt that it was important that we brought our event onto a train that had a diverse ridership as an effort to join communities and bring people together of all stripes. Given, it is an intrusive event to some, but many riders that I saw were appreciative and smiles were had all around.

I completely disagree that art requires a sense of entitlement or privilege.

Art isn't a luxury, it's a part of our human legacy and cultural heritage. It is an innate urge to beautify our environment and adorn ourselves, as well as a way to record our histories and pass on stories.

In many gallery circles, yes, in order to be a recognized artist you need to be financially well-off, educated or highly connected.

This unfortunate social structure is what Lowbrow Society is pushing against. Art is a unifier, that requires no formal education or privilege to create, just a passion for it. We strive to encourage this creative spirit in anyone who has it and find a place in society where galleries and museums are not the only part of the equation.

Thanks for posting your commentary; it's good to hear an opinion from another point of view, as we strive to be inclusive and open to people from all walks of life.

Jeremiah Moss said...

lenora, thanks for writing in, too. i'm glad you guys are participating in the discussion.

what i mean by art requiring a sense of entitlement is that, in order to create and put it "out there," you need a kind of confidence, a sense of "i am permitted to do this." i don't mean entitlement in the negative sense the word has come to mean. you need to feel empowered. without that sense, i don't think much at all would be created.

i would love to see a forum get organized around these topics of art and gentrification. new york needs excited, young, and, yes, even "entitled" artists. (warhol wouldn't exist if he didn't feel entitled to.) but can we have that in today's city where hyper-gentrification, often led by artists, has done so much damage?

it's a real problem. i'm not sure what the solutions are, but if you guys are interested in engaging with those difficult questions, maybe a public discussion could be put together.

nonetheless said...

i still don't know how this is art

"We chose the J train precisely because it wasn't a train full of privileged white commuters"

exactly! by you choosing the J train packed with non-white commuters was indeed condescending, patronizing, obnoxious and offensive. why couldn't you choose the irt 4,5,6 line going up in the upper east side in the middle of after work rush hour packed with white rich yuppies. if your intention of this being "art", which is to provoke, provoke those guys. East New York has had enough provocation and having another one calling it an art is uncalled for and not needed nor wanted.

Mets_Fan said...

What if this 'artistic' gathering occurred on an MTA bus rather than the subway? The NYPD would be called immediately!

Real insensitive of the 'artists' to sing about how money doesn't matter during a recession while clogging a subway platform, blocking regular commuter travel.

Take your 'art' to a more open venue, away from where NYC's working public are trying to get to and from their workplace. This is a disgrace.

Anonymous said...

i completely support the performers. i no longer live in new york, although i loved my time there.

is life that much of a mundane, grind it out, struggle that you cannot enjoy a unique experience? you cannot appreciate the unexpected? you would rather file quickly into a metal car, stare at the ground, be silent, and file out of the car when your stop has arrived?

i thought the city was characterized by unusual, unique experiences. openess to engage others and be engaged in many situations. the "hipster" group are often chastised as disconnected from urban life. cell phones. ipods. these people were engaging with the public space around them- and from every eyewitness account- the public accepted it positively.

Jeremiah Moss said...

NOTE: while i am still publishing comments to this post, i have been declining those that border on the violently rageful. i don't like to decline comments, but sometimes i do.

in this case, i'd like to have room for an open dialogue with the event organizers and participants, and some of the anti-hipster comments were, well, scary.

but it makes me really curious: why should hipster artists deserve more rage than the frat boys and bachelorette partiers, the real estate developers, etc., who really don't give a shit about this city?

(if you can answer that question without death or violence, please do.)

Anonymous said...

"why should hipster artists deserve more rage than the frat boys and bachelorette partiers, the real estate developers, etc., who really don't give a shit about this city"

I think this site's shown plenty of rage for those groups, and I think if the frat boys organized a rambunctious subway party -- and you posted a neutral write-up about it -- the comments would be off the chart.

But I actually just wanted to say, without getting into hipster artist issues -- I HATE any kind of audio art on a subway car, whether it be hipster partiers or a genuinely talented musician. The problem is that whether you like the performance or not, or whether you're in the mood for it or not, you're trapped in a tiny space with it. Maybe I've had too many traumatic bongo experiences while hungover. It's great that some riders got a kick out of this performance, but the problem is that the ones who didn't had no escape. Why not just perform on the platform, where people can wander over if they like it and wander away if they don't?

There's nothing stuffy and zombified about wanting a quiet subway ride, and an uneventful commute doesn't somehow equate with a grey and empty life. It's a crowded city, with basic rules of etiquette to accommodate the fact that we spend a lot of time in close quarters with people we don't know, whose taste in music & art we can't presume to know or judge, who are dealing with god knows what on any particular day.

Anonymous said...

Whoa, I remember once riding into brooklyn with a group like this, being terrified that the captives on the train thought I was with the hipsters. The most cringe inducing thing for me is that it just seems like bad art. If I had any resentment toward the hipsters (and I guess I do) being confronted with a display like that--that's the thing that is driving these people to live in Williamsburg--would be totally infuriating.

S.G. said...

"We chose the J train precisely because it wasn't a train full of privileged white commuters"

Oh yes, we must educate the poor negroes about ART! Jesus, this post reeks of "white man's burden". How about viewing African-Americans as equals instead of talking about them and their lives in such a condescending and judgmental manner?

John said...

Maybe the best way to answer that question is just to turn it around: why should frat boys deserve more "rage" than hipster artists who actually "give a shit about this city"? (Though I think we are grossly misusing the word "artist" here.) From reading your site over time, I get the impression that a lot of the contempt you have for the for the frat boy crowd and the yuppie crowd is what you call their "narcissism ." And often this derives from the fact that they play loud music or burden you with their loud cell phone conversations or expose themselves in the window of some new pretentious hotel in the Meatpacking District.

But isn't there something also narcissistic in taking over the subway and using it as your personal jungle gym so you can swing off the handrails with your legs while other people are quietly sitting there trying actually to get somewhere for a meaningful purpose? (You say you are trying to be neutral, but did I detect a note of contempt when you pointed out the people who were ignoring all the giddy fun by trying to "stay hidden in digital pods"?) And isn't the narcissism compounded when you further insist that what you are doing is actually "ART" or even some sort of nascent socio-political movement and that you hope to "involve other communities" with further "outreach"? Seriously, you'd she think was talking about an anti-apartheid movement, not people dressing like clowns and playing the banjo on the J train.

Jeremiah Moss said...

john, you make a good point about narcissism. a lot of my struggle about this stuff is trying to figure out how public art might be different from the pub crawlers in the EV. i really want it to be different.

i guess what i would like to see are artists doing "happening" type events like the party train, but in an openly aggressive way--and in neighborhoods that have been hyper-gentrified, to comment on what's happening there. a hundred people in pink popped-collar shirts, carrying giant inflatable bachelorette party penises, with some kind of...

eh, i don't know. what the hell do i know. the whole thing makes me feel like there's no making it work. but the idea that we're sliding further and further into a narcissistic, nihilistic society is too depressing.

JaneDoe said...

"but it makes me really curious: why should hipster artists deserve more rage than the frat boys and bachelorette partiers, the real estate developers, etc., who really don't give a shit about this city?

(if you can answer that question without death or violence, please do."

Gee whiz, Jeremiah, you censored my comment and it had no violence. Perhaps it was too true. As John Cleese said, "No one has the right not to be offended."

I hope this one passes your Imprimatur.

As loathful as frat boys, bachelorette, and RE developers are they don't do it on the subway.

I've been riding the subway since it was 15¢ and I never saw this kind of behavior from anyone at anytime on any line. Who the hell do these guys get off expropriating public property for private use?

As i said in my censored piece, even gangstas don't behave so badly. If this were the 80s and Bernie Goetz were on the train, what do you think HE would have done?

It is this Yunnification of the public transport, this selfish sense of entitlement that is so loathful. Perhaps you haven't lived here long enough. Simple Rules need to be posted again, as the MTA used to: No smoking, no spitting, don't ride between cars, don't hold the door open. Wise NYers add:
No eye contact. Mind your own personal space. Pipe down.


Jeremiah Moss said...

thanks jane for re-posting. i was getting overwhelmed by all the venom coming in, that's all.

i'm going to post something tomorrow that deals with these larger questions about artists, hipsters, gentrification, and anger. i'd like to get away from slamming this particular group--and on to trying to grapple with the bigger picture. anyway...tomorrow.

JackS said...

"eh, i don't know. what the hell do i know. the whole thing makes me feel like there's no making it work. but the idea that we're sliding further and further into a narcissistic, nihilistic society is too depressing."

Jeremiah, you know I've read this site for a while and I generally agree with what you say. But the defeatist attitude of this statement kind of clarifies an issue I (as a born/bred New Yorker) have with the commentary presented on the site now.

There are indeed examples of folks "fighting back" and enjoying NYC for what it is sans vanity.

For example, Spike Lee sponsoring a Michael Jackson Birthday Block Party is an excellent example of a real New York even happening. I didn't go out there because I was busy with other issues, but man... A major Hollywood director who could be a jerk and forget where he came from throws a free/open party for people in the community he grew up in right here in NYC.

Ditto with other stuff I posted about the Brooklyn Children's Museum having an exhibit on the mom & pop stores of NYC that currently exist. I mentioned this in a previous post about the Mom & Popism show. While that show mourns and is blindly wistful about an NYC that is gone, the Brooklyn Childrens Museum is doing an amazing thing: Recreating small mom & pop businesses on a kids scale so kids can learn/appreciate what a real neighborhood store is like.

I completely understand the desire for spontaneous creativity, but in this case I find it completely wrong and patronizing. And as others said, a crowd of hipsters forcing themselves into a subway car basically traps folks.

I don't know about you, but when I work, if I want to experience creativity it is anywhere BUT the subway. Take in a movie, or walk around a park or do something after work. But the second I am on that train my only concern is being as comfortable as possible and heading home. And I will say this, I have actually been enthralled by subway artists ON THE PLATFORM. And those folks have made me smile and enjoy my commute. But even the most obnoxious subway performer on a train doesn't come close to a bunch of hipsters crowding a subway car and THEN stating they are doing this on a predominantly non-white/non-hpister train line to "brighten" people's day. That is so insanely patronizing it's beyond belief.

I respect the rights of anyone to bring art and creativity to the world. But when you place it in a context where I am given no choice and then wrapping it in self-serving good intentions... Forget that. You're not artists. You're antagonists.

Anonymous said...

The riders on this train (non-performers) live a life you will probably never have to live. At this moment, the divide between the rich and the poor (and even the middle class) is large and growing larger in this city. Everywhere we go, we can see the way Bloomberg and his buddies are giving the finger to the poor and working class.

This is just one more way your doing that. Intentions are meaningless- you don't seem to REALLY care about these people. If you did, you might have had a better idea of how this would have been received. As it is, you seem surprised and maybe even a little offended at the suggestion you were being insensitive and rude.

PLEASE- spare us the songs about how money doesn't matter.
PLEASE- don't shove your privilege in our faces.
There is nothing wrong with a subway party, in theory. You chose to bring class into it, YOU chose to make this less about a fun gathering and more about social issues. Deal with the fallout, because every day, we go home to different places.
Who do you think cleans up your beer and stink from the subway cars when you go home? The people who don't consider freakin dollar bills to be loose change.

:( I would have been right down there on the floor, picking that money up. Maybe next time forget about the beer and donate some money to a local charity, plant a garden in the same neighborhood this train runs through, buy some freakin fresh fruit for a kid whose parents can only afford dinner off the dollar menu. Do SOMETHING constructive besides having a hipster party and calling it 'art'.

Anonymous said...

As a police officer, I would have called in the troops. Not only are there unwritten rules of subway decorum, there are written rules which you agree to follow when you buy a ticket. Every last one of these people would have been ejected from the system on the streets of East New York if the NYPD had anything to do with it. What makes these people think the rules don't apply to them? And they are the first to call us when some crazy old man touches himself on the train and instead of getting off like sensible people, they whip out their iphones and start taking pictures!

Anonymous said...

go home to the midwest. all of you. PLEASE

JAR said...

Hey, my original comment/criticism of your art event must have been mistakenly censored, so I'll try again:
I'm upset to read that there was lots of confetti left on the floor of the train when you guys were done. It's a shame the train wasn't left as clean as you found it. Remember that subway passengers are CUSTOMERS, even though we all own the subway. And the basics standards of being a customer anywhere else (like not leaving a mess) should apply in the subway, too.

Cav said...

Jeremian, I really can't see any difference between yunnies, yuppies or hipsters. They all share the same upper-middle class white suburban background and the same immature, elitist, shallow personalities. I see a hipster as a slacker yunnie. Someone who calls themselves "artists" to avoid getting a real job for a few years while pretending to be blue-collar working class people. The affluent may really enjoy slumming but they fool no one.

I also don't see any difference between this subway frat party and the toga party held in Flushing Meadows park. I was angered by both.
Calling these frat parties art cheapens real art and will give license for more such displays and they will only get more outrageous.

I can see your point about public performance art and it's something I would enjoy but this isn't the way to go about it.

South Brooklyn said...

@Jane Doe et al:

The question that Jeremiah poses is a good one.

I've seen lots of behavior on the train that was much more intimidating and offensive than this. You (JD) have been lucky not to ride the trains with large groups of teenagers just getting out of school. My kids and I were caught in the middle of a fight on a train car that involved a chain, razor blades, and hair spray with a lighter (not on the hair). This was on a Wednesday at about 2 PM.

I've also been unfortunate to be on train cars with people who have "gotten in my face" about my hair (and pulled it HARD on the way out of the train), my skin tone, the book I was reading, and what time it was. All while I'm just trying to get to work.

But I guess these things are okay because they weren't obnoxious artsy folks. Or maybe it was okay because most of the time they were younger, "a couple of shades darker," and most likely slightly less well off than I am.

Make no mistake, I don't like what the people in this post chose to do. I find it obnoxious because when I'm on the train I just want to get where I'm going.

But just because you've never experienced others using public space for private use (in these cases for their own scuffles and entertainment), certainly doesn't mean it doesn't happen. Aggressive sales of nail clippers, preaching LOUDLY on subway cars about the white devil or Jesus saving, and holding a rumble to settle who is king for a day are all doing the same thing.

When I'm with my kids I ride the bus now.

Anonymous said...

Dear 'Organizers',

None of you hipsters are artists. There is no art in your vainglorious behavior. Art is conceptually great, please go and look at some art and you will see. You will appreciate that there is no art in your infliction of your self-centric party attitude upon those who don't have either the privilege or the license to have 'art-parties'. Not so much as I think hipsters are not aware of what art is, I simply think that if they were truly as egalitarian and altruistic as they claim, purest shame would preclude this inane type of tomfoolery.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I'm one of the artists from the show I made the monster costumes. I was born and raised here, and I have immense pride in my city and my foundations. I can not explain how deeply it hurts to read about people calling me a douchebag and a white privileged hipster, and that I should get out of the city. To be grouped in as a hipster just because I was part of this event absolutely kills me.

For the most part, the people involved with this event are not privileged ungrateful bastards, and many of them were born and raised here too. I understand the anger that comes with watching people take over your neighboorhood and raise all the rents, and claim this city as theirs and that they know true culture, but this event was not like that and I feel like some comments made are completely misguided.

The money comment that was made (to be honest I wasn't near by to hear) but I completely agree, it was fucked up and the person who said it is obviously out of touch with reality and the surrounding environment. But it's not fair to use that comment as a basis for what the whole event (and it's participants) was about. Just because there is a village idiot that doesn't mean the whole village is retarded.

People keep saying we should have done this on the L train in Williamsburg rather than the J in East New York because it's a "bad area", but ANY train you take is going to end up going through a "bad area" I don't think it would have mattered what train we took I think that most of these commentors would have still complained about it.

Further more, I did not see one person drinking on the train, I never saw people hanging upside down on the railings on my train car either. And at least in the car I was in, 90% of the people on the train were having fun and didn't mind it. We weren't blasting loud music or anything either, my friend Grace Kalambay sang (another native New Yorker) soul and played an acoustic guitar. When we got off the train at Kosciuszko street people walking on the street were interested in what was going on. I had a women come up to me and ask if I would come with my costumes to perform at the block party, I handed out flowers to couples walking on the street and everyone was nothing but smiles.

I could go on forever about this and about why I hate hipsters and what makes some one a hipster to me, but I think that my main point is that people here are judging too hard without fully understanding how things went down, you're taking one assholes stupid comment and ignorance and using it to define all of us.

Thanks for the lively debate,

Anonymous said...

Gwynn: "I did not see one person drinking on the train"
Yes, I'm sure there was no alcohol anywhere, since you didn't see it.

"I never saw people hanging upside down on the railings on my train car either"
No offense, but I don't think we can trust your powers of perception. There is photographic evidence that this took place, so just like you didn't see what obviously occurred, you probably didn't see (or smell, like the blog author did) the beer.

"in the car I was in, 90% of the people on the train were having fun and didn't mind it"
At this point, I simply don't believe you. I highly doubt you all behaved like a bunch of saints that were never drinking, were never misusing the subway cars, were never bothering anyone. Perhaps you only remember the people who were pleased, and in your enthusiasm didn't much notice riders who were not thrilled.

"people here are judging too hard without fully understanding how things went down, you're taking one assholes stupid comment and ignorance and using it to define all of us."
If all of you didn't have your saintly story down pat, maybe your protests would come off as more believable. As it is, all anyone has really admitted to was ONE PERSON being insensitive, and OMG NONE OF US AGREE WITH THEM WE WEREN'T INVOLVED!

"But it's not fair to use that comment as a basis for what the whole event (and it's participants) was about. Just because there is a village idiot that doesn't mean the whole village is retarded."
Well, one of you made the comment, and none of you seem to know who did or want to point out that person, and they certainly haven't come here to defend themselves. Which makes it look as though your just protecting each other while also trying to distance yourselves from this one offender, which is nothing but typical.

Maybe no one else will say it, but I simply don't believe your account.

And the blog author seems to have had a very different experience:
>They drank beer and ate mini donuts.
>They filled three subway cars.
>During the ride, most of the non-hip subway riders tried to ignore the party, doing their best to stay hidden in digital pods. They went if nothing was happening.
>As we moved further along the J line, the locals became understandably less amused.
>The group of mostly white partiers clumped together, away from the mostly black neighborhood people waiting for trains
(You want to try giving us your integration spin again?)
>"This is not a good stop," he said. "Don't you think if you were here all alone, you'd be mugged right now?"
"I don't believe that," said the partiers.
(So even when someone was trying to convey the issues with your party, you didn't believe him. Its no wonder you think the majority of people on the train enjoyed themselves).
>"heading home, the party broke out into ebullient chaos, with kids hanging from the handrails and swinging like monkeys from the ceiling."
(Obviously, even if you did care, that sentiment was lost on people due to your behavior).

Everything you say is at odds with the pictures, with the authors account, and with common sense. You can say 'you weren't there' all you like, but the rest of us can smell bullshit.

All you can do is defend yourselves. No one is admitting they themselves are out of touch, no one is admitting that they may have annoyed riders, or left a mess, or drank beer. You sound like a bunch of teenagers trying to lie to their parents about a wild party. If you want to be percieved as something more than out of touch trouble makers, act like it. Don't expect us to look past the obvious and to make excuses for your behavior until it sounds acceptable.

Jeremiah Moss said...

thanks Gwynn, for writing in. as i mentioned in the post, some of the music was great. i especially liked the singer with the banjo. and, yes, most people were drinking juice--a few had beer and i understand you didn't condone that.

anon 3:56, i think the defensiveness from the organizers in these comments comes from, well, being attacked. it's hard to be anything but defensive in that situation.

at the same time, i sort of wish the art partiers could admit they were disruptive to many--not to all, but to many. and, you know, artists disrupt! maybe they wanted to shake people up, wake them from their electronic pods. if so, then, maybe that's even better.

i'd love to see a massive artist-led disruption of the pod people in the middle of union square or someplace. that would be amazing.

Anonymous said...

First of, thank you for opening up this dialouge with you're readers.

Of course some people were disturbed by the event and wished that it wasn't happening. I still feel though that no matter what you do in any public setting someone is going to be offended or angry. Yet it is important to make art participatory and public. You can't not make an effort just because you're scared of the reaction. I feel so defensive about this because the people involved had nothing but good intentions with this event and did all that could be done to make it family friendly.

Anonymous 3:56

You can't look at a handful of pictures and read a short entry on someones blog and tell me that you know what happened and what the atmosphere was like. To be honest if I had organized the event I would have not picked the J train because I didn't think people commuting home from work would be that into it, but I think the real reason the J train was chosen was because it lead to the venue that the party was to end at. In any case I was surprised and happy to have so many people respond positively. The worst responses I heard from people was them calling us fa**ots for having glitter on, but no one voiced annoyance or anger near any level that I've seen on this blog.
I hope that we can all stop hating and take a breath. We are wasting so much energy being angry, why not work together to figure out a way that we can counteract the negative aspects of this?

Anonymous said...

PS. Jeremiah, I did try to do a disruption of the pod people in Union Square a while got shut down by the parks department in about 10 seconds. After that when I tried to get permits in order to do it again legally they wouldn't grant them to me. You can watch it here:

Jeremiah Moss said...

nice narwhal.

i really think if we didn't have such an overwhelming sense of invasion and intrusion, from the effects of hyper-gentrification, occasional public "disturbances" such as these would go without much angst at all. but the city's a tough place to make a scene nowadays. for many reasons.

i'm trying to organize some kind of public forum on these broader topics around artists and gentrification in the city. will keep you posted.

greenpoint native said...

You hipsters are all in your 20's and 30's and act like spoiled children. If you want to have your stupid little parties, dress up like queers and dance like idiots, do it in a private place (hopefully somewhere in the midwest). Native New Yorkers want nothing to do with you or your immature behavior. Take it back to Wisconsin. I'm tired of your beards, stupid looking clothes, stupid looking haircuts, and your stupid fixed gear bikes getting in my way while im trying to drive.I hope all your trust funds run dry and you all leave my neighborhood asap.

JaneDoe said...

@south brooklyn @August 31, 2009 8:24 AM

Don't you dare tell me what I see on the subway!

In fact, I posted a commented originally that Jeremiah 'censored', mentioning the horrendous behavior on subways of gangstas and ghetto trash thugs from certain public schools.

I noted both these thugs and the hipsters were not much different in the end. One group was violent. Bad and inexcusable, yes. At least they may have a stereotypical socio-economic excuse: Dad's in jail and ma's on welfare. What excuse do the hipsters have for disrupting other people's lives who don't want it disrupted?

Either way, both thugs and hipsters disrupted other people's space and peace.

Both are inexcusable.

Jeremiah Moss said...

i'm putting a cap in this comment thread. positive, negative, or whatever. this thread is dunzo. thanks for engaging in the conversation. moving right along...

Bosco said...

Somewhat off topic:

Being a person that lives in suburbia, I thought the point of moving to the city was to shake that sheltered rust off and get a taste of reality, expose yourself to the good, the bad, and the ugly. To toughen up. To learn from the city. To gain real inspiration from its people. I thought you were to learn all there is from its true locals and hopefully share a gem of your own. ---Learn humility---

From all the searching and reading I do: hipsters seem to live in bubbles, a culture that was well regarded is now being paved over in the name of vanity and pseudo self-expression. The city embraces immigrants but hipsters come for the wrong reasons and are salt to fertile soil. I get this sense many think they're creating the new renaissance.

Also, why do people think that to be an artists you have to dress like one by dressing whacky and different? You'd think the true artist would dress mundane and normal to be the true unique person among their social circle-jerks. Dressing casual would be what I'd wear, because I'm not attention seeking; that might be why I'm not an artists either.

Maybe I'm out of line because I don't live in any city... or perhaps I just eagle-eyed this bitch.