Monday, August 17, 2009

Mom & Popism

On Saturday, for just one day, the rooftop of Gawker Media was open to the public to display "Mom and Popism," a collaboration between Gawker Artists and the storefront photography of Jim and Karla Murray. The duo's photos were blown up to near life-size, mounted on fronts, then enhanced with graffiti art, creating a kind of revised virtual New York.



But the full emotional experience of Mom & Popism begins on the street level. The building is located on Elizabeth, one of the most jarringly gentrified streets in town. Where I used to eat hot bread straight from LaRosa's, where old Italian ladies used to sit on the sidewalk to peel potatoes, there are now high-end shops, multi-million dollar homes, and European investo-tourists. The only mom and pop left here is Albanese Meats, still open for business.

At 210 Elizabeth, you walk up the stairs and through the Gawker offices, a vast and airy loft with curved brick ceilings and polished wood surfaces on which dozens of flat-screen monitors sit waiting for the day's new-media broadcast. Up on the roof, a DJ is banging out the beats.



Surrounding the seating is the virtual city. Not life-size, more like clubhouse-size, this shrunken city speaks to your child self, for whom a miniature house is just right. In this way, the storefronts tantalize. Their doors seem like they might open to another, more intensely Technicolored world.

You want to step through the entrance of the Stage deli and order a greasy breakfast in this alt-NYC. The counterman is there, just as he always is, wiping down the counter. At Esposito's Meat Shop, you want to inhale the smell of cured pork.



But you can't. This isn't real. The graffiti art splashed across the storefront's faces, often intermingling three-dimensionally with the signage, tells you that you're not looking at reality. This is the hyperreal. These are simulacra.



In the future, when the entire city as we've known it has vanished, when all the mom-and-pops are gone, what will remain are photographs. We rely on them now, to remember and rebuild the lost city in our minds.



Maybe, someday, the re-construction of virtual neighborhoods will become a ritual. Artists and other nostalgists will erect wooden fronts and paper them with giant photographs (thank goodness for Jim and Karla's exhaustive work). Old ladies will unfold beach chairs, sit down, and peel potatoes. The butcher will stand at the door of his shop, wiping the blood from his hands.

Someday, we won't have the real city. But we will have this.


"RIP NY"

See all my photos of Mom & Popism here

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

rip

Goggla said...

Oh, I wish I'd seen this.

Why not start pasting up these huge photos on all the blue construction walls that surround the gentrifying job sites?

Jeremiah Moss said...

that's kind of a great idea. maybe it will catch on.

Jeremiah Moss said...

and you can still see it if you make an appointment

Anonymous said...

Any big city is gentrified today, from LA to New York, it's all gentrified. It's clearly globalization. NY is not the only city losing mom & pop business. I went to Chicago and so much has been torn down and replaced with the usual franchises.

Billi Kid said...

Watch this cool video of the making of MOM & POPism created by Billi Kid, the curator who conceived this exhibition. Unfortunately he along with the incredible artist who contributed were not mentioned.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/billikidbrand/3793098522/

c.o. moed said...

very depressing. really heartbreaking. It's like photographs on tombstones...

JackS said...

Very sad. Mixed emotions about this exhibit. Basically: It’s a cute novelty that distills what the city once was in to a child sized scale that reminds me of a children’s museum exhibit.

Literally.

At the Brooklyn Children’s museum the curators there have recreated mini-child sized storefronts of more contemporary shops in Brooklyn and honestly, that seems quite cool. It’s an exhibit called ”World Brooklyn” and it's a reflection of the working class world that still exists. It presents it to kids not as a dead part of history but a living part of modern life.

http://www.brooklynkids.org/worldbrooklyn/

Anonymous said...

I'm not originally from New York, but I consider it my adopted home. I moved here to be a New Yorker and escape the plastic suburban sterility of LA. I moved to Brooklyn 12 years ago. Beginning in the late 80s and early 90s I would come to hang out in the city and to visit my family in Crown Heights every summer. So I feel like I'm fairly familiar with the way things used to be.

It's gotten to the point where looking at this blog is like looking at a public viewing of a corpse. I really support what this blog is doing but... man... it just keeps making me sad.

Jen said...

i heart this page!

jimandkarla murray said...

Everyone can now see 3 of the panels from MOM and POPism at Clic Gallery in Manhattan, 255 Centre Street at Broome. Ralph's, La Pastora bakery and Stage Restaurant panles are up along with James & Karla Murray's store front photography until September 27th.
www.clicgallery.com

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