With buses running from the Lever House on Park Avenue, the Noguchi Museum was flush with Manhattanites last night for the opening of Civic Action: A Vision for Long Island City. The show of ideas by local artist teams—led by Natalie Jeremijenko, Mary Miss, Rirkrit Tiravanija and George Trakas—fleshes out urban dreams for the mostly industrial area. In anything but an autocratic manner, the show—the first ever at the museum to include contemporary artists and not Noguchi—encourages dialogue between large institutions, government, and the public.
Columbia’s Gwendolyn Wright was on hand and praised the effort. “It’s not just an artist looking at infrastructure, but more of an exchange of information,” said Wright. “How do we see the gritty beauty of it, rather than ignore it.”
To that end, George Trakas “River Shorline Walk” proposed lighting the Trans Canada power plant and building boardwalks in front of Con Edison substations. Mary Miss’s red, black and white displays for “Ravenswoood/Call: If Only the City Could Speek” outline a think tank district where residents, engineers, artists, scientists and urbanists explore new ways of exchanging ideas about sustainable living. Rirkrit Tiravanija’s “Greenway and Community Kitchen” envisions Broadway covered in drivable green grass with a community kitchen pavilion anchoring Socrates Park. (he said he just wanted to be able to have a coffee when he visits the park.) Natalie Jeremijenko shifts the show into high theory mode for “UP_2_U” exploring a “tasty biodiverse future” via “real-time ‘smart city’ technology” including among very many options a hulu hoop for seed dispersal.
A good portion of the show is the locale itself. Getting to and from the museum resets the mind. LIC is nearly the size of all of lower Manhattan below 14th Street. Art and industry have been meeting at the river there ever since Noguchi and Mark DiSuvero settled in about 50 years ago. Perhaps more than anywhere else in the city a collaborative effort between the two is not only possible but highly desirable.
As AN reported a couple of weeks ago that conversation is still in the early stages. The show is part exhibit, part advocacy: consultant Claire Weisz has even taken parts of it to the Department of Transportation for feedback. But as Wright noted the show presses more for a dialogue, not a monologue. Grassroots activism remains key, but so does collaboration. “Your voice will get hoarse from criticizing,” said Wright. “But if a community does something in small specific ways, by creating moments for exchange, those moments become a catalyst.”