A protected intersection!
Modern Ruin, premiering at Queens Theatre on Friday, chronicles the rise and fall of the iconic New York State Pavilion. A landmark of the 1964 World’s Fair, it is now, alas, a magnificent ruin at Flushing Meadow Park. Highly visible from the Grand Central Parkway, the Long Island Expressway, and by air for those flying into or out of La Guardia or JFK airports, the Pavilion stands a sentinel to past optimism of the future which is today.
The movie opens with a hardy group of volunteers determined to help save the structure. It starts with small steps. Simple steps, such as painting the perimeter wall of the pavilion. Set against the scale of the structure cutting a modernistic, timeless silhouette against New York’s ever changing skyline, these simple gestures seem so out of scale—almost futile. Instead, it is the start of something larger.
The time of the World’s Fair was a period when technology was viewed as a key ingredient to building a better, brighter future—and the world was on display. New York State was ascendant.
Writer/director Mathew Silva does a very nice job of taking the viewer on a tour of the site: its origins, as a landfill made infamous in the Great Gatsby, the role of this the Pavilion in the 1964 World’s Fair, the conversion of the fairgrounds to today’s Flushing Meadow Park, and its the Pavilion’s various uses since the Fair, including a period as a roller skating rink, and its eventual decline.
This evocative film resonated with me on several levels.I visited the 1964 World’s Fair as a youngster, on my first trip back to New York from Indiana, where I lived at that time.Visiting New York City was already exciting enough—but visiting the World’s Fair is like visiting the “center” of the center of the universe.
I recall with wonder the many pavilions, monorail, sky rides—and even the fun of riding the Flushing Line (Number 7) train to the Fair. It was sensory overload for an impressionable young boy. The 1964 World’s Fair was a crucible where the excitement and energy of the world seemed to converge to produce a miraculous world full of vision of and almost unlimitless possibilities!
Watching this documentary we learn of how the magnificent New York State Pavilion was allowed to fall into disrepair—neglect or the need to apply limited resources to deal with the more pressing, urban problems that characterized New York City in the late 1960’s and 1970’s. We also learn of an exciting adaptive reuse plan to convert the pavilion into an aviation and space museum—only to learn that it never came to fruition. Credit goes to Mr. Silva to not linger too much on nostalgia, or to engage in a blame game for why the structure fell into disrepair. But the savvy viewer can draw his or her own conclusions.
The question going forward is what will become of this structure? An engineering feat in its day, is it destined to become a permanent ruin akin to the Coliseum in Rome or Stonehenge? Or will there be a force for adaptive reuse which will eventually re-purpose the structure for use by future generations?
Which force will prevail?
Modern Ruin: A World’s Fair Pavilion – WORLD PREMIERE
Friday, May 22, 2015 at 8:00PM
14 United Nations Avenue South
Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Queens
7 train to Mets-Willets Pt.
Tickets can be purchased here.
DocoMomo Tri-State is sponsoring transportation from Manhattan with a party bus.
Movie tickets and bus tickets are sold separately and can be purchased by following the links here.
Kenneth Lin, AICP is a Senior Planning Manager for a transportation consultancy based in New York City. Ken has a lifelong interest in architecture, urban planning and transportation, and has traveled to 128 countries on six continents.
‘O where are you going?’ said reader to rider,
‘That valley is fatal when furnaces burn,
Yonder’s the midden whose odors will madden,
That gap is the grave where the tall return.’
‘O do you imagine,’ said fearer to farer,
‘That dusk will delay on your path to the pass,
Your diligent looking discover the lacking
Your footsteps fell from granite to grass?’
‘O what was that bird, said horror to hearer,
‘Did you see that shape in the twisted trees?
Behind you swiftly the figure comes softly,
The spot on your skin is a shocking disease.’
‘Out of this house’–said rider to reader,
‘Yours never will’–said farer to fearer,
‘They’re looking for you’–said hearer to horror,
As he left them there, as he left them there.
O Where are you Going?
W.H. Auden, 1934
When the change of the season comes to Brooklyn, the geniuses come out; too many to name or even count. Drinking coffee, hurrying to the subway, taking a number at the butcher’s or standing on the sidewalk, staring down at who knows what. In coffices, geniuses come and go, plugged into devices pouring into their ears the soundtracks of their lives while they write the stories of their lives. Some of these stories are in color; some are in code.
Where ships once grew, now delicious things to eat sprout from the rooftop farms of shipyards, stadiums, on 596 acres and in garages. The harvest doesn’t travel far, turning up in nearby plates in exotic or comforting combinations dished out by arms with tattoos. The names of these morels and morsels combine two languages or more, or the names of dead geniuses.
There is a building on Jay Street stuffed to the rafters with geniuses making the future. If you’re one of these, and your name is Robert Fulton, and the year is 1807, as the steam rolls off your morning cup of coffee you might say to yourself, “This would be a good way to push a boat around.” At the next table, if it were 1881 and if your name is Arbuckle, the future might appear to you in the form of roasted coffee beans packed ever so neatly in one-pound bags. In either case, you would be hanging around the same corner of Jay Street that you probably are right now.
The first genius of Brooklyn was sugar. But even before that, there was the Dutch genius, and even before that, the genius of the Lenape.
The Lenape’s Brooklyn was much like today: from one end to the other, an endless round of roving supper clubs where diners enjoyed only the most locally grown and seasonal of nightly feasts. In autumn, summer clambakes and fish fries in Coney Island gave way to beaneries and bakeoffs in the fields of Gowanus. With the first snow, the forests of Flatbush Extension smoked with barbecues of turkey and deer.
The Lenape, in their genius, combined the lifestyle of the 1% with that of can-collecting residents of refrigerator boxes. The Lenape supper club was more like supper camp since the Lenape just set up a new house wherever dinner was to be served. They invented Bitcoin, which they called “sewan”, the only difference being that their Bitcoin was made not of one’s and zero’s contained in glowing boxes, but rather seashells mined during strolls along the sandy beaches of the wildly popular open-source operating system called Nature.
For about 6,000 years, the scene was low-key but copacetic; one season rolling into the next much like the one before, when, one day, up floated the most unusual party boat the Lenape had ever seen. The men aboard were no less exotic, their unearthly pallor set off by dark clothes flashing with beautiful metal ornaments and, I mean, who wears a ruff?
Their boat was strewn with a collection of gadgets each one more entertaining than the last: exploding sticks that dropped a deer with one bang, steel axes and needles that cut effortlessly through wood and leather, and drinks that made your head feel first like it would burst into flames, then like it was floating 10 feet above the ground.
The Dutch–who had been hoping to shorten the distance between Indonesian nutmeg, Japanese silver and Chinese porcelain and the docks and counting houses of London–looked with some surprise upon the Lenape and saw one thing: fur.
For a while, the Lenape were the life of the party on both sides of the Atlantic; then the beaver, otter and mink ran out. At the same time, the value of their Bitcoin took a nosedive. To top things off, the Lenape realized they had been trading furs and sewan not only for guns and steel needles, but land.
Too late. They found themselves first in Canarsie, then Oklahoma.
Never mind that. The new genius in town was sugar. Without sugar, once New Netherlands had been emptied of fur, the Dutch would simply have sailed on to other spicier, silkier shores, and we would not now be growing on our rooftop farms the finer ingredients of the pancakes, waffles, doughnuts, coleslaw and pretzels we so enjoy at our barbecues, bean tosses and clam bakes in Greenpoint and Boswijk.
War, war, war. European kings and queens, like so many Islamic fundamentalists and Neo-Cons, couldn’t get enough of it. Trying to escape the misery of the Seven Years War, the Thirty Years War, the War of the Roses not to mention the Hundred Years War, a flood of terrorized farmers fled hither and thither across blood-soaked France, Belgium, and Spain to England, from England to Scotland and back again. Where to go, where to hide?
If you could make it to Amsterdam, the Dutch West Indies Company was giving anyone willing to cross over the Atlantic a six-year lease on a Brooklyn homestead, equipped with house, barn, tools and farming implements, four horses, four cows, sheep and pigs, in exchange for nothing more than a promise to stay for six years and the return of one cow, 80 pounds of butter and $40 annually. French Huguenots, Calvinist Walloons, Palatinate Germans, Austrians, Danes, Swedes, Norwegians, Poles and Jews everywhere said, “Sign me up!”
Thusly, in the matter of its glot, that of Brooklyn has always been markedly poly, the speakers of 18 languages turning up all at once with a few sewing needles and one suit of clothes, keen to plow the fields of Red Hook.
Sugar was the dot-com boom, the Colombian cocaine trade, the subprime mortgage bubble of the 17th century. It combined the irrational exuberance and insatiable demand of the first two with new innovations in cruelty of the third. Everybody wanted in, and adventurers from Denmark to Spain flocked to the Caribbean to get their piece of the smokiest, stickiest, tooth-rottingest get-rich-quick deal ever produced of pure human misery.
Once every inch of land between Florida and Brazil was covered with undulating fields of sugar cane, there remained the problem to feed, clothe and shelter the humans planting, harvesting and cracking the whip over it. The farms and forests of Brooklyn and Queens furnished the needed supplies. After the Molasses Act of 1733, the sending out of lumber and wheat, the taking in of barrels of molasses and lemons, limes, ginger, people and whatever else smugglers, pirates and other astute men of business, extract from the Caribbean to sell in London by way of New York transformed a street next to a wall into Wall Street.
Brooklyn settled down into a bucolic, homey kind of existence populated by farmers and woodcutters, brewers and distillers, herders and hunters, coffee drinkers and other inventors of the future–a place where one might turn one’s attention, uninterrupted by anything more disturbing than a ferry trip across the river to replenish the cigarette supply–to such pleasant pastimes as the decoding of the Rosetta Stone or the invention of free verse.
A minor genius, the Salieri to the Mozart that was sugar, was the Revolutionary War, during which New Yorkers–occupied by the British–continued to buy and sell, grow and trade, and especially,under the protection of the British fleet, come and go, rather than dragging cannons over one snowy mountain after another, feet covered with bloody rags. Among those coming were Africans slaves running from the freedom fighters, promised their freedom if only they would fight on the British side against their former owners. Although recognizing the distinct usefulness of a few slaves around the house, the store and the workshop, New Yorkers were disgusted by the vulgarity of owning dozens if not hundreds of slaves that characterized the plantation slavery system, which, perfected in the cane fields of the Caribbean, proved so profitable in the cotton fields of the nascent democracy.
They also had few objections to the purchase or inheritance of freedom, nor to worship nor literacy, baptism, or the owning of property on the part of African slaves from the time of the first Dutch settlers. By 1818, the Bridge Street African Methodist Episcopal Wesleyan Church had been founded on Bridge Street by blacks fed up with sitting in the back rows of white churches.
And this is how greatest American genius of all, contradiction, came to Brooklyn.
We loved Ana Benaroya’s poster at ArtCrank this year. “I wanted to create a raw, powerful image of a woman riding a bike nude. She and the bike are one and they are rebellious, powerful and free.”
Ana’s work merits a Buzzfeed listicle, 8 Life Hacks Every Woman Should Know, excerpt from her forthcoming book 120 Ways to Annoy Your Mother (And Influence People).
Stay moist and go slow.
Great weather and a great turnout for the closing night of Am I Invisible? A Portrait of New York City at the Old Stone House.
Exhibiting artist Johanna Kindvall arriving at the Am I Invisible? exhibition.
Streetspac activists Hilda Cohen and Steve Vaccaro in conversation.
Doug Gordon and Marc Van der Aart, Am I Invisible? sponsor and co-owner of Rolling Orange Bikes.
Joshua Ploeg preparing a mind-blowing meal in the permanent gallery of the Old Stone House.
Artists Johanna Kindvall and Sam Polcer in conversation.
Elly Blue speaking.
Thanks to everyone and especially Elly Blue, Joe Biel and Joshua Ploeg for a wonderful evening!
Join us for Dinner and Bikes with Elly Blue, Joshua Ploeg and Joe Biel at the Old Stone House on June 2 at 7 PM.
A vegan feast under the trees and an evening of music, movies, and conversation with Elly Blue about her new book, Bikenomics: How Biking Can Save the Economy.
Dinner and Bikes is the closing event for Am I Invisible? A Portrait of New York City, an exhibition at the Old Stone House that celebrates the style and diversity of New York City Bicyclists. Every ticket sold is entered into a raffle to win a Brooklyn Bicycle Co. Willow 3-speed or a Van Moof bike.
About Elly Blue: Elly Blue lives in Portland, Oregon and has been writing about bicycle transportation since 2006. Her work has appeared in the Guardian, Bicycling, Grist Bitch, BikePortland, Momentum and elsewhere. Elly Blue is the author of Everyday Bicycling (2012) and Bikenomics: How Bicycling Can Save the Economy (2013). Elly Blue Publishing is an independent publisher and distributor with a focus on feminist nonfiction about bicycling. EBP publishes the quarterly zine Taking the Lane and a growing number of traditional-format books. More information here.
About chef Joshua Ploeg: Let us not understate the might and magic of Joshua Ploeg’s cooking. The dude’s meals sparkle in your mouth; they burst and bloom; they explode and breakdance and pirouette! Former singer for Lords of Lightspeed, Behead the Prophet, and the Mulkiteo Faeries, Joshua Ploeg, the “traveling vegan chef” is author of In Search of Lost Taste, So Raw It’s Downright Filthy and This Ain’t No Picnic. More information about Joshua here
About Joe Biel: Writer, designer, filmmaker, activist and founder of Microcosm Publishing, Joe Biel will be showing The Greatest Gift, his new 15 minute documentary about Emily Finch, the Portland mom who bikes around with her 6 kids.More about Joe here
Come for dinner, leave with a bike!
Every ticket sold for Dinner and Bikes is entered into a raffle to win a Brooklyn Cruiser or a Van Moof bike. A portion of the proceeds are donated to Recycle-A-Bicycle.
Opening April 8, 2014 6 – 9 p.m.
In the Great Room at The Old Stone House
Old Stone House & Washington Park
336 Third Street, bet. 4th/5th Avenues
Brooklyn, NY 11215
Am I Invisible? is a portrait of New York City viewed from a bicycling perspective. Artists Marina Berio, Christopher Cardinale, Jeanne Hilary, Johanna Kindvall, Sam Polcer, Justin Strauss Mike Taylor and Harry Zernike will be exhibited along with images from the Am I Invisible? Open Call, and images created during an Am I Invisible? Bike Art Party, a community event organized with Queens Museum. Am I Invisible? A Portrait of New York City Bicyclists will be on display at the Old Stone House and an interactive public art installation in locations around NYC from April 8 to June 3.
Am I Invisible? is inspired by the experience of biking in the city. Biking creates intimacy with the built environment, encourages social interactions and enhances awareness of New York City as an ever-evolving, collective cultural experience.
About the Artists
Marina Berio is an artist and photographer. She has been granted a New York Foundation for the Arts fellowship, the Aaron Siskind Foundation Award and a Pollock/Krasner Grant, and been invited to various residencies including the MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, Millay, and Schloss Plüschow in Germany. She has exhibited photography and drawings internationally, including Michael Steinberg Fine Arts, Yancey Richardson Gallery, Von Lintel Gallery, Smack Mellon, and Artists Space in New York; Les Rencontres d’Arles, Galerie Camera Obscura, and the Centre Photographique de Pontault-Combault in France; her work has been published in Foam and Fantom. Berio is Chair of the General Studies Program at the International Center of Photography in New York City. She lives with photographer Jean-Christian Bourcart and their son Elio in Brooklyn, New York. More about Marina’s work at marinaberio.net
Christopher Cardinale is a cartoonist and muralist. While living in Guatemala and Mexico, his work was inspired by encampments of striking workers and anarchist punk collectives. He has been publishing comics since 2001 when his first graphic narrative appeared in World War 3 Illustrated Magazine. Since 1996, Christopher has led large-scale, collaborative mural projects in New Mexico, New York City, Italy, Greece and Mexico.His work addresses themes ranging from labor organizing history, cyclist and pedestrian rights, urban environmentalism and post-Katrina New Orleans. Christopher illustrated the graphic novel, Mr Mendoza’s Painbrush, by Luis Alberto Urrea, chosen by Kirkus Reviews as one of 2010’s best books for teens.
Johanna Kindvall is a designer, illustrator and architect based in Sweden and New York City. She editss a food blog, kokblog; her illustrations appeared in The Culinary Cyclist, by Anna Brones. Her illustrations have been published on blogs such as Art of Eating, Foodie Bugle and the books The Fabulous Baker Brothers. She is currently at work on a cookbook in collaboration with Anna Brones, which will be published by 10 speed press. Her work has been exhibited widely, notably in 14th St Overlay by Walczak & Heiss in Denver, Colorado, at the Triennial of Lövestad, Sweden, at the National Art Museum of China and others.
Jeanne Hilary is a photographer and new media artist. She is founder of Bicycle Utopia, a public art project about New York City seen from a bicycling perspective.
Her work has been exhibited widely, notably le Centre Pompidou, le Palais de Tokyo, Le Musée Carnavalet, la Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris; Lilit Kala Akademi, New Delhi, The Museum of Fine Arts, Calcutta,, the Museum for Contemporary Photography, Chicago. She has received numerous grants and residencies, among these: The American Center, Paris; the Fondation Regional Pour l’Art Contemporain, Ile de France; the Ministére des Affaires Etrangéres, France; the Palm Beach County Cultural Council; the Ministére de la Culture, France. Her work has been published in The New York Times, The Guardian, La Repubblica, El Pais, Le Monde, Libération, le Nouvel Observateur, l’Express, Geo, Newsweek, Fortune and many others. Her work is broadly concerned with how the built environment impacts human endeavor, and how memory and desire inform contemporary society. She has worked extensively on gangs and youth issues in Chicago and Los Angeles, women’s issues, infrastructure and housing, poverty and immigration in France’s housing estates, and a range of human rights and social issues in Egypt, Afghanistan, India, Turkey, China and Rwanda, throughout Europe and the United States. More about Jeanne Hilary at jeannehilary.com
Sam Polcer recently recently completed his first book, New York Bike Style, which will be published by Prestel in Spring 2014. (He also has a blog, Preferred Mode, that features some of the photos from that project.) His writing and photography has appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Travel + Leisure, Hemispheres, Brooklyn Magazine, The L Magazine, among others. He is Communications Manager of Bike New York. Previously, he was a nightclub visual designer, traveling circus spotlight operator, documentary filmmaker, DJ, video editor, blueberry picker, election campaigner and event producer. When he’s not riding his bike or traveling on assignment, he spends as much time as he can in Brooklyn, NY. More about Sam Polcer at Preferredmode.com
Justin Strauss, 16, from Forest Hills, Queens is a junior at Stuyvesant High School. Justin is photo editor for both The Spectator, Stuyvesant’s student run biweekly newspaper, and The Indicator, Stuyvesant’s yearbook. His interest in cycling began in 2012, after participating in bike tours in and around New York City. The following year, Justin joined the Century Road Club Association. He competes in road, track, and cyclocross races for the club’s Junior Development team. Justin saw the opportunity to combine his two defining interests in Bicycle Utopia’s Am I Invisible? contest and he plans to continue to experiment with using photography as a medium to capture the beauty of cycling.
Mike Taylor is a printmaker, painter, writer, self-publisher and arts educator. He works in screenprinting, painting, collage, sculpture and performance. His work is narrative and autobiographical, documenting his surroundings and reflecting on culture, politics, and the human condition. While self-publishing anthologies of his own artwork, comics and writing he is also an elementary school art teacher.
Harry Zernike makes photographs and films for a broad range of commercial and editorial clients. His photographs are in a number of books as well as private, corporate, and museum collections. He has been spotted in road and cyclocross races, and toodling around New York on a single speed. A predisposition to photographing cyclists (conflating work and play) led him to publish the printed 9W- a journal of Cycling Photography and it’s online companion 9wmag.com. www.harryzernike.com
Am I Invisible? A Portrait of New York City Bicyclists is made possible with generous support from our sponsors.
This just in from artist Frédéric Lère:
“You could not miss me.
“Walking a Citibike from the art supply store to my studio. Should I use the sidewalk or the bike lane? I opted for the bike lane, smoother surface.
“All the way up 8th Avenue from 23rd to 38th Street. Respecting all the traffic lights and unruly pedestrians…
“I was special, a bikestrian.
“One of the unruly persons that I met was driving a Yellow cab. He cut me off, forcing me to use my brakes, as he turned left on 35th Street, running a red light.
“The driver was a cop in a uniform!?!”
You can see Frédéric’s The Freevolous King Lère Show at the Mayson Gallery, 254 Broome Street, New York, from January 22 to February 05.
Proceeds from the show benefit the Big Apple Circus Clown Care Unit.
Biking Is Local. There is no better way to experience the art and cultural experience that is New York City. Bicycle Utopia amplifies bike as cultural lens by fostering connections and conversation. Exploring the myriad intersections of art and bicycle, Bicycle Utopia builds a community of ideas—living, breathing, bike-riding, on the network and in the city. Bikes are good for cities, and bicycling is good for everyone. See you in the streets!
Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org