Today’s post features a video shot and edited by VCS student Julia Santoli announcing Moon Guardians, an outdoor installation in the Meatpacking District by artist and SVA faculty member Ofri Cnaani. The project is sponsored by the nonprofit arts organization More Art, which is run by SVA Art History faculty member Micaela Martegani (recent VCS alumna Audrey Nicolaides also works there as Project Manager). The installation opens today, and there will be a reception tonight from 7 to 9 pm.
Here’s the video, followed by a detailed description of Moon Guardians from the More Art website:
Moon Guardians, October 24 to November 24, 2013
Gansevoort Plaza (9th Avenue and Gansevoort Street)
From 6PM nightly
Opening October 24th 7-9 PM
Multi-media installation artist Ofri Cnaani is presenting a series of site-specific video projections around Gansevoort Square in the heart of the Meatpacking district. The work will take form as a series of video haikus that revisits the historical and social context of the Meatpacking District. Ghost-like figures, directly emerging from of the neighborhood’s storied past, will be rear-projected on the windows and storefronts facing the square, each gazing at the viewer and creating a bridge between past and present. New York has always been recognized as a place where marginalized figures and outsiders are celebrated. In recent years, however, the city has become more conservative and sanitized. The Meatpacking District, once an area of industry, a meat market first – and then in the 1980s, a night-life destination behind closed doors – including night clubs like The Vault and The Locker Room – has become a destination to be seen, transformed recently into an upscale neighborhood where the original residents can hardly afford living. This focus on hipness and security seems to undercut the city’s allure, and questions its ability to retain its vibrancy. As the city vacillates between risk and safety, questions arise concerning the role of our unique characters in society and challenging the gentrification of our historic neighborhoods and communities. Cnaani’s characters are real residents, who have lived in the Meatpacking District since the neighborhood was very different from what it is today, and they evoke its rich history. They include an artist/galerist, a butcher, an elderly couple, and a drag queen, and for one month this fall they will once again inhabit the District, interacting with one another and with the place, window to window, building to building. As a result, Gansevoort Plaza will be transformed into a dynamic silent amphitheater.
In the process of completing this project, Ofri and More Art have engaged in an outreach program in collaboration with middle school students from the Chelsea LAB School. Participating in a series of research-based workshops led by Ofri, the students discovered vestiges of the textured history of the area they inhabit, as well as learned about the complexity and function of public art. The workshops culminated in the formulation of ten questions to ask long-time Chelsea residents. Each participant was asked 10 questions about their engagement with the site in the past and present, ideas and thoughts on the changing neighborhood and interactions with the local art scene. Based on the individual answers, the final characters for the projections were chosen.
The Meatpacking district is an area that spans approximately from West 12th street to West 20th street, between the Westside Highway and 8th Avenue. Originally established as the area surrounding Fort Gansevoort—a defense structure built during the War of 1812—the area’s cultural identity has perpetually morphed from a refuge during the plague of the 1820s, to a mecca of meatpacking plants and slaughterhouses in the early to late 20th century, to a high-end boutique and art district of today. The district remains continually in developmental and flux.
An integral component in the production of Moon Guardians is the interview of long-time Chelsea residents. Ivy Brown, director of Ivy Brown Gallery, has lived within the historic triangle building on Hudson Street for almost thirty years. Within that time frame, she has seen the area transform from an isolated block, filled in the daytime with blood from the local meatpacking plants and in the nighttime with LGBT club patrons; to a glossy, consumer destination.
Ofri Cnaani is an artist and educator. She works in time-based media, live-cinema performances, and large-scale installations; and has exhibited at esteemed institutions such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, MoMA PS1, Network of Lombardy Contemporary Art Museums, and the BMW Guggenheim Lab. Born in Israel, Ofri lives and works in New York.
Cnaani’s work explores the theatrical potential of the urban space and investigates the relationship between architecture and narrative, to dissolve spatial distinctions between reality and mythical realms. In translating historical and cultural artifacts into contemporary tales, she re-visits space physically, visually, and culturally. Cnaani’s video projections create new physical and psychological experiences within spaces that we assume are known. In this series of interventions she will project short poetic videos that were conceived specifically for these sites, aiming to rethink their physical, historical, and social contexts.