During the 1970s, a time of intensive de-industrialisation and the transition to an information economy in New York, artists found new ways to use the city. The creative use of abandoned and peripheral spaces intensified, especially in Lower Manhattan, which was becoming a centre of the commercial art world. Action Behind the Margins combines debates, performances pieces and film screenings to reveal a city where public and private spheres intermingle and marginal subjects assert their right to the city.
The inaugural conference, Mixed Use, Manhattan, explores photographs taken in New York from the 1970s on, focusing on contemporary artists like Zoe Leonard (New York, 1961) who engage with the artistic practices of their predecessors, including Peter Hujar (New Jersey, 1934-New York 1987) and his nocturnal photographs taken on Manhattan’s West Side in 1976.
Drawing on urban theory, Rosalyn Deutsche and Johanna Burton in Art and Silence in the City question whether the art in Mixed Use, Manhattan really represents resistance to the appropriation of space by private enterprise and the state.
The session entitled History, Memory and Space consists of a dialogue between Juan Antonio Suárez and the artist Matthew Buckingham (Nevada, 1963), looking at some of the central themes in his work: the reading of space through history and history through space, the contrast between official history and subaltern micro-histories and the material embodiment of collective memory.
The city is no longer seen as a geometric extension or field of vision, but as a medium for the distribution of resistance, transitions and actions that often seek to counteract the most oppressive and homogenising inertias of contemporary time. Occupations and Evictions offers a journey through the different ways in which experimental video and film have depicted and intervened in the urban landscape of Manhattan since the 1970s.
In The Spatial Aesthetic of Urban Renovation, Ann Reynolds looks at the relationship between the city and works of art including performance pieces, film and video. All are equally fleeting and open to dematerialization, but they form part of the collective memory of New York, even though the spaces that they represent have ceased to exist.
The programme needs to be included, along with the conferences.