The iconic Bank of Manhattan building on Queens Plaza stretches high above the highways and iron subways of the Ed Koch bridge intersections. The clock tower holds an intriguing light; you’re not sure if it is reflecting the sky, the trucks or the subway. It is in fact a light installation by artist Chris Jordan, Locost Queue, with moving shadows of people. It acts as a beacon for the community to enter (freely) the old bank entrance and walk around an exhibition created by “No Longer Empty”, a community-oriented art organization that uses vacant real estate as venues for arts, experiential workshops and community activities. Not content to just use the empty space the organizers have themed the exhibition around the building’s origins and offered opportunities for visitors to reflect on money, capitalism, Wall Street and international economics. They describe “How Much Do I Owe You?” as “a personal and conversational exploration into the new iterations of currency, value and exchange at this time of financial flux, growing debt and job insecurity.”
The huge bank vault is open, yet the ping pong table (Theodoros Stamatogiannis) blocked into the corridor highlights the inaccessibility and secrecy of much of the financial world. Downstairs within the vault we can see a movie, Vive Le Capital, 2010-2012, by Orit Ben-Shitrit, itself filmed in the former Bankers Trust building in Wall Street, framed by the circular metal door of the vault itself.
The works are presented by a range of artists from around the world, yet the exhibition also connects with the local community in promoting work on this theme produced by local school students. Schools from the five boroughs are represented by sculpture, drawings, paintings, film and multi-media that have been selected to be shown. They show the talent of our youth, and their awareness of the issues the exhibition highlights. Students are also given opportunities to become involved in the exhibition as curators and docents.
The space is also being used for a series of events, interactive and community focussed. Director of Programming and Associate Director, Jodie Dinapoli is keen to talk about the exhibition and encourages visitors of all ages to attend, not just to look but to also become involved.
Of the works I was impressed by a group of typewriters, wrapped in charcoal rubbings of tree bark patterns on washi, a Japanese wood pulp paper and encased in resin; these created by Japanese artist Keiko Miyamori; also Guerra de la Paz ‘s Sealing the Deal, (2009) a full size Magritte-like coupling of two figures, clothed but disembodied, financial charmers with a reptilian exchange of bargains.
I was very impressed by the quality of some of the students’ art, including some from local schools: Newcomers, and Long Island City High Schools. On duty when I visited were three student docents from The Academy of American Sciences, Frank Sinatra School of the Arts and Hunter Science High School in Manhattan.
The exhibition continues through March 13. Check out www.nolongeropen.org.