The New Museum‘s second biennial Ideas City Streetfest inundated New York City’s Bowery area with educational booths, innovative ideas and community projects. It was part of a four-day exploration of the future of cities and this year’s theme, “untapped capital.” But really, it recycled a lot of old ideas — good ones. Many revolved around similar themes — space, environmentalism, mobility, community and price accessibility (free) — and these same issues will likely remain the center of our public meditations on the future. See how they were addressed at the Ideas City Streetfest below.
As residents of New York City (and many other large, densely-populated cities) are acutely aware, space is a luxury continually diminishing in quantity and increasing in price. These constraints require revisiting how we define and create space. Pop-up shops, mobile exhibits and, in fact, the Streetfest as a whole, were a temporary way to take back space from bustling lower Manhattan. Just as moving from the suburbs to the city requires a change in one’s conception of personal space, new building will also require a change in how we delineate space in the first place. Storefront for Art and Architecture commissioned the Spacebuster — a box truck that emits a giant inhabitable bubble out of its back doors — as a location for discussions and presentations throughout the day. It was big, bright and temporary way to create space.
Like architects and builders, artists and designers can no longer ignore the environmental repercussions of their work. Terraform One addressed waste by reporposing the Styrofoam used in just one hour in NYC into a community art project. Festivalgoers made art on unlikely surfaces (faces, for example) and out of old clothing. A number of exhbitions also took this as a way to reintroduce greenery back into urban lives. Plant-In City demonstrated how terrariums could be both aesthetic appealing and environmentally useful—not to mention compact enough to fit in a tiny apartment.
Many of the ideas at the Streetfest were literally carried by vehicles. Art Cart NYC showcased artist Hellbent’s Mix Tape series as a way to widen the ways in which people consider exhibiting and viewing art. Bus Roots toted plants around on a van’s green roof, using them as a means of artistic and environmental communication. Even foodtrucks were out in full force. The point is agility: the ability to go where there is need instead of expecting those in need to find you. Mobile units can also be a lot cheaper than their stationary counterparts.
Many of the projects required working together in order to come up with community art, ideas and solutions. Alexander Gorlin Architects with Community Solutions showcased how they wanted to revitalize the Brownsville neighborhood in Brooklyn by adding mixed use attachments to prexisting buildings in order to create storefronts and community spaces and, by extension, a more inviting community. For them, community means a better quality of life. OpenUrban.com solicited people to add to its worldwide urban development wiki, so that users could better understand how their areas are being developed, and act accordingly.
Price accessibility (free)
The real point of “free” is that the lack of a price barrier makes things inherently more inclusive than their paid counterparts. In honor of the event, small little libraries were placed around the area, where people were encouraged to “Take a book, return a book.” Ad company Sub Rosa set up a sustainable, collaborate play space in which festivalgoers were allowed to design play structures, free of charge and free of rules. Numerous exhibitors set up art and design projects in which passersby could partake. They were free, but worth a lot more.
Photos by Rani Molla.
Rani Molla has a digital media master’s degree from Columbia Journalism School. She’s a journalism reader, writer, photographer, videographer, data visualizer and general doer. Follow her on Twitter.