Thursday, August 07, 2008

Eminent Domain: Contemporary Photography and the City

Maggie says:
Those of you who are New York-based, or due for a visit, should really make time for the current exhibition at the New York Public Library. I stumbled upon Eminent Domain: Contemporary Photography and the City last weekend and felt like I'd discovered a treasure.

Shifting Views of Public and Private Space
Last summer, public outcry forced New York City officials to reconsider regulations that might have required even the most casual of tourist-photographers to obtain a permit and $1 million in liability insurance to photograph or film in the streets of the city. A majority of the objectors felt that the proposed regulations threatened First Amendment rights to photograph in public places and amounted to a kind of privatization of public space. Similarly, people have questioned the current private/public arrangements that characterize much of modern urban redevelopment, from the proposed Columbia University expansion to Hudson Yards in Manhattan, and from Willets Point in Queens to the Atlantic Yards and Coney Island in Brooklyn.
Contention particularly surrounds the legal power of eminent domain, or the taking of private property for public use: at the core of the debate is the definition of “public use” and concern that the word “public” has become a euphemism to disguise what are essentially private investments. ....

Eminent Domain presents selections from the work of five New York–based artists who have recently created large photographic projects that take on the theme of the modern city. While none of the artists’ works specifically addresses the law of eminent domain, all of the projects deal in different ways, and to varying degrees, with the changing nature of space in New York City today.

This exhibition is great stuff for planning nerds, especially those of you as interested in issues of public space privatization as I am. This exhibition includes fantastic images of neighborhood life, a Chinatown family, and subway cars. My personal favorite was Bettina Johae's Urban Edges. On her bike, Johae explored the edges of New York's boroughs, camera and sketchbook in hand. The resulting creations are hand-drawn "re"-maps of the boroughs based on public access and accessibility. Another quiet standout was Reiner Leist's Window project, a collection of photographs taken from his window annually, pre-September 11 until now, including the blank negatives during the Trade Center collapse when he left the City.

I have so much love for beautiful public spaces that offer outstanding material open to everyone!