On the Ground: Open Sessions
Wednesday March 29, 2023 – Wednesday November 29, 2023
During the last week of each month Storefront will open the gallery for On the Ground: Open Sessions, inviting a different guest to curate and host the evening. These informal gatherings will open a space for collective learning where critical issues surrounding the transformation of New York’s ground floor are shared and discussed.
See below for details on each of the open sessions.
Wednesday March 29, 2023, 7 – 9 pm
Top: From the Street, I Can See the Moon by David L. Johnson, 2014
Bottom: C’est Vrai (One Hour) by Robert Frank, 1990
About Open Session #1
For the first in our Open Session series, artist David L. Johnson convened an evening of conversation and collective learning around his own video work and C’est Vrai! (One Hour), a single-take film photographer Robert Frank made in 1990 on the streets of SoHo and the Lower East Side. Johnson convened writers Nicholas Dawidoff, Geelia Ronkina, and special guests to converse around street performance, pedestrian perspectives, and how we choose to document New York as it continues to change.
About the Artist
David L. Johnson (b. 1993, New York, NY) is an artist who lives and works in New York City. Johnson uses photography, video, found and stolen objects, and installation to engage the margins between public and private space. Focusing on loitering and property law, his recent work has been interested in the complex relationship urban development engenders between the built environment and its living and non-living subjects. Johnson received a BFA from The Cooper Union in 2015 and an MFA from The University of Pennsylvania in 2020. He is an alum of the Whitney Independent Study Program and a part-time lecturer at The New School. Recent exhibitions include: Life Between Buildings, MoMA PS1, New York, NY; Everything is Common, Artists Space, New York, NY; Revocable Consents, Theta, New York, NY; A Place to Live, Tiger Strikes Asteroid, Philadelphia, PA; Wants & Needs, Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts, New York, NY. Johnson’s work is in the public collection of The Studio Museum in Harlem.
About the Participants
Nicholas Dawidoff is the author of six books including the just-published The Other Side of Prospect: A Story of Violence, Injustice, And The American City. It’s a New Yorker book of the year and is a finalist for the New York Public Library’s Helen Bernstein Award for excellence in journalism. His biographical memoir of his grandfather, The Fly Swatter: Portrait of an Exceptional Character, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. His memoir, The Crowd Sounds Happy, won the Kenneth Johnson Book Award for outstanding literary writing about mental illness. He has been a Henry Luce Scholar, a Guggenheim Fellow, a Civitella Ranieri Fellow, a Berlin Prize fellow of the American Academy, an Anschutz Distinguished Fellow at Princeton University, and an Art For Justice Fellow. His articles appear in The New Yorker and The New York Times Magazine including several pieces on the life and work of Robert Frank. He is a member of the Advisory Board of the Wesleyan (University) Center for Prison Education and a member of the Honorary Council of the Board of Directors of the MacDowell artist’s residency program.
Geelia Ronkina is a writer.
Tuesday, April 25, 2023, 7 – 9 pm
Image: MOCA No Jail Protests, 2019. Courtesy of Betty Yu.
About Open Session #2
For our second Open Session, multimedia artist and co-founder of Chinatown Art Brigade, Betty Yu examines on the ground socially-engaged movements, in particular the growing grassroots movement in NYC calling for the abolition of prisons, the police state and the carceral system as a whole. Since 2017, the city has continued to push forward plans to build 4 borough based jails in the guise of closing Rikers Island, one of the worst prisons in the U.S. One of those jails is in the heart of NYC’s Chinatown in Lower Manhattan. It will be the tallest jailscraper in the world. The other jails are being proposed in Kew Gardens, Queens; Downtown Brooklyn, and in Mott Haven, Bronx. Meanwhile, prominent activists from the feminist and social justice movement are praising a new initiative to build a “Feminist” Jail in Harlem.
Yu has assembled a special group of activists and community leaders— attorney, abolitionist, researcher and political educator, Jindu Obiofuma, Denise Zhou from W.O.W. Project, Mon Mohapatra from Critical Resistance NY, No New Jails NYC, and Inside/Outside Organizing Collective NYC, and Anna Ozbek, member of Chinatown Art Brigade, for a roundtable discussion to highlight critical grassroots approaches to advancing the fight for abolition in immigrant, low-income and communities of color.
Additional resources shared and discussed during the open session available here.
To view a recording of the open session, see here.
About the Artist
Betty Yu is a multimedia artist, photographer, filmmaker and activist born and raised in New York City to Chinese immigrant parents. Yu integrates documentary film, new media platforms, and community-infused approaches into her practice, and she is a co-founder of Chinatown Art Brigade, a cultural collective using art to advance anti-gentrification organizing. She holds a BFA from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, an MFA in Integrated Media Arts from Hunter College/CUNY, and New Media Narratives program certificate from the International Center Photography.
Yu teaches video, social practice, art and activism at Pratt Institute, John Jay College of Criminal Justice/CUNY, and The New School, in addition to over 20 years of community, media justice, and labor organizing work. Among various distinctions, she was a participant of After the Plaster Foundation, or, “Where Can We Live?” (Queens Museum, 2020-21). In Fall 2020, she curated Imagining De-Gentrified Futures at Apex Art in Tribeca, NYC.
About the Participants
Jindu Obiofuma is an attorney, abolitionist, researcher and political educator committed to redefining the experience of justice, healing and safety. She is a believer in abolition democracy and in the inevitability of Black liberation. She has worked on issues of pretrial policy, juvenile justice policy and Black liberatory policy at Harvard, Columbia, and Law for Black Lives. She plans to do this work for as long as she is able and hopes to continue building community along the way.
Denise Zhou is a filmmaker and cultural worker based in Brooklyn, New York. She is currently collaborating with the W.O.W. Project, a youth arts and anti-gentrification organization in Chinatown, as part of the Creatives Rebuild New York Artist Employment Program.
Mon Mohapatra is an Indian abolitionist organizer, propagandist, and poet living on Lenni-Lenape / Canarsie land. Her work uses play, collaborative art, and campaigning to push forward solidarity strategies to end anti-Black, casteist, ableist, anti-queer, and ecocidal state violence in the US and elsewhere, as expressed in systems of policing, imprisonment, coercion, family separation, and social control.
Anna Ozbek is a multimedia journalist, filmmaker, activist, and educator. She is a member of the cultural organizing collective Chinatown Art Brigade and the art-activist collective The Illuminator. Her work has appeared in CNN, NY1, National Geographic, Global Post, and Democracy Now!. She has an MFA in Integrated Media Arts from Hunter College and is an Assistant Professor of Visual Journalism at Purchase College.
Tuesday, May 30, 2023, 7 – 9 pm
Image: Still from The Creators of Shopping Worlds, © Harun Faroki, 2001
About Open Session #3
For the third Open Session, Viscose Journal presents a screening of Harun Farocki’s 2001 film The Creators of Shopping Worlds.
The Creators of Shopping Worlds is an analytical study and visual essay on mall design. Set at the start of the millennium, between architect offices in Germany and a tech-convention in Las Vegas, Farocki uncovers how malls and shopping spaces are constructed to not only control movement of shoppers but shape their actual behavior. Through a combination of interviews and behind-the-scenes meetings with different planners and stake-holders, Farocki makes visible the intentions and technologies that govern retail spaces, while laying bare the sheer absurdity of their architects.
The screening launches research inquiries around the forthcoming issue of Viscose Journal on “Retail”, which will be published in partnership with Storefront in Autumn 2023. “Retail” will collect responses to sites of shopping and urban spatial politics, from histories of vitrines and visual merchandising, to strategies of building and overcoming loss prevention systems. With special thanks to Harun Farocki GbR, this screening of The Creators of Shopping Worlds will be introduced by Viscose Journal “Retail” issue co-editor Camila Palomino and will be followed by conversations, snacks, and wine.
About the Artists
Viscose Journal is a new journal for fashion criticism. Launched between Copenhagen and New York in 2021, the periodical published critical writing and projects by a wide range of authors from the worlds of art, fashion, literature, and academia. Through specially edited thematic issues, Viscose gives space to projects that challenge and expand the possibilities of research, practice, and critique of fashion. The forthcoming issue of Viscose Journal, on the topic of retail, is slated for publication in partnership with the Storefront for Art and Architecture in Autumn 2023. It is co-edited by Viscose Founding Editor-in-Chief Jeppe Ugelvig and New York City-based curator and writer Camila Palomino.
Tuesday, June 27, 2023, 7 – 9 pm
Image: Amoud, 2019, salvaged stones from a 1950’s demolished building in Bethlehem being classified, analyzed, and scanned. Courtesy of AAU ANASTAS
About Open Session #4
For the fourth Open Session, Elias and Yousef Anastas from AAU ANASTAS and Radio alHara present an immersive performance of assembled images and videos, accompanied by a live sound piece. Their Bethlehem-based practices include architecture, sonic exploration, collaborative gathering, and fostering communities of cultural production, all which aim to connect the specific contextual conditions of place to global solidarity networks.
About the Artists
Elias and Yousef Anastas are partners at AAU ANASTAS architects, co-founders of Local Industries, co-founders of Radio alHara, and co-founders of the Wonder Cabinet. The studio focuses on tying links between crafts and architecture at scales that vary from furniture design to territorial explorations, and have been advocating for a contemporary use of structural stone in architecture in Palestine and elsewhere. They are particularly interested in the politics of stone use for low carbon footprint structures, more resilient cities and more responsible quarries’ exploitation. Elias and Yousef co-founded Radio alHara, a community based online radio that weaves unconventional nets of solidarities through sonic experiences. Most recently they have launched the Wonder Cabinet, a space-based initiative in Bethlehem for cultural productions that gathers a community of artisans and artists, technical and artistic realms in the aim of producing a culture of global provincialism.
Tuesday, August 29, 2023, 6 – 10 pm
Image: Food Mahjong Club 5, 2023. Courtesy of Food New York
About Open Session #5
For our fifth Open Session, Food Mahjong Club brings their seasonal mahjong tournament to Storefront’s gallery and sidewalk, inviting the public to reconsider the meaning of creating spaces through network building and shared activity. Started by the architectural design studio Food New York, this club explores a version of an on the ground community center with firm roots in the neighborhood of Chinatown and its nearby surroundings. Participants will learn the game, compete in an amateur-friendly tournament, socialize, and snack and drink with friends, old and new.
About the Artists
Food New York is an architectural design studio located in Chinatown, NY. Projects span across civic, cultural and commercial sectors including the world’s first water-filtering floating pool, a garden bathhouse in the Cayman Islands and flagship stores for Off-White c/o Virgil Abloh in Hong Kong, Tokyo, Singapore and New York. The studio is directed by Dong-Ping Wong, with Bella Janssens, Ashely Kuo, Ryan Fierro, Daniel Kendra, Oluwabunmi Fayiga, Katty Cybulski and Ahzin Nam.
Tuesday, October 31, 2023, 7 – 9 pm
Image: Still from Crowd Facing Police by Benjamin Krusling, 2023
About Open Session #6
For the sixth Open Session, poet and artist Benjamin Krusling collapses video, text, and sound to explore structures of surveillance, dispossession, and the constitution of public space. Through new poetry and collaged audio, Krusling uses performance as a method to weave together violent textures of experience expressed through both humor and dread. Alongside this, presenting remixed stolen footage from the municipal archive of the NYPD, Krusling will convene guests to think about what it means to disturb and put into friction, the systems of domination that organize our city.
About the Artist
Benjamin Krusling is a poet and artist, the author of Glaring (Wendy’s Subway, 2020) and two chapbooks, most recently It got so dark (UDP, 2022).
Tuesday, February 20, 2024, 6:30 – 8:30 pm
Image: Protest sign from Right to Shelter action in December, 2023. Photo by Alex Strada
About Open Session #7
For our seventh Open Session, NYC Department of Homeless Services Public Artist-in-Residence Alex Strada, gathers Will Watts, Deputy Executive Director for Advocacy at Coalition of the Homeless, and Henry Love, Vice President of Public Policy and Strategy at Women in Need (WIN) for a conversation at Storefront. The evening will focus on the history of New York’s unique Right to Shelter, which guarantees a bed to anyone who lacks a safe place to sleep. The law was fought by advocates in the 1979 lawsuit Callahan v. Carey, which paved the way for further legal victories to support adults and children experiencing homelessness. This discussion will unpack the Coalition for the Homeless and WIN’s work to uphold and protect the decree amidst the housing crisis, mass migration, and legal challenges.
About the Artist
Alex Strada is a multimedia artist and educator based in New York City. Through film/video, installation, sound and orality, performance, and public art, her socially engaged artworks explore collectivity, critical legal studies, and political transformation. Her projects often involve transdisciplinary collaboration with scholars, activists, organizations, artists, and students. Since 2022, she has served as the Public Artist in Residence with the New York City Department of Homeless Services and the Department of Cultural Affairs. Recent exhibitions include the Queens Museum in NYC; Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco; BIENALSUR in Buenos Aires; Fondazione Antonio Ratti in Como, Italy; Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum in Ridgefield, Connecticut; and Times Square Arts in NYC. Her work has been supported through fellowships from the Graham Foundation, Artadia, NYFA, NYSCA, Rema Hort Mann Foundation, and the Foundation for Contemporary Arts. She is an Assistant Professor of Art at the Tyler School of Art and Architecture at Temple University and a 2023-2024 Workspace Artist in Residence at LMCC.
About the Participants
Dr. Henry Love is a developmental psychologist and vice president of policy and planning at Women in Need (WIN) Inc. Dr. Love holds a Master of Philosophy and Ph.D. in Psychology from the City University of New York Graduate Center. He has over ten years of experience in policy work in the public and social sectors. His technical expertise and research interest span various anti-poverty programs and policies, including addressing implicit racial bias, affordable housing, child and youth homelessness prevention, guaranteed income, and childhood adversity. Dr. Love has worked closely with Mayors for Guaranteed Income, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and HOMEworks/Trinity Wall Street to design, implement, and evaluate innovative guaranteed income-based interventions. His experiences as a survivor of intimate partner violence and growing up as an African American youth in Detroit—navigating the extreme levels of systemic racial inequity—ignited his passion for racial equity and poverty reduction.
Will Watts is the Deputy Executive Director for Advocacy at Coalition for the Homeless where he is responsible for overseeing the organization’s policy and litigation work as well as its monitoring of New York City’s shelters run by the Department of Homeless Services. Prior to joining the Coalition, Will practiced law in Los Angeles where he most recently served as the Director of Community & Economic Justice at Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, advocating for justice on behalf of disenfranchised and low-income communities, including unhoused individuals, veterans, immigrants, domestic violence survivors, and formerly incarcerated individuals. Prior to Legal Aid, Will held a variety of positions including as a faculty member at UCLA School of Law, the Directing Attorney for the Homelessness Prevention Law Project at Public Counsel, and as a real estate partner at DLA Piper LLP.
On the Ground
On the Ground is a yearlong research project and exhibition series about New York City’s ground floor. Through a close look at the urban typology of the storefront, this expansive endeavor presents newly commissioned artistic explorations and dialogues about the heterogeneous threshold between public and private space throughout 2023. The project will unfold through three exhibitions, a radio show, an open call, a public program, and a thematic reader.
On the Ground is conceived and organized by the Storefront Team
Graphic design by Estudio Herrera
Photography by PJ Rountree
Storefront’s On the Ground program is made possible through the support of the Graham Foundation, the Ruth Foundation for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, as well as the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Kathy Hochul and the New York State Legislature; public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council; the Storefront Circle and Storefront’s Board of Directors, members, and individual donors.