The theme of AiOP’s tenth annual public art and performance festival is FREE.
Open. Autonomy. Gift. Independent. Unoccupied. Commons. Wild. Nothing. Everything.
The 1970s Warriors-era New York City lives in the imaginations of many as the kind of town it used to be. That gritty, wild, at times dangerous place was also a site of agency and possibility. The New York City of present day is much more polished, and encumbered by big money than recent decades; a statement not meaning to invoke nostalgia for the way things used to be, but as a simple point of fact. New York Cityhas changed. Chain retailers (and their shoppers), real estate developers (and their high-paying tenants), and cultural tourists (and their transient economy) now rule the landscape. Between private corporations and city-mandated public space regulations, our every move is watched, recorded, policed, and normalized. Patti Smith said it. David Byrne said it. New York City is not a place for artists.
Or is it?
Sure, money has moved in. But have the people stopped responding? Has creativity simply dried up? Or, like the city itself, has it just changed? Shape-shifted and transgressed the usual models into more inter-disciplinary, life-specific, and self-directed contexts?
We think so.
Fourteenth Street in Manhattan is at a crucial nexus of this issue. As a kind of informal divider between the “uptown” and “downtown” worlds, 14th Street spans the widest part of the Manhattan island, and has been an important site for trade, light industry, radical activism, transportation, housing, and culture. It is an artery through which crowds of New Yorkers flow everyday to work, play, live, dissent, shop, parade, and create. It has also undergone tremendous change and gentrification, with high-end retail and big box stores dotting the street to accommodate a shift toward an increasingly privatized sidewalk experience.
Art in Odd Places has integrated into this space to startle New Yorkers from their usual paths, and consider their environment in wholly unique and singular moments of creative intervention. Following its decade-long history of artful protest in New York City, Art in Odd Places 2014: FREE presents sixty-two projects that actively engage and respond to the history and heterogeneity of 14th Street. AiOP: FREE asks us to consider what it means to be autonomous in this milieu, with all of its surrounding conditions. Creating a test site for the possibilities and limitations of public space, AiOP: FREE prompts artists to highlight civil liberties, forms of exchange, and personal and collective freedoms in forming a critical idea of what our urban commons looks like, and how it functions.
The festival’s ethos has always been one of sharing, openness, and accessibility; produced without a budget, outside of permitting regulations, and taken up completely on the initiative of the organizers and participating artists. AiOP is collaborative, horizontal, and constantly in motion. AiOP is FREE.
–Juliana Driever & Dylan Gauthier