According to Storefront for Art and Architecture, as a contemporary form of commercialized nostalgia, souvenirs are the ultimate cliche in the representation of a city. Producing collective imaginaries made up of lines that follow the profiles of superlative sculptures, buildings, and stories, souvenirs have become, according to this organization, the reference points that anchor a particular culture in time, representing political, cultural, and social values.
Souvenirs: New New York Icons, Storefront for Art and Architecture’s most recent exhibition, commissioned 59 artists, architects, and designers to reimagine the referential images that constitute the global perception of the city, proposing new understandings of the urban experience. Within this cohort, Cohabitation Strategies’ co-founder Miguel Robles-Durán was invited to propose a souvenir for South Bronx, Community Board 2.
Community Board 2 in the Bronx is inscribed within the 16th Congressional District, known for housing the largest amount of people in the USA living below the Federal poverty guidelines, currently set at $24,300 in earnings per year for a family of four. In this Congressional District more than 250,000 people live in poverty, half of them children, most of them not able no eat properly more than twice a day. Fenced off, side to side with the poorest citizens of NYC, sits one of the largest food distribution centers in the world, the privately managed Hunts Point Cooperative Market, operating in a 46 hectares (113 acres) gated facility and generating anual profits of over $2.3 Billion.
Our icon/souvenir proposal consists of adding to the inverse side of existing gateway to the Hunts Point Cooperative Market a welcome inscription to South Bronx – District 16 that lets every person leaving the market know the extreme poverty of their immediate surroundings. Hopefully, this could support triggering a more coordinated action from the market stakeholders to propose ways of transforming the living conditions of those that live there.
Nowhere in NYC is extreme social inequality more spatialized. Those that cannot eat, living directly in front of those that supply the food of those that can afford it. If any city aims to rethink its icons, it should do so by rendering visible the hidden urban conditions that make it worse for its citizens to live. Icons should stimulate the citizen’s consciousness, so as we turn our focus towards changing the conditions that oppress us. The 20th century emphasis on glamorous icons enveloping the successes of the richest 1% must be gradually replaced by icons that represent the everyday struggles of the many. This is one proposal.
Souvenirs: New New York Icons
September 16th – November 18th, 2017
97 Kenmare Street, New York, NY
September 16th Exhibition Opening:
Public Viewing: 11 am – 6 pm
Public Opening: 7 pm – 9 pm
For more information about the exhibition, click here.
Credits: Miguel Robles-Duran / 3D modeling by Mateo Fernandez-Muro