The Art that is New York City

December 18th, 2011

Careful where you sit

Posted by Spencer Kim in Kim, Reviews    

After visiting the Fluxus Gallery and BAM, attending more traditional art performances, namely the Tokyo String Quartet and the Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique, was a treat in itself. The familiar harmonies of stringed, wind, and percussion instruments were a welcome change from the funky, bizarre, and abstract cacophonies at BAM and the Fluxus Gallery. The Tokyo String Quartet and Orchestre Revolutionnaire performances were beautiful and enthralling, drawing in audiences with masterful musical techniques and graceful interpretations of pieces. The music selection ranged from Beethoven to Bartók, from the conventional to the more revolutionary. Each venue offered its own “flavor,” shaping the audience’s experience of the performances through the space in which the pieces were performed.

The 92nd Street YMCA offered the most intimacy without discomfort. The Tokyo String Quartet performance was far more intimate than the Carnegie Hall performance as it the 92nd Street theatre was a small auditorium with wide aisles, low seats, and a large stage. Being a small auditorium with spacious seats close to the stage, the 92nd Street YMCA allowed for its audience get close to the performers, not to one another. On the other hand, the Carnegie Hall auditorium offered little in terms of personal space as well as a view.  Unlike the 92nd Street YMCA, the seats were dense and far from the performers.

Proximity to the stage plays a critical role in the experience of watching a performance. The close distance at the YMCA allowed for the audience to view the performers’ actions and techniques, adding an extra dimension to the performance. While the acoustics at Carnegie Hall were fantastic, the distance of the nosebleed seats from the stage detracted from my overall enjoyment of the experience.

December 13th, 2011

I will survive . . . through this performance.

Posted by Spencer Kim in Kim, Reviews, Uncategorized    

The Brooklyn Academy of Music’s performance of I Don’t Believe in Outer Space was surreal to say the least. An incoherent (almost nonexistent) plot, bizarre characters, and a setting that looked like it was literally out of this world, made this performance difficult to follow. Although the performance was highly unconventional compared to traditional theater in terms of acting, plot, and staging, it was nevertheless an enjoyable and thought provoking experience.

At first, I Don’t Believe in Outer Space appears to have no unifying theme. It appears random, disorganized and spontaneous, following the First Law of Thermodynamics by increasing in disorder as the performance continues. However, hints of motifs and themes are revealed throughout the play. For example, the 1970’s disco song “I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor is used as a motif and unifies I Don’t Believe in Outer Space. In the original song, Gloria Gaynor describes her ability to “survive,” and live as an independent woman despite heartbreak in an edgy, powerful, and upbeat manner. In the BAM performance, the lyrics from “I Will Survive” are recited in different contexts, resulting in some peculiar and even hilarious moments. Other motifs are used as well, such as a man holding a large Jack of Spades, an East-Asian woman, the theme of disorder, and others. Due to the vague and ambiguous nature of the play, comedy rather than dialogue is heavily used to convey story arcs within the play. This is a relief as the performance can be difficult to appreciate without an understanding of the references made in the play. The humor is simple and slap-stick; in one scene an actor playfully picks up and drops the balls present on stage. He does this continuously with no apparent point.

In fact, there appears to be no apparent point to this play. One can try to make sense of what they saw, but the entire performance seems to have no direction but in every which way. Perhaps the performance was simply that, something which is purposely left entirely open to interpretation. Regardless of whatever objective or existential meaning the performance might have tried to convey, the result is a crazy, dreamlike (almost nightmarish), but nevertheless oddly captivating piece, which lingers in one’s thoughts long after the play is over.

November 29th, 2011

Rockefeller Center

Posted by Spencer Kim in Kim, Reviews    

Described as a “masterpiece without a genius” by Rem Koolhaas, Rockefeller Center is a hodgepodge of unique elements that were brought together through the power of capitalism. Although Rockefeller Center was first started with the intention of housing the Metropolitan Opera, it quickly took on a life of its own, becoming home to countless stores and companies, NBC studios, and Radio City. The plans for Rockefeller Center created essentially what was a city in itself. It was a three block Metropolitan resort, extending not only well into the skyline but underground as well. According to Koolhaas, the Center was meant to be a combination of “Beaux-Arts + Dreamland + the electronic future + the Reconstructed Past + the European Future.” It was to be “the maximum of congestion combined with the maximum of light and space.”

Today, Rockefeller Center is a thriving, commercial area dominated by tourists. While walking through its streamlined, 1930’s modern corridors, one can only notice the mobs of camera-wielding tourists crowding to get to the Top of the Rock. The various architectural elements of the building are lost within the glistening holiday decorations and overshadowed by souvenir stores.  What was intended to be an awe-inspiring, gleaming metropolis was relegated to an overpriced tourist trap.

The removal Diego Rivera’s murals at Rockefeller Center detracts from the thoughtful, collective process that went into planning the locale and the overall appreciation for the locale. Rivera’s murals gave meaningful insight into the nature of capitalism and added to the aesthetics of the building beyond commercial decorations and stores. When visiting Rockefeller Center, one can always admire the different shops and attractions, the cheery holiday tree outside, and the lively ice-skating rink. However, to fully appreciate and evaluate Rockefeller Center as a whole, it is necessary to know the combined effort and history of the location. Without doing so, one would never see the “balance of Greek architecture,” the retained “flavor of Babylon’s magnificence,” the enduring qualities of Roman “mass and strength” or the “aloof, serenity” of the Taj Mahal that were all incorporated into the building of Rockefeller Center.

September 27th, 2011

Exploring a Deciduous New York (a Break from Delirious New York)

Posted by Spencer Kim in Kim, Site Essay    

View from High Line, of Hudson River

New York City: a bustling metropolis dominated by steel structures, speeding cabs, and agitated commuters. It’s a multifaceted metropolis, serving as the financial capital of the world or even a melting pot of culture and art, and its entirety defined by an imposing and ominous skyline. For its residents, New York City can be an artificial, urban prison for which natural, recreational escapes are required. Coney Island and High Line Park allow its denizens to escape from a purely artificial city to an artificially crafted “natural” resort.

Alleyway in Coney Island with various carnival games

Coney Island was one of the first natural escapes from the city ever since railroad tracks to the island were built in 1865.  Rem Koolhaas in Delirious New York suggestively, yet accurately, describes the island as a “clitoral appendage at the mouth of New York Harbor” (31). Coney Island enticed commuters from the city with its untouched, natural beaches, providing an escape from the growing metropolis. Although Coney Island was originally intended to provide “Nature to the citizens of the Artificial” (Koolhaas 33) it soon had to adapt to suit public’s evolving preferences, and did so by intensifying the “naturalness” of the island with “Super-Natural” attractions. Luna Park, Steeplechase Park, and Dreamland tried to channel the “Super-Natural” by offering fantastic aesthetics and unique attractions.  In no time, Coney Island was transformed into a “Worlds Fair” of technology and entertainment, using cutting edge technology to provide top-notch pleasure.

Unfortunately, Coney Island did not stand the test of time. All that remains today is a destitute amusement park, overshadowed by the ghost of its former self. Scattered along the boardwalk are hints of Coney Island’s illustrious past: a rickety, old wooden roller coaster; a rusty relic of an attraction too dangerous for our modern world; a worn sign alluding to Steeplechase Park; and a conspicuous alleyway of closed game stands. In a sense, Coney Island has returned to its roots, now offering visitors the simple pleasure of walking along a beach instead of the fantastic amusement parks it once had.

View from the High Line amphitheater

High Line Park was created fairly recently and does not have as colorful a history as Coney Island has had. The High Line was essentially salvaged from a derelict railroad line spanning the West Side of Manhattan. Although the entire park was built atop an abandoned railroad, aesthetically, it provides a stark contrast from the decrepit neighborhoods it runs through. The High Line is full of life, its walkways filled with people of various ages and a diverse array of foliage. It frames the city around it, at one location even showcasing a view down an avenue in an amphitheater. From the vantage points atop the High Line, one is as likely to see a sunset on the Hudson River, powerful street art or a seedy alleyway.

Coney Island and High Line Park ironically attempt to create an escape from an artificial, urban environment by artificially manufacturing what feels to be a “natural” world. While Coney Island’s parks were immensely successful commercially, their architects failed in creating a fantasy world that transcends the natural world. Ultimately, it was the natural world (the beach) and not the artificially created theme parks, which appealed to the public. High Line Park is a pastoral park that transcends the busy world around it; its deciduous fauna allowing its visitors to step away from the delirious sidewalks that pass underneath. High Line Park has become the modern Coney Island.

September 26th, 2011

The Coney Island Flux Kit

Posted by Spencer Kim in Kim, Site Creative    

This Flux Box is a work that comments on the nature of Coney Island in its heyday. In Delirious New York, Rem Koolhaas suggests that “technology + cardboard (or any other flimsy material) = reality”. Coney Island’s various theme parks followed this basic formula, creating elaborate parks with the latest technology and flashy aesthetics to immerse visitors in a fantasy world full of pleasure. Snazzy aesthetics, shoddy building material, and outdated technology make the contents of this Flux Box the perfect building materials for the Coney Island of Delirious New York.

The Coney Island Flux Kit

Coney Island Flux Kit Contents

September 16th, 2011

The destruction of art is art, please delete this page from your web browser.

Posted by Spencer Kim in Kim, Reviews  Tagged    
A box of matches with label by Ben Vautier, 1966.

A box of matches with label by Ben Vautier, 1966.

If non-art is art, what is art?

This paradox was implicitly perpetuated throughout the entire Fluxus exhibit. Fluxus originated from the idea that “high” art, or conventional European ideas of what constituted art, was an elitist abstraction. In order to challenge the conventional notion of what was considered to be art, Fluxus artists created open-ended and often interactive pieces which aimed to provoke a similar engaged state of attention from its audience, as works in a conventional art gallery would receive from theirs. Fluxus artists seemingly wanted for their art to go “beyond the exhibit” and to encourage their audience to find art in everyday life. “Event scores” (short, ambiguous prompts which were designed to be acted out by anyone) are an example of Fluxus works which encouraged their audience to find art in everyday life, as they subtly dramatized seemingly simple actions by presenting it as “art”.

Fluxus artists challenged the very notion of “art” by creating pieces which were anti-art (ex. Total Art Matchbox, Vautier) and which were designed to be handled physically (ex. Flux boxes). Ironically, the Fluxus exhibit at the Grey Art Gallery institutionalizes and preserves the Fluxus works, transforming the works into the very ideal which its’ artists were against. It’s this irony which turns the entire gallery into a surreal, meta-exhibit; the gallery itself becoming a piece of art showcasing the paradoxical nature of art.

Despite being encased in glass enclosures in a university art gallery normally used to showcase what some would consider “high” culture, the exhibit pieces accomplish their purpose. They challenge their audiences to rethink the very concept of art and reexamine the world around them. The physical Fluxus works at the Grey Art Gallery may hardly be as impressive as elaborate Renaissance paintings found at the MET, but the simple idea that anything is art, even non-art proves to have just as powerful an effect on its audience.


September 10th, 2011

New York City IS Art

Posted by Spencer Kim in Kim, More    


The Arts in New York City? Why, New York City is Art!

The “Arts” aren’t dead relics that simply reside in quiet museums throughout the city – it’s the city itself.  It’s a city which continues to thrive culturally and aesthetically despite the sterile, systematic and pragmatic “collection of blocks” which were superimposed across it’s virgin soil countless generations ago. The City is an art work in itself, it’s implicit personalities, and explicit aesthetics breathing life into land that was designed to generate cold, hard cash. It takes new meaning through the eyes of each of it’s visitors, inspires it’s admirers and gives a narrative of the past and even predictions of the future for those who study it.

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