PROJECTS N8 Past Futures, Present, Futures - Storefront for Art and Architecture


To See the City by N

To see the city, to really see the city I had to remember 1916. This is harder as the years go by, I wasn’t even born yet, but couldn’t help feeling that year had left the city with scars.

You could say the innocence of the city was damaged that year. Polio ravaged the children of New York. Killing thousands. Leaving so many disfigured. Some say the machines of that age are skyscrapers, dams, train stations. What I remember are rooms of cylindrical steel drums, nurses pressed white uniforms and rasping breath. Those “iron lungs” like pressurized cabins for unformed bodies. Machines to mimic life for bodies that had forgotten how to breathe.

I remember that year, the year the East River disappeared. I went to bed in Brooklyn and woke up in Manhattan. They said it was about land values, something about taxation and the growth of the business district. I said it was about safety and protecting all those the city had failed. The city was quarantined. Travellers applied for permits to enter. It wasn’t enough of course; it was as dangerous to let people leave, as it was to let them enter. When the schools and movie theatres began reopening at the end of the year, we realised it was better for everybody if we kept things as they were.

They always spoke about Utopia. It looked great in newsprint but never seemed to make sense. I think the answer is still hiding in those hospital wings, encased in metal.



Curatorial statement from the Storefront for Art and Architecture:

The conception of time, and within it the invention of the future, is perhaps the most radical of human creations. Today, to think about and imagine the prospects for our existence seems more relevant than ever. While one could argue society is always in a state of crisis, we are today constantly infiltrated by a discourse of crisis in economic, ecologic, social and political terms. Moments of crisis are moments of redefinition, when the institutionalized realms of power open spaces of experimentation and cultural debate to retrace the path toward the future. Utopian desires, the imagination of an other-better future, are part of the contemporary agenda. However, the social and political value of utopian thinking today is being monopolized by notions of self-sufficiency and sustainability, framed altogether by regulations and standard codes. The utopian desire, the image-ability of possible futures, and the poetics of new social forms and expressions are in a moment of directed experimentation. Art and architecture, beyond the production of new forms of capital or building solutions, have the power to re-imagine new forms of collective aspiration. Few cities occupy the public imagination like the island of Manhattan. From cinema and literature to architecture and real estate, New York City exists as a palimpsest of layered dreams and schemes, desires and delusions.

Past Futures, Present, Futures presents 101 unrealized proposals for New York City, dating from its formation to today with 101 reenactments by invited artists, architects, writers and policy-makers to create alternative visions for the present and future of the city. With the belief that art and architecture, beyond the production of new forms of capital or building solutions, have the power to re-imagine new forms of collective aspiration, the exhibition will present a past and future historiography of novel ideas in New York to open discussion about relevant actions in the city, their vectors of desire, methodologies, limits, audiences and agents.

The exhibition opens with all 101 Past Futures on display. Throughout the duration of the exhibition, all Present, Future reenactments are daily added till the closing of the show. On October 26 at 7pm, a second opening of the show will unveil all the commissioned reenactments.

N was invited to contribute a Present, Future reenactment for the second phase of the exhibition.



Past Futures, Present, Futures
October 6 - January 12, 2013
Present Futures opening: October 26, 7pm