When architects John Young and Deborah Natsios of Cryptome were asked to create a work of art in collaboration with the New Museum and the Bowery Mission to debut at this past weekend's StreetFest, they didn't expect to be censored. The series of eight crafted panels-- titled “Partywall”-- questioned the relationship between the Bowery Mission, its neighbor the New Museum, and the rapidly changing character of the Bowery. Unfortunately, the artwork never made it in front of the street festival audience. The eight Partywall panels were installed April 30 and were still in place at 3pm May 2, over 48hrs later. They were removed sometime in the following 24hrs, by 1pm May 3, after Young and Natsios we were told by Bowery Mission that the New Museum had sent them an email questioning the project.
More than 36,000 New Yorkers live in city shelters, streets and subway stations. In a neighborhood bustling with cultural attractions, including the New Museum, Cryptome’s artwork was meant to be a bold response to the plight of the city’s poor and displaced. Their praise-worthy attempt to engage dialogue between the changing neighborhood’s soon-to-be forgotten and those that overlook the reality of homelessness in a neighborhood overrun with fancy eateries and boutique clothing stores was instead censored and removed from sight– an experience the homeless people of New York know all too well.
The eight curated panels sought out answers to tough questions like: “Have you been colonized?”, “What’s your worth?”, “Are you hungry?”, and “Where will you sleep?”. We speculate that the New Museum didn’t take kindly to the implied offense nor did they wish to be included in the conversation on gentrification and its impact on the Bowery’s homeless population.
Though Cryptome’s work was not shown during StreetFest, you can check out the online version of the project where a magnify tool allows exploration of greater detail on their website here. If you or someone you know is homeless, please contact The Mission at 1-800-BOWERY-1 (1-800-269-3791).