Carriage Trade, a gallery on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, specializes in pairing historical work with contemporary context, and Public Images, its online short film festival on public spaces, has taken on a particular poignancy. And because the organizers have described the show as a love letter to cities and open spaces, they thought it would be only fitting to dedicate the exhibition to AN’s late co-founder, William Menking.
From now through June 10, viewers can watch Japanese artist Yuki Higashino’s 2020 film Extinguishment for free on the Carriage Trade website. Extinguishment is an eerily apt sci-fi parable for our troubled times, imagining a future Japan rendered empty by declining birth rates, exclusionary immigration policies, and environmental collapse. Without humans to walk the streets, animals have taken over and plants rewild the urban landscape (sound familiar?). More than just an allegory about the current lockdown, Extinguishment is intended to speak to the global interconnectedness every country now faces, for better or for worse.
Although we’re approaching the tail-end of the exhibition at the time of writing, from June 11 through June 24, Carriage Trade will make all the previously screened films available to view online for free. Those include:
Diane Nerwen’s 2014 film Traveling Shots: NYC, which travels the streets of New York City to recreate what is perhaps the most-filmed backdrop in the history of cinema. Combining archival background footage from movies spanning seven decades, Traveling Shots demonstrates how the city itself plays as much of a role as the characters who walk it.
Outtakes from Metropolis, 1939 from the National Archives paints a portrait of NYC during the time of the New Deal, moving from the streets to the low-rise Harlem River Houses, New York’s second-ever social housing project. From Carriage Trade:
Writing on the Harlem River Houses in 1938 in Sidewalk Critic, his regular column in the New Yorker, urbanist, and architecture critic Lewis Mumford claimed – “So much for what is plainly visible from the outside. What are less visible in the Harlem Houses, but no less important for decent family living, are four social units for adults, a nursery school that can accommodate sixty children, and a health clinic. Here in short is the equipment for decent living that every modern neighborhood needs: sunlight, air, safety, play space, meeting space, and living space.”
Dan Graham’s 1992 Two-Way Mirror Cylinder Inside Cube and a Video Salon was created to catalog Graham’s work for the Dia Art Foundation in Manhattan (then at West 22nd Street). Sitting atop the foundation’s headquarters, Graham’s pavilion was freely accessible to visitors and allowed them to contemplate the Far West Side decades before the High Line would formally codify similar themes of repurposing industrial architecture for leisurely ends.
In the 1983 film Grand Openings / Public Places, Howard Silver documented James Wines and SITE Architects’ now-famous BEST showrooms, attempts at using postmodern spectacle to lure in customers. Of course, the stripped, peeled-back, and seemingly demolished facades of the nine BEST stores SITE designed were more than just exercises in excess; the ruin-like retail outlets, inspired by Gordon Matta Clark’s desire to expose the inner workings of the built environment, were commentaries on the failures of capitalism in their own right. Only one BEST store still stands mostly unaltered, so this is a great way to experience them in a new light.