Monday, November 5, 2012

Hurricane Sandy

Anyone living in the NYC tri-state area has been consumed with all things Hurricane Sandy for the past week.  Starting dimly last Sunday and then going full force on Monday, Hurricane Sandy, and its up to 90 mile per hour winds, swelled sea levels, flattened coastlines and shut down power for millions.  Anyone who has been around knows all this and the degrees of the storms effects range from nearly nothing, like my own personal case living in the Williamsburg area of Brooklyn which had power and all else throughout, to extreme, as was felt in low lying areas throughout the region, some still having no power or basic essentials to date. 

Having a full week to reel and wait for the storm’s effects to surface and to subside caused a minor case of cabin fever and also a sense of surveying disaster exploration mode.  I walked over the Williamsburg Bridge into Manhattan a few times throughout the week to see the aftermaths in various neighborhoods including the Lower East Side, Chinatown, Ground Zero, Times Square, and Chelsea.  It is in Chelsea that the storm’s effect on the art world was starkest.  Some galleries, mostly the coveted ground floor spaces, that are located from the West Side Highway up to 10th Ave between 19th-29th streets had water lines up to four feet, cra-zy.  Walking around, going in and peaking into gallery spaces totally wreaked that are venues for the crème de la crème of the contemporary art felt heavy, odd, and more then slightly unbelievable. 

I don’t know what is going to happen because of the demolished state this storm left these galleries, and others in effected downtown areas, I can’t get my brain around it.  I don’t know how it will change the short term or the long term of individuals, businesses, or careers for all involved but things will definitely change for sure.  There is a reflexive critique for some about how the art world is, the way that it seems stacked and indebted and moneyed and so far from an ideal that never existed.  There is at times a wish that the art world would change or that something would make it right or for it to be flushed out somehow.  This is vaguely alluring in this situation but seeing the total seriousness of it all and how terribly sad it is for art, for people, and for livelihoods makes that wish feel so very juvenile and indecent. I hope that these galleries will grow stronger from this, I have an inkling they will. The meaning of art, the landscape in both physical and psychological terms will all shift from this storm though, at least in New York’s centricity and specifically Chelsea as the art district.  It will be interesting to see what happens, what grows, moves, or folds because of this. 

One last thing on this whole storm thing.  Disaster Tourism.  The overwhelming need, desire and physical participation to be at the center of a disaster so there can be a collective and mementoed experience of being a part of and having authority in the history of an event or a situation. I’m guilty of this to degrees myself; this is not to disclaim that.  I do believe that volunteerism is necessary.  Lives were lost, homes destroyed, people need help but there is something also in the fervor, tone and manner in which this is at times done that seems very polluted with self satisfaction and mob mentality.  We have so little to believe in these days, I guess the quest to participate at the locusts of disaster is as honest a place as any to feel that forgotten kick of survival instincts.  Call me jaded, call me a jerk, call me whatever it is you want to call me for mentioning this but I can’t help feel that there is something very unsettling and possibly even morally dangerous about how some of these acts and some of these efforts are manifested.  Maybe this is all practice for the coming apocalypse.  If it is you can all say I told you so.