Park Avenue Plaza - Performing Publicness

  1. info
  2. images
  3. text

Exhibition view: Sabine Bitter & Helmut Weber Park Avenue Plaza / Performing Publicness, 2020;
exhibition "Spaces of No Control," Austrian Cultural Forum New York.
October 2020 - January 2021. Photo: Mary Katerina Photography

Commissioned to realise a new work for the exhibition Spaces of No Controlat the ACFNY, Sabine Bitter & Helmut Weber took up corporate-owned urban zones that are accessible to the public. Analyzing the contradictions produced by the private ownership of New York City’s public spaces their work addresses the phenomenon of POPS (privately owned public spaces) that were introduced through a 1961 zoning resolution. Since that time, private developers have been encouraged to provide publicly accessible spaces, specifically plazas and arcades, on private property in exchange for bonus floor areas in certain high-density districts. This has raised questions regarding how public space is increasingly reshaped and controlled by only a few, leaving the majority of citizens without a voice in urban design.
They specifically looked at Park Avenue Plaza, a building in the vicinity of, and on the same street as the ACF. This tower, adjacent to the iconic Lever Building, houses offices of Black Rock Investors, but it also offers a public indoor zone with a café frequented by business people and by those in need of a dwelling place.
Park Avenue Plaza – Performing Publicness, 2020, consists of two Jacquard woven curtains depicting the public-private space of Park Avenue Plaza. Jacquard weaving mimics the positive and negative aspects of photography, with images in a reversed black and white effect. Adding a performative aspect to the work, the artist offer instructions inviting visitors to walk down the street and see the real place, experience its publicness and come back to reconsider its photographic representation.