On Saturday I traveled west to east on the sunny side of the street and didn’t see anything for blocks that remotely resembled art. One pile of garbage looked like a mock-tribute to Joy Garnett’s web-based “Unmonumental” photo series but probably wasn’t, and there was a man lying in the sun on a sofa on the curb. This seemed out of place but I deduced it wasn’t art.
Trying to discern the consciously artful from urban noise became an exercise in frustration. I came across a Duane Reade cordoned off by police tape, an officer by the front door—it appeared to have been robbed. I even spotted three thirtysomethings staring at three broken frames on the sidewalk but I quickly checked my festival map (I cheated, I know), which told me that it wasn’t the art I was looking for.
I was disappointed by my bad luck and I even wondered if I were simply blind to the obvious. Finally, I looked across the street on the block between Seventh and Sixth Avenues and spotted a couple of people snapping pictures of two women cleaning the tiled pavement in front of a vacant storefront. I watched for a few minutes as the women, dressed in black and wearing industrial-strength breathing masks, swept and washed the sidewalk. There was nothing notable about their presence, nothing out of place except their clothing, which lent their actions a theatrical air…nothing, really, worth stopping for. I can only assume that the piece, “Meaning Cleaning,” by Hayley Severns and Angela Rose Voulgarelis Illgen, was a metaphor for the cleanup of the once grungy street. The piece was monotonous and few passersby even noticed; those who did were more intrigued by the three of us standing there with our cameras recording the event than they were by the performing pair.
You can also see my complete set of photos of what I saw here.