WHAT NEW YORK COULD BE

“Thinking of What New York Could Be’: Mary Overlie and SoHo in the 1970s” is my contribution to a forthcoming (overdue!) edited collection about Overlie’s work, edited by Tony Perucci. Excerpt:

“It is in this way that Overlie’s SoHo continues to be a site of collaboration across fields and municipal social issues. In the Seventies, aesthetic experiments in Space occurred parallel to—and sometimes coincided with—efforts to change the conditions in which artists lived. The eventual disintegration of a collectivist model for artistic creation in her neighborhood of SoHo also held ramifications for these conditions. It is tempting to define contemporary SoHo as a place where the incursion of an aggressive form of grotesque global capital deforms the regulatory, activist, and aesthetic past. Consider the creation of 150 Wooster Street, an ultraluxury condo, whose developer, KUB Capital, acquired the original property for nearly $51 million. After the City Council permitted a zoning change that relaxed the requirements that residents had to be artists, the Landmarks Preservation Commission signed off on the façade, KUB Capital opened sales on its six apartment units in 2017, with the cheapest priced at $13 million, and the penthouse selling for $32.6 million in 2018. Here the features of the historic loft do not so much become ‘revalorized’ as they are appropriated and transmuted into an entirely new vision of Space in a neighborhood that once defined the terms for the artist’s home. Lofts that initially left Overlie “dizzy and nauseated in the presence of so much space,” now exist in an environment dominated by corporate real estate gentrifiers and hyper-consumption of wealth. Yet Overlie’s insistence on the dancer’s mutability in the urban journey points toward the pressing need for ‘if only,’ and renewed thinking of what New York could be. As choreographer, Overlie’s warning of the dancer’s tendency drift to the center and root there compels us to consider space outside of the center, and even, uprooted.”

 
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