This is an archive of the ArtCat Zine, 2007-2009. Please visit our new project, IDIOM.
Screening: Brooklyn DIY: The History of Williamsburg's Art Scene 1987-2007
Wednesday, February 25, 2009, 8:30 p.m.
The Museum of Modern Art - 11 West 53 Street
Few cities in history have ever fielded a cultural spectrum as full as that of contemporary New York. Each of the arts enjoys large and powerful institutions devoted to the careful tending of elite lineages, while each simultaneously sports a more or less robust community of smaller, younger and more experimental practitioners. Yet the intramural organization of this spectrum varies considerably from art to art. In the performing arts, for example, the largest institutions remain decidedly for-profit, due in large part to Disney Theatricals ongoing dominion over Broadway. Off-Broadway and Off-Off Broadway are, for their part, now almost entirely the domain of non-profits. In contemporary art, by contrast, the largest institutions are resolutely non-profit, while an entire mid-range genre, the gallery, is not only for-profit, but profitable, always an important distinction. Non-profits appear again as the smallest format of contemporary art producers, and these often begin as hyper-local, fixated in and around specific neighborhoods.
Of all these institutions, the MOMA occupies a unique place. Straddling the divide between an active cultivation of a contemporary cannon and fortifying the myriad colonies of artistic modernism, MOMA is at once a historical temple and an all-powerful factory; its free admission Fridays standing as a sort of present-day bread and circus, able to appease and inspire in equal measure. When MOMA moves aggressively to expand the masthead of the modern, entire inaugurations are mobilized as counter-narratives. The MOMA, like the New York Times, is a cultural leviathan so large and, it must said, so generally benevolent (with notable exceptions) that it can be great sport to mock its sometimes clumsy probing of the ultra-current, the experimental, and the truly new. For many of these currents official sanction from either organization is as much an end as it is a beginning. So it is perhaps altogether appropriate that tonight MOMA is screening a ("long overdue"!) documentary entitled Brooklyn DIY:The History of Williamsburg's Art Scene 1987-2007. Williamsburg, as we know, is the latest, eastern, ethnic enclave to travel the well worn path past artists' bedroom community into gentrified respectability, lately pushing the process well past the absurd . Thus, like the West Village, SoHo, the East Village, and Alphabet City before it, its probably high-time to lay its cutting-edge status to rest once and for all, safely behind MOMA's glass casing of historical significance.