Actions for Urban Space (exhibition essay excerpt)
From Nina Horisaki-Christens’ essay accompanying an exhibition she curated, Actions for Urban Spaces at Art in General:
With a mixture of absurdity and fantasy, Michael Konrad employs the materials of the street - concrete, iron frames, yellow paint - to explore the regulation of movement with an interest in use and disuse as it relates to property ownership in the urban setting. Pulling a concrete barricade on wheels across Manhattan streets and sidewalks, Two Tons of “Take That!” (on wheels) draws a line across the paths of pedestrian traffic, using the barricade’s feature as a divider to designate mobile property lines. At the same time, the action of dragging this object forces travel along the easiest pedestrian path, highlighting through physical action the principals of city movement Jane Jacobs describes in The Death and Life of Great American Cities.* Tellingly, this barricade was dragged through the East Village - where the options for movement are more numerous and flexible due to the relatively small size of the blocks - finally collapsing under its own weight outside St. Mark’s Church**: a natural congregating spot.
Dead End also accents a street cut off from traffic during the rerouting of nearby highways, another issue of urban planning that Jacobs touches on. Because it is abandoned as a liminal space, inaccessible to most traffic, the cut off street has been left to slowly disinegrate. For this reason, Konrad refashions construction materials and traffic markings to form concrete “bombs” installed throughout the street, striking the ground and crushing the urban infrastructure. However, these bombs are as inert and ineffective as the derelict street that they reference and inhabit.
* Namely, that movement through small blocks is easier and more diversified, leading to more economically and socially viable neighborhoods. From "The need for small blocks," pp. 178-286. Vintage Books Edition, December 1992.
** Artist’s note: It doesn’t really matter, but for the sake of accuracy, the piece did not collapse outside of St. Mark’s Church. It collapsed in front of St. Nicholas Carpatho, across the street from the NW corner of Tompkins Square Park.