Tropolism Films: Brooklyn DIY


Last week’s world premiere of Brooklyn DIY brought a motley crowd of artists, performers, and groupies to MoMa. Through interviews and photographs, the film documents the “creative renaissance” of Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Employing an ambiguous timeline, the narrative favors subjective experience over specificity. However, the disjointed “mapping of memory” is grounded by focusing on a handful of seminal moments that defined the neighborhood.

Right this way for the full film review...

The following events take place prior to the mass migration of artists to Williamsburg:

• 1800’s - Brooklyn is a wealthy suburb to Manhattan.
• 1903 - Williamsburg Bridge is built and allows the working class to migrate to Williamsburg.
• 1960’s - Robert Moses’ Brooklyn Queens Expressway (BQE) bisects the neighborhood.
• 1960’s – Arrival of a few housing projects leads to massive “white flight” .
• 1970’s - Soho artists move to Williamsburg looking for cheaper rent.

The following events take place in the 80’s and is described as the Golden Age of the artistic movement in Williamsburg:
• Brand New Damages, a cooperative set up by former Pratt students, provides a community for artists as well as opportunities for community outreach.
• Test Site furthers the community and dialogue between local artists.
• Time Out NY writes a profiles Williamsburg as a hip up and coming neighborhood.
• Williamsburg “perfects” the all night Warehouse Party.
• Four Walls exhibit opens on South 11th Street

The following events take place in the 90’s (and beyond) and is described as the consolidation of the art scene in Williamsburg:
• Annie Herron organizes the Salon of Mating Spiders, an art extravaganza/street fair that “celebrates” Williamsburg art.
• Cat’s Head, Organism, and Fly Trap emerge.
• Pierogi, the first commercially successful gallery, opens on North 9th Street.
• After 9-11, people feel safer in Brooklyn; rents in Williamsburg doubled, at least.
• People try, but ultimately, fail to define the hipster.
• Gentrification.

Through the prism of a few quirky artists, the film re-humanizes the gentrified neighborhood. While viewing this film we are led to accept that most of the work happening in Williamsburg is a passing fad, something that probably won’t ever be documented in books. Some of it is just bad art. Often times, the community making the art supplants the art itself. But we are also left with the idea that neighborhoods like Williamsburg need to exist as a counterpoint to the overly refined sensibilities of the SoHo and Chelsea galleries. Williamsburg, for all its mess and self-love, stands in opposition to the status quo, even as it flirts with its own extinction.

Post by roving film critic Saharat Surattanont.


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