Weekend happenings: Take Wall Street Meets Union Square, and Marina Abramovic Lunches at a Soup Kitchen

It was an interesting weekend in New York City!

On Saturday, I was innocently having a coffee at Joe’s after some Greenmarket shopping when I was swept along by protesters who were marching up 5th Avenue from Wall Street, where they have been occupying the streets since September 17th as a statement against capitalism.

The New York Times’ Ginia Bellafante wrote what I think is an apt critique of this #takewallstreet movement. She pointed out that its decentralized organization and anonymous (literally, Anonymous) sponsorship makes it seem like an incoherent and poorly aimed reaction to the obvious fact that capitalism as we know it is causing more ills than good.

Bellafante wrote:

“The group’s lack of cohesion and its apparent wish to pantomime progressivism rather than practice it knowledgeably is unsettling in the face of the challenges so many of its generation face – finding work, repaying student loans, figuring out ways to finish college when money has run out.”

And the best part is the end of the article, when a NYSE trader walks by the protest in Zuccotti Park and scoffs: “Look at these kids, sitting here with their Apple computers. Apple, one of the biggest monopolies in the world. It trades at $400 a share. Do they even know that?”

I will say, however, that the energy I felt when the marchers (maybe two to three hundred of them) paraded by me, stopping traffic, with a train of NYPD following them on all sides, filled the streets with a spark of something difficult to describe. Maybe it reminded us that complacency is perhaps just as subject to critique as a disorganized and poorly articulated protest stunt.

*

On Sunday, I found myself having lunch with Marina Abramovic. 

Okay, so we weren’t exactly lunching together. She showed up at the massively popular opening weekend of Time/Food, part of Creative Time’s Living As Form art show that will last until October 16th and is based at the Abrons Art Center and the Essex Street Market.

At the Abrons Art Center, artists are cooking up delicious, locally-sourced (from farms and community gardens in NYC) lunches from 1-3pm Thursdays through Sundays. We had a delicious three-course meal: a starter salad of arugula and rice noodles with dried shrimp, followed by juicy chicken and rice tacos, and a bowl of pho with bits of seafood. Our chef was the artist Rirkrit Tiravanija.

And the best part: the lunch was totally free! In exchange for dining, all visitors have to do is pledge a half-hour of their time, in any way they choose. My contribution is that I’m writing about the event on my blog! Hey, I’m happy to exchange writing for amazing, fresh food in good company.

Julie Brown, a cheery graduate student in museum studies at NYU who is working on the Time/Food project, told me that the goal of Living As Form is to find different ways to live, and to see living as an art.

I can’t help but think that there is some connection between this interest in alternate forms of exchange and the economic recession. I have more thoughts about this but they’re coming out in an article I’ve just finished, soon, so I’ll leave it there for now.

Down the street at the historic Essex Market, Creative Time put on a display of socially-engaged art experiments that is meant to capture the movement by 21st-century artists to find ways to bridge the gap between art and social experience. It was a lot to take in so I’ll have to go back for another look soon.

Also last Wednesday I attended the Brooklyn Bounty fundraiser for the Brooklyn Historical Society, where awards were presented to leaders of the sustainable and local food movement in Brooklyn. Look for a piece on that soon in the Brooklyn Rail.

Verdict: September in NYC is fantastic.

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