Here in the Reading Room of the Special Collections, we have on semi-permanent exhibit a 3 piece unique art collection comprised of a newspaper publication, a lead-encased book of posters, and a one-of-a-kind art installation. The installation consists of 432 color slides permanently mounted in a sizable light box. The slides show the creation and in situ installations of street art posters from Bullet Space’s “Your House is Mine” project. The light box itself is constructed from a frame originally used for the silkscreen printing of the posters.
Bullet Space is a community center born out of the 1980’s squatter movement in the Lower East Side of New York City. Self-defined as an “act of resistance” and as “a community access center for images, words, and sounds of the inner city,” Bullet Space began the “Your House is Mine” project in 1988 in protest against social and economic inequality, specifically in reaction to the gentrification of the Lower East Side and the Tompkins Square Park Riot of 1988. Creating and installing public posters, neighborhood artists focused their activism on housing, healthcare, economic, and other civil rights. The “Your House is Mine” ethos will resonate with many when reflecting on the current Occupy Movement, similarly concerned with economic disparity and social inequality.
The use of posters on building facades worked to transform neighborhood streets into a visual dialogue about private vs. public spaces, the significance of walls and enclosures vs. parks and streets, the imbalance between those inside the buildings and those without.
In addition to the posters, Bullet Space created a newspaper publication with text and images concerning these social issues for easy distribution in the streets and dissemination of ideas. The publication of the newspaper was followed, in contrast, by the creation of a 16 lb. lead-encased book of similar text and handmade posters. I think there is obvious intentionality in the creation of a book that is difficult to use, that is not meant to be passed around or read with ease. Compared with the shareable newsprint, this unwieldy book, too large and heavy to be read on a park bench or on the subway, emphasizes the exclusivity of urban housing and private spaces.
Lit up or dark, the light box piece is a statement upon homelessness and housing security. To my eye, the un-illuminated light box evokes numerous empty, abandoned windows in a cityscape. The formation of the dark slides and white edges seem to draw upon the urban grid for layout, while representing the labyrinthine system of housing and ownership, and the rigidity of gentrification. When turned on, the light box exhibits hundreds of images of the artists’ and activists’ posters installed on city walls.
Come check out the newspaper, the 16 lb. lead book, and the light box installation in the Reading Room. You can’t miss them.