Vicky Virgin from BFAMFAPhD
Maureen Connor and Tommy Mintz from Institute for Wishful Thinking
Installation as part of the exhibition UnHomeless NYC
March 3-April 8, 2022
Kingsborough Art Museum, Kingsborough Community College (CUNY)
UnHomeless NYC was an exhibit presented by Kingsborough Art Museum that brought together fourteen artists and art collectives to address the issue of homelessness. Illuminating the social and economic factors that cause the problem, the exhibit offered a forum in which to consider and better understand NYC’s housing crisis by connecting students, artists, activists, school administrators and local community organizations. UnHomeless NYC challenged public opinions about homelessness with research and statistics and enabled viewers to understand how housing justice has been eclipsed by the long-term withdrawal of government support together with the predatory land use policies of neoliberalism.
The installation, Addendum, was created to provide overall context for the exhibit using research and statistics on homelessness in NYC. Entering into the gallery space, one had to step across a large floor mat fashioned as a bar chart showing the number of people sleeping in homeless shelters. Data from Coalition for the Homeless was used to chart annual statistics from the Koch administration in 1983 up through 2018, the end of the DeBlasio era.
Installation view: Unwelcome in situ in exhibition Unhomeless NYC, Kingsborough Art Museum 48" x 100"
Data from the American Community Survey were used to present characteristics commonly associated with housing precarity such as poverty, rent burden, and overcrowding. Bar and pie charts were displayed on desk and table tops throughout the exhibit. A zine, designed and printed by Leslie Miller of Grenfell Press, was distributed in the gallery space and at this link:
Bar chart of NYC poverty statistics attached to a table holding a video monitor showing Hope Sandrow's project,
Artists and Homeless Collective
Addendum was also designed to interact with Martha Rosler’s contribution to the exhibit, an iteration of If You Lived Here…1989, one of the first art installations to focus on homelessness and gentrification. Her 1989 exhibit originally presented as a series of three rotating gallery installations and town hall meetings at DIA Art Foundation, was radical in both form and content. Since then it has served as an inspiration and touchstone for subsequent art pro jects about homelessness and different versions and iterations have been shown in over 20 venues in national and international locations.
The iteration of her work presented in Unhomeless NYC included and referred to spaces, structures, and images from Rosler’s original DIA installations in addition to photos documenting other selected versions of If You Lived Here… created since 1989 in other museums and galleries. Addendum also complemented the Rosler piece by providing up-to-date statistics on the housing crisis in NYC, revealing the many similarities between the housing issues of 1989 and 2022. Most compelling was the growth in the size of the homeless population: from 15,000 to 63,000 between the years of 1983 to 2021.
If You Lived Here….1989/2022 by Martha Rosler, front view, referencing furniture, installation layout, images and text from1989 and later iterations, on all vertical surfaces; desktops and tabletop include recent NYC data.
In recognition of KBCC and the role the college plays in the community, infographics were used to shine a light on this student body. Research using KBCC administrative data revealed that their population was comprised of students who were born in over 150 different countries, spoke more than 70 languages and that 60 percent were the first in their family to go to college. These data underline a challenge faced by this community college in the throes of larger context of a housing crisis writ large.
Other research offered insights into persons experiencing housing insecurity at KBCC and City University of New York (CUNY). Results from the #RealCollege Survey taken at CUNY showed that 55% of respondents were housing insecure in the previous year and 14% were homeless. An important correlation between housing and food insecurity was also made, in addition to the glaring prevalence of both.
Corroborating the findings of this CUNY-wide study was research published by KBCC scholars in the Department of Behavioral Sciences and Human Services. Conclusions drawn from their survey of KBCC students also discovered a relationship between poor academic performance and housing and food precarity. Despite these challenges, this college does a formidable job of providing services such as the on-campus resource center program, where thousands of students and/or their families typically come for housing and food resources underscoring the very real need at this Brooklyn community college.
If You Lived Here…1989/2022 side view, top: Data from Kingsborough Community College Community;
bottom: Data from CUNY-wide #RealCollege Survey