“Growing Older in the South Bronx,” a documentary created in 2011 by artist Nicolás Dumit Estévez. This 44-minute video traces out the history of the local community, presenting testimony from a group of senior citizens living at La Casa de la Felicidad, a low-income apartment building just a few blocks from the courthouse. Built in 2006, their home is just one small part of the award-winning Melrose Commons, an impressive community-designed redevelopment project that has replaced empty lots with “a model community of sustainable urban revitalization.” This rough-hewn film, screened inside a crumbling neighborhood landmark that somehow survived decades of abuse, fully explores the cycles of aging, death, recovery, renewal, and pride that the Bronx has lived through. Viewing it inside the old Grey Lady, while neighbors wander through, recognizing themselves projected onto the wall, is a powerful experience.
In recent years, a growing number of large-scale site-specific exhibits have been mounted inside similar abandoned or underutilized New York landmarks, including Creative Time’s Kara Walker exhibit at the Domino Sugar Refinery, PS1 MoMa’s Rockway! exhibit at Fort Tilden, and Come Together: Surviving Sandy at Industry City. Of these exhibits, only No Longer Empty’s presentation at the Bronx courthouse has truly succeeded in creating a meaningful connection to its building’s history, and in forging important connections with the diverse community nearby. The depth of engagement and layers of reference presented in this exhibit are what other site-specific curators should aspire to. “When You Cut into the Present the Future Leaks Out” will be on view at the Old Bronx Borough Courthouse until July 19th, 2015.”
Thursday, April 30, 2015, by Nathan Kensinger