“The artists were experiencing firsthand an involuntary pastime neighborhood folk have been long familiar with: being cast out onto the street by indifferent interests, whether from private or public sectors. “We’re nomads,” says video artist Mitch Corber. “We’ve got nowhere to go. We deserve a place. We spotted it. No one was there.”
An hour after I posted my blog ‘Interview With A Muse’, I called my friend, Chris Wandel, in New York. I caught her in a cab in New York City waiting for her boyfriend, Stefan Ein. He was picking up a work of art to take to the reunion of ‘The Real Estate Show’ that Stefan helped organize in 1980. My muse, Belle Burch, was not even born yet.
“The Real Estate Show was all about the way money controls where and how people live in New York City in general, and the Lower East Side in particular.”
When Stefan got in the cab, Chris put him on the phone. We talked about the show, and about me coming to New York for a visit. I mentioned my new muse, and how I was studying the real estate of Eugene in order to stop the UofO from destroying fifteen houses that are on the lost city of Fairmount. He is going to see about getting a place for me to stay when I come visit.
Stefan has stayed in a shelter for the homeless, and now has a permanent place. He met Chris in at a renters meeting. Chris’s landlord was trying to throw my friend of 47 years out on the street. Stefan came to her rescue and helped fix up her small studio in the Village that is a small museum today! He also used his influence in a legal manner. Stefan is a world-famous artist who founded Fashion MODA. Above is a photo of bolt cutters radical artists used to take over a building on Delancy Street.
When I called Chris and told her Belle had alas called me back, she asked me to let her know how our meeting went. Chris was my first lover. We lived with the Loading Zone in a large Victorian in Oakland. The lead guitarist, Peter Shapiro, played at the first acid test at the Longshoreman’s Hall in 1965. Chris and Peter were lovers, and then Chris and my best friend, Keith Pruvis, were close. After beholding me doing a large painting of a woman by the sea, Chris had to have me. After we became lovers, the band evicted us. We went to live on Mount Tamalpias in a tent for a couple of weeks. Chris makes camp coffee, the way I taught her.
Chris wants me and Belle to form a bond, as does Marilyn, my first girlfriend who I have known for 51 years. We are not being lose. We are still a small circle of friends who share unique values. Keith is a British subject. The movie ‘Across the Universe’ is a movie we lived for real.
I told Belle yesterday how come we met. I went to the Art Walk and noticed a group of homeless people in Ken Keasey Square. I wondered why I was avoiding them. I surmised I was still grieving for my homeless friend who died a year ago after we worked hard to end his homelessness. When I walked into that square, my camera was recording the event. Then, I saw Belle. I loved the way she was communicating with everyone. When I told her I was going to make her an heir to the Bohemian History I was authoring, she got very excited! When I told Chris about Belle, she stopped me;
“What do you mean Ken Keasey Square? You got a square that honors an acid-head?
You don’t know how good you got it out there!”
I told Chris about the homeless people. Twelve were arrested days before I met Belle. There is a photograph I found on the internet that haunts me. A message is scrawled on the hands of a faceless woman. These hands belong to a young woman, and are very beautiful.
Yesterday Belle says;
“You are a radical artist! I was beginning to think I was the only one!”
Tomorrow, on Easter Sunday I will found the church of the homeless, and the Bohemian College.
The picture of your Muse looks like Christine. Your email – to me – below refers to Stefan and Chris (!), I thought the end of your autobiography might be you actually visiting New York and joining me and Chris having a magical time. How about it? After all: you found your muse! Tootle-oo!
With its similarities to movements going on more south, Eins partnered with art collective Colab, putting on the infamous Times Square Show in 1080, and Now Gallery, which showed uptown graffiti to the downtown scene (an actual big deal pre-internet!)
The exterior was painted by Crash, and the gallery itself was largely present during the evolution of hip hop.
During the time that John and Charlie Ahearn were making art amongst the neighborhoods in the South Bronx, Stefan Eins opened up Fashion Moda Gallery. As many galleries in the Lower East Side did, Fashion Moda was experimental- and openly mixed genres and movements. Artists like Keith Haring, David Wojnarowicz, Jane Dickson, Jenny Holzer, Kenny Scharf, Ahearn and Daze all showed there.
The Real Estate Show
By Lehmann Weichselbaum, East Village Eye, 1980
Most of us missed the New Year’s Eve party at 123 Delancey Street hard by the Williamsburg Bridge, where 35 artists as the Committee for the Real Estate Show (CRES) were sneaking a preview for the New Year’s opening of what was to be a two-week exhibit. The Real Estate Show was all about the way money controls where and how people live in New York City in general, and the Lower East Side in particular. Artworks in every conceivable medium dealt with facts such as arson in the neighborhood, local alternate energy proposals, and the media blackout on what exactly the city is doing to low-income neighborhoods.
The show, several weeks in the planning, was consciously geared to the space that was to contain it.
The city-owned storefront at 123 Delancey — built as a factory showroom in 1916, last used as a federal Model Cities office but having lain vacant for over a year — had been invaded and commandeered by CRES on December 30 after what they claim to be a year of long and frustrating campaigning to rent the property for an exhibition space from officials of the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD).
The squatter artists spent the next couple of days cleaning the windows, clearing the trash, fixing the plumbing, turning the heat on and putting up the show in preparation for the New Year’s Eve preview. On New Year’s Day the show was officially opened to the public, even as artists continued bringing in their work.
On the morning of January 2, artists discovered the storefront padlocked from the inside, their work locked within. Phone calls revealed it to be the doing of HPD. The Real Estate Show had been open exactly one day. Its basic ideological premise — that artists, working people, and the poor are systematically screwed out of decent places to exist in — could not have been brought home with more brutal irony.
The artists were experiencing firsthand an involuntary pastime neighborhood folk have been long familiar with: being cast out onto the street by indifferent interests, whether from private or public sectors. “We’re nomads,” says video artist Mitch Corber. “We’ve got nowhere to go. We deserve a place. We spotted it. No one was there.”
For their part, HPD officials — fronted by Assistant to the Commissioner Edgar Kulkin and Executive Administrator for the Deputy Commissioner to the Office of Property Management Denny Kelly — insisted they had other, bigger plans for the site. First, they said, three merchants had a prior claim on it (even though it had been allowed to stand empty for so long). Then, they said, it was part of a wide swath of neighborhood slated for demolition in nine months to make way for an ambitious combination of low-income housing project, shopping mall and senior-citizen center.
But what seemed to irk the bureaucrats most was that the artists finally broke the rules they’d been playing by, patiently and unsuccessfully, for months.
“You blew it,” charged Kelly at one of the many meetings between both sides. “You illegally entered a city building.”
Yet even here, the artists tilted closer to conciliation than confrontation. They offered to rent the place for just two weeks, promising to close the show and be out by January 22. “We had hoped they would go on with reopening the space, helping us, joining us to present an informational display about their plans in the area,” says Alan Moore. “They saw it as a challenge not an invitation.”
But HPD was losing face while it was scoring points. Less than flattering reports began to appear in the local papers. Lower East Side residents plainly liked what the artists were up to.
HPD did give artist representatives a list of other city-managed property in the area, all of which proved to be too small, decrepit or both. The artists still had hopes that HPD would let them back into 123 Delancey in time for a press conference CRES had called for noon, January 8.
At the appointed hour, the artists, accompanied by German artist Joseph Beuys, found reporters from the New York Times, Soho News, and the Eye, HPD officials — scurrying from street to their heated city car and back again — and a handful of cops guarding the doors. Nobody was getting in (except for two artists who somehow managed to sneak in before being gently escorted out by police). The press conference was called off in favor of standing around in the cold, pondering the next step. The notion of storming the building to invite arrest was ultimately shrugged off. The confrontation fizzled, at least for that day.