November 2008, Forever & Today: Grand Opening
Slavs and Tatars commemorative F&T edition, photo by C.Kasper
Forever & Today: Grand Opening Event
141 Divisions Street
New York, NY 10002
Three years ago, when the Whitney Museum built Smithson’s yet unrealized Floating Island,
in conjunction with Nancy Holt, I attended the opening with hundreds of artworld types on a pier along the Hudson River. We drank non-alcoholic beverages, ate hors d’oeuvres provided by the Whitney Museum and waited in anticipation for the tugboat to come up the Hudson on a lovely sunny evening. Adam Weinberg made some speech, and I think Ms. Holt did as well, and perhaps a trustee, and then after even more time passed, the little tugboat came chugging up the river, pulling it’s 30’ x 90’ barge, full of dirt, grass, rocks and trees that grow in Central Park. The tugboat pulled the island past our pier full of cheering spectators, did a few spins, and then chugged back down river. I didn’t get the best look at it because there were about twenty rows of heads between the pier’s edge and me, and because I was busy talking to so many people - as is the case with most art openings. When I did see the barge, with its trees, I thought, “ well it is what it is”, no big deal really.
I got to see it again, a day or two later while jogging along the esplanade at Battery Park City. The barge was relatively close and I paused for a better look. It was the same as before. A rusty looking box with ten or so trees on it. Then I got a better look at the boulders, which were set in the grass close to the trees, and the little winding path that moved through the grass. I noticed there were fallen leaves on the ground. And then I watched a lone leaf drop and make a cascading decent from high in one of the taller trees to the path on the ground below. It was right out of the e. e. cummings poem, 1(a
. My perception of “it is what it is“ quickly shifted to “ this is something strange, and sort of magical.” The floating island appeared to me in this moment as some sort of hallucinatory portal, a weird piece of some other place floating in this place, the water next to high-rise solar powered condos. This perception shift was triggered by the small detail of a lone leaf falling to the path below.
Somehow, I was reminded of this experience on the evening of Saturday the 13th
of September, when I attended the opening event at Ingrid Chu and Savannah Gorton’s new “non-profit-minded adventure into contemporary art “ space called Forever & Today. It is located at 141 Division Street in Chinatown. Division Street is a strange little diagonal street that blends into the east end of Canal, and fades out into Berry Street towards the Bowery at the west. While there has been a steady flow of shops, restaurants and galleries migrating to this neighborhood over the past few years, Forever and Today is so small that it does not change the landscape too drastically. It is situated in a spot that doesn’t reveal too many indications of exactly what decade we are in. The surrounding storefronts seem as though they’ve been just as they are for 30 or 40 years. It is sandwiched between a small bodega and some offices and is very inconspicuous. The entrance of the space is currently a roll gate which opens directly into a tiny approx 6’ x 12’ room which is neatly dry- walled, with on open, exposed ceiling about 14’ high, and an impeccable, polished concrete floor. Approaching the crowded space, full of about ten people, you don’t notice the immaculate floor, yet.
For this opening event, Forever and Today had three artists design commemorative edition gifts to announce the opening of the space. At the rear of the tiny room , co-director Savannah Gorton stood behind a table pouring whisky and sake into shot glasses designed by Jasper Sabastion Stürup. The glass features a red printed image of the artist’s moppy hair, hiding behind an owl holding a drink, with his name and "Forever & Today September 13th
on the other side of the glass. These glasses are free for viewers to take. I find the shot glass a very convenient size for drinking outside of the tiny crowded space, on the sidewalk, and on the down low from view of the cops.
Lining the walls of the space are red and white Chinese food boxes hung on the wall at eye level. An image of a male figure reaching at his eye level is printed on the boxes in red and silver. I read this as a cue to take a box. I go outside to open it up and find a guy with a hairy chest and big mustache wearing a 70’s porn style terry cloth massage robe packing the boxes with candy and confetti and hanging them on the wall. When I go back out to the emerging crowd, some neighborhood kids are getting yelled at by their parents for going inside and taking the boxes. Ingrid Chu tells the parents it’s OK. The kids grab their goodies and run off. Thinking about the kids I was amused to open the box and find, in addition to a handwritten Forever & Today announcement and J. Morrison’s signature, edition 36/100, a chocolate covered, liquor-filled cherry.
Finally, a framed poster by the collective Slavs and Tatars stating in pink text, with a red outline, “KEEP YOUR MAJORITIES CLOSE AND YOUR MINORITIES CLOSER” leans against the wall. There is also a stack of Slavs and Tatars posters lying on the floor, for guests to take, much in the fashion of Felix Gonzales-Torres. At the bottom of the poster Forever & Today’s grand opening is announced again. Considering the color scheme of all three of the artists editions commemorating the space, of red, white, and pink, it wouldn’t be too far of a stretch to draw a theme of valentines given, today and forever…
The opening event seemed to call attention to the culture of art openings. The editions announce and celebrate the opening of this odd little space. A small party ensues for the grand opening, but has the appearance of a much larger event in contrast with the size of the space. On a dark little street, light pours out, with a small crowd. Under the feet of the people in the room is an impeccably shiny new polished concrete floor. Not unlike the lone leaf I witnessed falling on Smithson’s island, there is something slightly otherworldly about the way this little space asserts itself into the neighborhood. It’s delightfully out of place with its surroundings. Because of it’s very humble size, or lack of size, the Gagosian-like polished floor does not compete with the surrounding neighborhood. It’s like stumbling onto a little gem, or finding some little portal. You step into this little space and the white cube experience is right in your face, as your face is practically against the wall. Backing out of the space, and just walking a few steps down the street, you see the crowd, but not where they come from. Walking back towards the space, you see the white walls, the crowd inside, and the polished floor. There is something about this space that seems out of place somehow, in an intriguing and subtle way, that conjures a similar perceptive moment for me as Smithson’s Floating Island did.
The Forever & Today space is very intriguing. I learned they are sharing it one third of the time with another entity. It will be interesting to see how the two deal with the space. I am also very interested to see how artists working with Forever & Today deal with the challenges of the space. It has the customary white walls we are used to, but only three of them at present. The floor is impeccable, but very small. The size of the gallery tends to force people out onto the sidewalk. The space presents challenges with regards to the presentation of art. It seems to provide a ground for artists to present challenging artwork, with out being able to rely on the conventional modes of presentation, objects on the wall and objects on the floor. The next scheduled exhibition at Forever & Today is Pablo Helgura: The Seven Bridges of Königsberg. It opens Saturday, October 4, from 6 to 8 pm and will run through November 1, 2008.
Chris Kasper is an artist/teacher/writer living in New York City.
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He holds an MFA from the School of Art at Yale University and completed the Independent Study Program of the Whitney Museum of American Art in 2006.