“Vehement silhouettes of Manhattan-that vertical city with unimaginable diamonds.”-Le Corbusier
Unimaginable Terrain at DIAP sought to contradict Le Corbusier's utopian vision of New York as a monolithic city of "unimaginable diamonds", instead orienting the visitor within the concrete physical, cultural and historical boundaries of DIAP, City College and Hamilton Heights as a whole. Reflecting the varied and shifting narratives of the local community, these works probed the site’s historical significance, geopolitical boundaries, socioeconomic diversity and cultural values. Expanding on art historian David Summer’s idea that real space can be defined “neither outside of human social experience nor apart from orientation…”, these site-specific works utilized DIAP as a vantage point from which viewers can regard the unique political, geographic and historic terrain that makes up Hamilton Heights.
For this site-specific exhibit, the participating artists employed multiple means to examine the site’s distinct identity. EcoArtTech (Leila Nadir and Cary Peppermint) reflected on the state of our current ecosystem’s influence with the haunting, meditative work Anthropocene (2014), while Stephanie Rothenberg’s installation, Desiring Subjects, Desiring Plants (2014), tested the boundaries of data’s relationships between plants and community subjects. João Enxuto & Erica Love considered Andrew Grove, namesake of the Engineering School at City College, as an enduring influence on the identity of City College through his book, High-Output Management. LoVid (Tali Hinkis and Kyle Lapidus) tackled the theme of human memory and physical spaces, contextualizing these influences along with the effects of displaced memory by means of current technological practices. A performance piece by Elan Jurado explored the eventual decay inherent in neighborhood structures. The exhibit sought to re-orient previously held beliefs about site identity by challenging notions of the fixed and unchanging historical precedents. This revealed itself through the artists’ exploration of the dynamic relationship between location and systems.
When discussing these works, the notion of “site” was problematized by questioning the terms ability to accurately and meaningfully encompass its relevance to community inhabitants and visitors alike. By rethinking the way we look at place we also had to ask ourselves: Can art created using community as subject remain respectful of the multiple narratives defining a tangible space? Can current technological capabilities continue to allow unprecedented means of disrupting and re-constituting existing narratives?
Unimaginable Terrain served as a platform for continuing the discussion on the relevancy of site-specific art both as a means to challenge the assumption of of place and as alternate solutions to these dilemmas.