In Gowanus, Playgrounds Both Real and Imagined

04/09/2012 12:02 PM |


A tiny upstairs gallery seems like a funny place to host an exhibition on parks and public spaces. But that was the setting for last week’s opening of Brooklyn Utopia’s Park Space/Play Space. The reception took place at the Old Stone House in J.J Byrne Park, on the Park Slope-Gowanus border.

The exhibit, Brooklyn Utopia’s third at The Old Stone House, features works that are “visioning for parks and public space,” said Kimberly Maier, the House’s executive director. The upstairs gallery featured works such as Marina Zamin’s immersive video installation “Brooklyn Canals” and an animation by Jess Levey projected onto a canvas with cutout flower pots and windows. There were also panoramic photo-murals of a few blocks on Kent Avenue, as well as picture-postcards and descriptions of eminent domain cases across the city.

Some of the other works in the exhibit merge public space with technology. Lynn Cazabon’s “Uncultivated” project displays pictures of plants with QR codes beneath them. When someone scans the code, they are directed to a website which pinpoints the location of the plants and gives their species. Then there is Skymills, an app which calls on the Old Stone House’s Dutch legacy and erects virtual windmills that can be viewed through an iPad or iPhone. The mills also create virtual skywriting, which Will Pappenheimer was busy collecting from attendees. Holding the stand of his iPad like a handle, Pappenheimer spun around showing off all the windmills, noting that if you walk into the location of one you can look up at the windmill’s ceiling. He envisions the app as a virtual public space where users plant trees or write virtual messages that all users can see. “You really are a utopian,” a listener remarked. “Yeah!” Pappenheimer said.


Pappenheimer will be conducting an “Augmented Reality Workshop” on May 19th, part of the exhibition’s extensive events program. One of the most promising of these is April 28’s bootcamp and exhibition game of “Circle Rules Football,” a game played with one of those bouncy exercise balls. Basically the tenants of the game are that you can do anything with the ball (kicking, dribbling, passing) as long as you don’t run while holding it. There is one goal in the center and the job of the two goalies there is basically to stop the other from doing their job. There will also be a large dodgeball game nicknamed “The Battle of Brooklyn.”

More docile events include a collective sky-gazing night, and later in the exhibition a “collective wedding ceremony” with artist Tracy Candido. There will also be eminent domain biking tours from Park Slope to Coney Island, and a public mural making workshop. The exhibit also coincides with the opening of a new playground in the park. Although the playground doesn’t open till May 11, it will feature some of the virtues of the exhibit, combining art with public space with a submarine-inspired design by artist Julie Peppito and 3D images seen through periscope goggles.

2 Comment

  • Thanks for the shout out and for covering our exhibit. Just one important correction- it’s Jess Levey, not Josee levy

  • Another important note: The article omitted the curator/creator of this exhibition and the two previous Brookyn Utopias, Katherine Gressel. A painter in her own right, as an administrator and curator (her day job is at the Smack Mellon arts organization in Dumbo) she accesses the visionary, the practical, and the esthetic in these unique civic kaleidoscopes that are consistently provocative and fun.
    Chris Cory