East Harlem/El Barrio is a neighborhood with a long history of art, from theater to murals to performance. In recent years, gentrification has become a reality for many of its long- time residents. Luxury condominiums are being built next to public housing projects, outdoor spaces are being replaced by more new construction. It is a losing battle to try to retain the outdoor spaces that were long enjoyed by the local residents. Questions revolve around who owns the land? Who owns the buildings? Who owns the murals? Are the lifestyle and social fabric of El Barrio endangered? Is what we are experiencing the inevitable evolution of the neighborhood fueled by capitalism?
During Art for Change's Hacia Afuera--Spanish Harlem’s Public Art Festival-- in May 2008, the local residents were encouraged to take back the streets, reclaim the public spaces, and declaring El Barrio proudly to be My Neighborhood, My El Barrio.
I have taken inspiration from the urban phenomenon of the pairs of sneaker hanging on an electrified wire in these neighborhoods. Is it a harmless prank, a rite of passage, or a sign of a bad (dangerous) neighborhood? With the sneaker in mind, I have substituted ears of corn for it as an artistic expression.
Corn is an important ingredient in Latin cuisine and culture and also a favorite ingredient in the summer BBQ season. It is bright yellow, natural, ephemeral and widely available. Now, due to the increase of price in gasoline, corn is made into ethanol and biofuel. This simple food has become a symbol of our economic well-being and is influential in the current trend of gentrification, increased economic power and class mobility that has hit the neighborhood.
Bundles or pairs of corn will be prepared by the artist, connected with string, and given and distributed among the neighborhood people and children to be place randomly around El Barrio. The bundles can be hung on a wall, a window, a phone line, and fences. They will claim El Barrio as their neighborhood. The artist will then walk around the neighborhood and take photographic images of each sighting.
A limited edition tshirt are printed to be a give away for the participants.
The mosaic of life in El Barrio