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35 Weybosset St., 2016

in collaboration with Rose Mary Engstrom and Stephanie Zhou, a live stream of John Street Studio's interior space projected onto six windows



On 35 Weybosset St., Providence, RI lies a eerie facade of a former national bank building. Only the front of the building remains, upheld by a rusty metallic structure. Closer, you can see a body of wooden panels adorned with abstracted branches intertwining, attached to where window panes used to sit. The panels quickly register in my head as out of place, anachronistic, and we find out that the panels were an installation of a larger public art program initiated in 2016; thus, the conversation between the facade and the installation is temporally discordant.

I became fixated on the notion of the facade – architecturally, the face of a building and metaphorically, a superficial appearance (of the self/other). The public art installation was a means for relieving the abandoned and enlivening neglected spaces but instead increased the tension of abandonment and displacement. The wooden panels and branches became a facade in itself by attempting to "decorate" the facade, and we were left with a facade of a facade. This "facade of/within a facade" became the central idea for the displacement and redefining of Weybosset street within our microcosmic John Street Studio. The interior studio space is turned in on itself while the exterior view of the windows maintains the view of the space inside, slightly warped in perspective. 

What is the political significance when art is (mis)used as a way of "covering up" or assuaging certain conditions of public spaces? What are the social impacts? Who/Which bodies are displaced in the process of change? There are critical questions left unanswered during our initial investigation of this space, but we attempt to provoke these questions in our interpretation of this space. 


35 Weybosset St. Facade, photographed by Stephanie Zhou