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The Brooklyn Rail

SEPT 2020

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SEPT 2020 Issue
The Miraculous The Miraculous: New York

18. (Chelsea)

One windy day in the mid-1990s, less than ten years after leaving the Soviet Union for life in the West, a husband-and-wife artist team grab a video camera and descend from their studio into the mostly deserted streets of Chelsea. In a neighborhood where taxi garages still outnumber art galleries, they begin filming pieces of litter and random objects as they are blown around the streets and sidewalks of the West 20s. Rather than being a documentary record of urban neglect, the resulting video is full of pathos and comedy. Through their eyes scraps of trash become living beings. A plastic spoon flips over like a restless sleeper. A small paper bag puffs up like blowfish. A coiled length of rope does acrobatic tricks. A tiny piece of Styrofoam plays tag with a black plastic bag. A McDonald’s box assaults a to-go coffee cup. A white glove performs a set of somersaults, only to be outdone by a neatly tied up plastic bag that can’t stop tumbling. A cardboard box slides down the street like a skateboarder. A toilet paper roll sets off on a journey into the unknown. A plastic bag takes flight, or at least attempts to do so. Never stated in the video is its relationship to their own lives, blown by the “winds of history” into exile from a nation that would soon cease to exist, buffeted continually by the turbulence that comes with being artists in New York City, always at risk of being tossed aside by the vagaries of the art market, or by the vagaries of life itself.

(Igor and Svetlana Kopystiansky)

Contributor

Raphael Rubinstein

Raphael Rubinstein is the author of The Miraculous (Paper Monument, 2014) and A Geniza (Granary Books, 2015). He is currently writing a book about the Jewish-Egyptian writer Edmond Jabès. A Professor of Critical Studies at the University of Houston School of Art, he divides his time between Houston and New York.

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The Brooklyn Rail

SEPT 2020

All Issues