In NYC: an indoor park/art installation, complete with fake grass and sunshine

Parkland is at a premium in urban centers, particularly in crowded Manhattan. One possible solution: build indoor parks/art installations that simulate outdoor parks.

It’s not truly a park, at least not in any sense that the parks department might recognize; it is the simulacrum of a park, an indoor copy that in weather like this becomes more real than the city’s broad but dormant expanses. The pseudopark, which occupies the Openhouse Gallery through the end of the month and which is open to the public every day from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., beckons visitors with a vibrant gardenlike environment and a warm, sunny glow (along with, at certain hours, food vendors like Luke’s Lobsterand Mexicue).

A sociologist tried to make sense of this space:

Strolling around the place and watching the strangers at play, Dalton Conley, a New York University sociologist who has written about growing up in the city, observed that it was a quintessential New York phenomenon.

“One of the factors which, despite perceptions, makes it easy to parent here is that there are no backyards, so you’re not atomized,” Professor Conley said. “You just go to a park,” he said, and automatically find a bunch of other kids to play with. Parks have the same effect on adults, throwing them into close and easy proximity, and promoting unexpected social encounters.

Similar results have been achieved in other unnatural settings, most recently when Pipilotti Rist took over MoMA’s second-floor atrium with an oversize video installation and an enormous round couch on which viewers could just lie back and take it — and each other — all in. But that was under the protective cover of high art. It was critically sanctioned. It was safe. Park Here, in contrast, is just some random storefront, and the people flopped about it don’t necessarily have anything more in common than a preference for being inside to being outside. (Or is it the other way around?)

“As a permanent thing, people probably would say, ‘We need real grass,’ ” Professor Conley said. “But as a temporary thing, they accept the lack of verisimilitude. In fact, I bet some of it is ironic.”

So a random storefront can be transformed into a park-like space where strangers gather together to relax. Is there a future in such art installations?

It would be interesting to hear from those using this art installation. Do they see the irony? Do they feel like they are part of an art piece or is this simply another park space? Are they mainly hipsters or do we have a full range of ages and backgrounds?

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