culture blotter {kara walker's "a subtlety" at the domino sugar plant}

kara walker's "a subtlety"

kara walker, 1 of 3

kara walker, 2 of 3

kara walker, 3 of 3

i've always appreciated the derelict domino sugar plant's silhouette across the river, and have followed developers' plans to erect fifty-story residences in its place with a bit of sadness; the city needs more affordable housing, and nasty old buildings shouldn't live on the river because i find them interesting, and i'll be sorry to see them go all the same. kara walker's "a subtlety" ("or the Marvelous Sugar Baby, an Homage to the unpaid and overworked Artisans who have refined our Sweet tastes from the cane fields to the Kitchens of the New World on the Occasion of the demolition of the Domino Sugar Refining Plant"), a massive installation in the plant's largest storage room, is the farewell i didn't know i wanted, and i jumped at the opportunity to have a look inside. i've seen and appreciated walker's stuff at the whitney and the brooklyn museum—she's fantastic at repulsing her viewers, her silhouettes will drive you right out of the room—but i've never really known what i'm supposed to do at that point.

"a subtlety" (here meaning, among other things, an extra-fancy illusion dish prepared for a medieval feast; this sphinx is a 75-foot-long, 35-foot-tall foam sculpture covered with sugar) is her first large-scale public work, her first literally huge piece, and like all nyc-area installation art, it's attracted all sorts of attention. artnet noted a week or two ago that it's spawned an ongoing series of lewd instagrams, an outcome she surely anticipated (visitors are encouraged to use a site-specific hashtag and told that they are part of the exhibition). hyperallergic wondered how the exhibitors were keeping vermin away from those forty tons of sugar (answer: rat traps, but most pests seem to be leaving the site alone*). little clumps of hipsters and art-world types trooped in and out of the building like ants. what i didn't expect, even in brooklyn, were the strollers: mothers were wheeling their children right up to the sticky little sugar babies, whispering in their ears. a sunshower pattered on the roof, the sickly-sweet crystals on the walls smelled of molasses, and we processed around walker's queen like the mourners we were.

[full set here.]

*"According to Ed McLaughlin, service manager for Regal Pests Management, which [the exhibitors] called in to deliver estimates for preventative services last winter, ants are a cause for greater worry than rats. 'Rats as a rule probably would not be attracted to a big amount of sugar, especially in an urban area,” McLaughlin said. “A rat can’t live on sugar alone. They’re going to need more palatable foods … basically anything they’ll find in the garbage. Things that are attracted to sugar are obviously ants, depending on the specific colony, roaches … bees.'"


Rachel said...

Ants were my first thought as soon as the pictures started popping up. Luckily the scale probably means that ants are not going to make a big impact.

LPC said...