Opening: The great and the secret show / The look out gallery

The great and the secret show / The look out gallery
By Katarzyna Krakowiak
November 8 – 17, 2013
At The Penn Station Post Office
Corridors Open 12pm – 6pm
Sound Installation Open 24 hours
Presented as part of Performa13

“In perceiving, our whole body vibrates in unison with the stimulus (…) Hearing is, like all sense perception, a way of seizing reality with all our body, including our bones and viscera” -Gonzalez-Crussi

The historic James A. Farley Post Office is today one of the biggest empty building in Manhattan. While in the mid-twentieth century more than 16,000 workers inhabited the building, today, less than 200 workers occupy the space during busy periods, leaving many rooms, corridors, vaults, chambers and storage spaces vacant. While the role of the post office is currently undergoing massive transformation, the building itself is under a great urban and architectural interrogation.

The great and the secret show / The look out gallery considers sound as an archeology depicting the temporality, materiality, speed or intensity of bodies, objects and systems. The installation guides visitors through a typically closed route of empty rooms and corridors across the building where past and present sounds of the postal service mechanisms and processes are performed, revealing the fascinating history of the spaces, and reflecting on the vast urban scale of the building. The sound and resonating performance transform the walls of the hallway into a vibrating membrane, producing an intimate experience that synthesizes the past and the present of the Post Office.

Katarzyna Krakowiak takes what the workers call “the look out gallery” as a starting point for her installation. The look out gallery takes its name from a system of secret corridors that connect the thousands of rooms of the old Post Office building and allow surveillance of the work environment. In its heyday, small eyeholes allow assigned postal policeman to control the working environment through an analogue CCTV. Using a pre-recorded collection of sounds of closing doors, cards being discarded, stamping postcards, and other past and present Post Office activities, the performance raises questions of labor, public services, and hierarchy in the most visited urban space of years past.

Krakowiak’s installation reminds us that our bodies and memories are made also through sounds. Her sound archeology depicts –perhaps better than an image or a text- the temporality, materiality, speed and intensity of bodies, objects and systems.

Visitors can access the installation in two forms and temporalities. From 12pm to 6pm by walking through the path of corridors and rooms specially open for the performance, or any time (24 hours a day) during normal Postal Service office hours, where the visitor can experience the echo of the installation through the vibration of the walls and windows that connect the public spaces of the building with the installation rooms.

This exhibition is presented as part of Performa13. For more information visit http://13.performa-arts.org/.

Event Details:


  • When: 

    Friday, November 8, 2013
    06:00 pm

  • Where: 

    James Farley Post Office
    421 8th Ave
    New York, New York

  • More information: 

    Event website.

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