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What Is Brooklyn?

So I recently had a discussion with Hyperallergic’s head hancho, Hrag Vartanian. He suggested I sound off on what I think makes Brooklyn art Brooklyn. I’ve been thinking about this for the last week, and I have to admit that I’m stumped. I think first and foremost it would be easy to think of specific areas within Brooklyn. When inferring the Brooklyn art scene, I think people are usually reffering to a specific group of galleries and artists. Honestly, I think it is increasingly difficult and important to separate the actual art scene from the corporate real-estate branding.The idea, for instance, that DUMBO is in any way a real location for emerging visual art production is laughable. Unfortunately, Williamsburg is slowly getting there as well.

As rents creep steadily upwards, it becomes easier to define, geographically, the Brooklyn art scene as more and more people move to Bushwick but it’s also spilling over into Ridgewood, Queens. What then are the defining characteristics of “a Brooklyn artist”?

My weak jab at the subject is that, rather than a concrete aesthetic or geographical center, we are defined by a shared set of needs, chiefly for affordable living and community. This is pretty run of the mill stuff, and I think has been always the case. The big difference is how amorphous things have become in the last couple of years. The commercial gallery world is perhaps the most organized it has ever been, easily marketed in heavily clustered areas of the city. The actual creative community, however, is much harder to pin down.

Unlike previous generations we don’t have a Max’s Kansas City or Cedar Tavern, or insert over mythologised bar/club. Rather, we are proud of our neighborhoods and our neighbors but spend an increasing amount of time debating and learning about art on the internet, a platform that flattens geography.

I’m fully aware that this sort of self-reflection wanders dangerously close  to the “name a trend” style of writing the New York Times seems so fond of. I think though, that this is an important conversation to have. Tell us what  you think best defines the Brooklyn art community? What makes it special and where is it headed? How have things changed? Personal anecdotes welcomed.

Image via thisnext.com

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