If you’re the kind of person who enjoys catching a glimpse into your neighbors’ windows every once in a while and wondering what they’re doing, you’ll definitely want to stop by 130 Allen Street on the Lower East Side before Thanksgiving. There, in a storefront made to look like a studio apartment, you can shamelessly watch Brooklyn street artist RAE painting, sleeping, or just sitting around. In fact, he wants you to watch him. That’s the whole point.
For THE RAE SHOW, RAE is spending 24 hours a day, seven days a week, living and working inside the storefront. Since he has always been and wants to continue to remain anonymous, he has his face covered at all times, either with a ski mask and glasses or one of several (slightly creepy-looking) papier-mâché masks he made for this very purpose.
As with a lot of projects these days, THE RAE SHOW also has a huge online component. RAE has set up four video cameras, three facing each wall of his space and one facing the window, livestreaming everything on YouTube. (There are usually between five and 10 people watching the YouTube channel at any given moment, even at night.) RAE posts photos of some of the work he’s created in the storefront on his Instagram and announces any guests he’s expecting in his space — like DJs and dancers — on his Facebook page, as well as on handwritten colorful pieces of paper in the corner of his makeshift apartment. RAE told the New York Times that he’s planning on playing dominoes with neighbors and having a local animal shelter bring in pets to hang out with him, among other surprises.
When I went to see RAE on a Saturday afternoon, he was painting while watching Christmas cartoons and the news on his two little, stacked TVs. Although it was interesting to watch him and try to predict what he’ll do next — it appears he likes to randomly stand completely still for about 30 seconds, kind of like a statue, so people watching see him in profile — one of the most interesting parts of this whole project isn’t in the project itself but rather in the conversations that happen just outside the storefront window. (Unfortunately, the YouTube channel only records sound from within the space, not from the street.)
I had a great discussion with a man who lives in the apartment building next door and walks by THE RAE SHOW every day on his way to and from work, stopping each time to see what’s happening. He said he saw a DJ spinning there one night and that RAE was giving people stickers he’d made, slipping them through the cracks of the window. The neighbor told me he even already “hacked” the YouTube livestream, finding out his mom was watching online and making a “Hi mom” sign that he put up against the window.
While the neighbor and I wondered about RAE’s bathroom and eating situation (we saw he had a door to a private space in the back and wondered what else happened back there), people came and went, chatting with each other, taking pictures, commenting on the artwork as often as on the vintage furniture. Most people stopped for just a couple minutes before moving on with their day.
It seems that RAE seldom acknowledges the people standing outside watching him, instead concentrating on his work. (The neighbor I met was trying to get RAE to slip a drawing through the window crack for him, to no avail.) RAE is rather like a goldfish in an aquarium, and people have already started tapping on the glass late at night while he’s trying to sleep. What will be most interesting about the paintings and drawings that come out of THE RAE SHOW will be RAE’s newfound insight into humanity as a result of living in a storefront window for a month.
THE RAE SHOW continues at 130 Allen Street (Lower East Side, Manhattan) through November 22.