If you can picture that moment in an adventure movie when the adventurers come crawling up to the crest of a hill to scope out what’s next on their horizon, then you can imagine the scene in Rockaway Beach as the MoMAPS1 VW Dome 2 first appeared on our horizon, which is to say on Shorefront Parkway and Beach 94th and 95th Streets, just a stone’s throw from the ocean and the former boardwalk.
Dome 2, a very groovy geodesic dome with a section of clear windows that face the water, was erected as part of the Rockaway Call for Ideas initiative of MoMA PS1’s EXPO 1: New York, and serves as a temporary center for community-based educational and cultural events, including art installations, musical performances, films, recovery outreach projects and lectures, and children’s programs. It also serves an impromptu gathering place, like the boardwalk once did.
After Super Storm Sandy, the focus in the Rockaways has mostly been on basic survival as all manner of recovery—tents, temporary power centers, and emergency sites—came and went. Now with the passage of some time and the advent of spring and warmer weather, the focus of Rockaways residents like myself has begun to focus on the flourishing of the community at large. Luckily Dome 2 has arrived just in time to provide the perfect venue.
“Before the storm…” “During the storm…” “After the storm…”—a lot of sentences get started this way in the Rockaways, and I imagine that’s also true in other communities similarly affected by Sandy. The storm changed a lot of things. Having Dome 2 around the corner got me thinking about the larger cultural impact of the storm as well as the impact of the Dome itself. And I was reminded of something I’d read a while ago in a bulletin publication from the Tenth Havana Biennial Art Exhibition in 2009 that featured a dialogue between Hervé Fischer, the French-Canadian philosopher, writer, and artist, and a group of art students from the University of Havana prior to the opening of the biennial.
“The crisis of contemporary art becomes evident in biennials or large exhibitions. Artists from the North find themselves in an adequate context to give free rein to their personal narratives without any interest in dialoguing with the spectators, in a space that considers as a good artist the man who enjoys extreme liberty but without meaning, without communicating with the public, without an idea of social responsibility,” the bulletin quotes Fischer.
At the time I remember thinking that he wasn’t far off the mark, only now things have changed. I think now the culture of our culture, the context of our culture here in the North as Fischer says, is changing, expanding as culture exists in a dynamic state of flux not so unlike that of a coastline.
Hours for the MoMA PS1 VW Dome 2—which includes the Dome Café and folks from Fruteria and Veggie Island boardwalk concessions—are Wednesday through Sunday 10:00 a.m–6:00 p.m. There’s always something going on, but be sure to check the schedule for events for the full program, including evening events. Also please note that, like so many other things, the schedule is subject to change.