A Columbia MFA Contemplates Empty Factories—And Her Own Future?

THE DAILY PIC: Art student Emily Kloppenburg shot a worker laid off from the same factory where her photo's now showing.

THE DAILY PIC (#1608): On Saturday evening, I headed out to a massive post-industrial space in Bushwick, where students in the famous MFA program at Columbia University were launching their summer show, open Wednesday through Sunday afternoons for the rest of this month. The most powerful thing in the exhibition was this photographic sequence by Emily Kloppenburg.

It documents the memories of a factory worker named Lourdes Rivera-Olsen, laid off after 13 years’ work when the Pfizer pharmaceuticals plant in Brooklyn closed in 2006. (You can zoom in on her text by clicking here.)

Here’s one other fact you need in order to understand the power of Kloppenburg’s piece. The building she and her fellow students are now showing in was once the very same Pfizer plant that Rivera-Olsen was forced to leave. She was undone by our society’s shift from a stable economy built around a healthy working class to an economy built on the sale of services, culture and esoteric skills—the same unstable economy that every art student is being prepared to take a place in. It may very well do them in even more quickly than the old one failed Rivera-Olsen.

I forgot to mention that the MFA show is called “Finished Goods Warehouse,” after the space in the abandoned Pfizer plant that it now occupies. I worry that that’s a bad omen. (Image courtesy the artist)

For a full survey of past Daily Pics visit blakegopnik.com/archive.

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