At MoMA, Laura Kurgan Turns Brooklyn’s Rough Blocks Into Art

THE DAILY PIC: A team explores the boundaries between art, information and activism.


THE DAILY PIC: This is one of the chewier works in the rehang of MoMA’s contemporary galleries, which is unusually willing to challenge its audience. It’s one image from a project called Million Dollar Blocks, credited to Laura Kurgan, Eric Cadora, David Reinfurt, Sarah Williams, and Spatial Information Design Lab, GSAPP, Columbia University.

The graphic visualizes the incarceration rates, and costs, for certain rough blocks in Brooklyn.

That invites the usual question about the difference between an artwork like this and a piece of activist agitprop, or for that matter government propaganda.

I think the difference is that this piece presents information about the world, but never tells you precisely what to do with that information or how to think about it. Despite its apparent novelty, that leaves it closer to a traditional landscape or a still-life than to a tract or white paper.

Art, that is, has always portrayed the way the world is, or might be. It’s up to others to decide whether to use that portrayal as the starting point for change. (© Laura Kurgan, Spatial Information Design Lab, GSAPP, Columbia University)

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