Below the Grid Lab
The Below the Grid Lab (BTG) works to support the community-based efforts of those who have been historically disappeared and dispossessed across the five boroughs using all the creative tools at our disposal. New Yorkers are storytellers, whether they consciously pass on their narratives or their stories are carried on through food, dance, music and other expressive traditions. BTG builds from this impulse and uses new technologies to help circulate these stories and amplify these voices. We believe that the fight to preserve, protect, and imagine a just city is made richer and more viable through a fuller understanding of our shared histories and struggles.
BTG has developed projects that include documenting the movement that stopped Robert Moses’ Lower Manhattan Expressway from destroying our vibrant Downtown neighborhoods by building a thirty-foot-long highway through a gallery; collaborating with the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area (SPURA) community to tell the history and modern day ramifications of the violent displacement from their homes by creating scenes of former residents apartments; and uncovering the long-forgotten NYC origins of the American eugenics movement, which targeted immigrants, the working class, and people of color through a fully immersive installation.
BTG collaborates extensively with young people from middle school through graduate work to unleash the creative potential to tell their own stories. Courses and workshops we’ve taught have focused on the lives of enslaved New Yorkers, the experiences of the Indigenous Lenape of Manahattan, the intermingling of peoples and traditions in our ports, and the elite city aristocracy that helped shape our problematic national identity in opposition to minority groups.
Our efforts continue in the 21st century with a strong focus on the oppressive force of gentrification and modern day dispossession. Upcoming efforts include a SPURA Living Memorial and virtual reality experience, a smartphone app that traces the disappearance of community resources (community gardens, small businesses, etc.) and resistance across the city, and a series of collaborations with Indigenous New Yorkers.