in old stuff

Using Our Urban Spaces

It seems in every urban center with a bohemian class and a fascination with underground culture, you find creative events taking place in unusual places. The kind of things that fill seats through sotto voce networks of in-the-know 20 somethings seeking the subtle rush of urban exploration. They may occasionally advertise in the “cultural weekly” that you find scattered across funky old-chair coffee shops like “The Ugly Mug” in Portland, although it seems more often than not the word is spread by those who take pleasure in joining the sotto voce network themselves; validating their urbanite status. A great example is Rooftop films in New York City, although possibly having lost some of it’s underground appeal after receiving mainstream press from the New York Times, it remains a great example of creative and unusual use of urban space. The group screens independent films on rooftops around the five Burroughs through a partnership with the IFC , along with pre-roll drinks and live music.

Image from the New York Times

Although the concept has been replicated in other places, such as “Flicks on the Bricks” in Portland’s Pioneer Square, a mid-summer production that screens movies like Grease and Batman (the original), they often attract a very different sort of crowd, feeling more like it was organized by a community than a seasoned impresario There seems to be more to it than simply screening a movie somewhere unusual.

In Panama City my cousin and I were lucky enough to be invited to an underground reggaeton party in an intercity slum (our friends assured us that it was “safe enough”.) After walking through a nondescript entrance and a dark tunnel covered in graffiti, the space opened up into a huge courtyard in a bombed out brick building that evidently was one of the many relics of the ’89 US invasion of Panama. Under the night sky — and in the shadows of 9 or 10 exposed and abandoned floors of crumbling concrete and protruding rebarb — hundreds gathered to dance and drink $1 beers. The place was filled with trendy upper middle class kids enticed by the sex appeal of the striking grittiness, dilapidation, and aura of the fashionable underground. The experience, to me, is evidence of a somewhat universal “industrial fascination” and intrigue with “off-limits” spaces that drives us to appreciate things like the IFC Rooftop Films.

Anyway, I never got around to talking about the PDX pillow fight and this is getting rather long, so I’ll leave you with this awesome clip: