September 3, 2014 - September 28, 2014
While searching with her husband for apartments in upper Manhattan, Gesche Würfel became curious about the superintendents living and working below many of these buildings. As a German artist who had recently moved to the United States, Würfel identified with the “supers” she encountered who were also living far away from their home countries of Latin America and the Caribbean. She began to capture their subterranean spaces on film, focusing primarily on the decorative elements used to personalize these often stark environments. The resulting color images in Basement Sanctuaries function as a collection of “portraits” that reveal various aspects of each superintendent’s cultural identity, religious beliefs, or artistic taste, despite his or her physical absence. Although some of the posters, paintings, furniture, plants, and exercise equipment may have been rescued from the discard piles of former tenants, these collections reflect distinct curatorial visions as well as a universal desire to claim space for one’s own.
“In many ways, basements are special sanctuaries for superintendents and their families. Supers often live in basements that are hidden from the public and from visitors, which creates a form of privacy. However, the basement is also a space of work for supers and their environment is on display for the residents of the building. Under these circumstances, the supers’ decorations function as a territorial claim over the basement’s public/private space… The images encourage viewers to think in new ways about how space functions in New York City apartment buildings and broaden our understanding of the relationship among migration, semi-public/private space, and the everyday landscape.”
Gesche Würfel is a German visual artist living and working in North Carolina. She received her Diploma in Urban Planning from the University of Dortmund, Germany, and her M.A. in Photography and Urban Cultures from Goldsmiths, University of London. Her work has been exhibited nationally and internationally, recently in solo shows at Field Projects in New York City, Wolk Gallery at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Civilian Art Projects in Washington, DC, and Underground Gallery at Goldsmiths, University of London. Her work has been presented in group shows at Tate Modern, [space], and Photofusion in London; The New Art Gallery in Walsall, UK; Cornerhouse in Manchester; Kokerei Zollverein in Essen, Germany; and Curator’s Office in Washington, DC. Her work is included in the MIT Museum’s Collection, and in private collections in Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, and the United States.