No Trespassing / Space Available (2009-13)

We live in an increasingly over-planned and predetermined society where our experience of public space has been regulated to the point of being outlawed. This project examines contemporary urban cities and makes connections between our shared aesthetic experience and the feeling disillusion and alienation. Part public performance, part document, and part artwork, this work test the boundaries between public and private space, and questions the dominant ideologies which regulate our culture.

The installation was realized in an mix use converted industrial building that at the time was for sale, and located on Main St. in Buffalo. Three rooms / hallway were created using chain link fencing, and acted as a physical and semi transparent visual barrier. Each room contained a series of two and three dimensional works: No Trespassing / Space Available, Removing Graffiti Removal, Demolition Graffiti Removal, Various Cuts.

In 2007 The City of Buffalo announced that it plans to demolishing 5000 vacant residential city owned homes over the next 5 years. According to the Buffalo News there are currently 8278 vacant homes, commercial properties, and vacant lots in Buffalo. What if we could view the current state of the post industrial city as something that needs to be preserved and remembered? Would this aid us in re-examining the effects of our shared aesthetic experience and allow for some sort of positive development in our physical and social landscape?

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This project featured Polaroid photographs of some of those buildings as well as traces of graffiti, and holes in chain-link fences. In each image the house has been removed, the graffiti removal has been physically cut out, and an actual hole in a fence has been documented. Both the positive house / graffiti removal image and the negative space left after it has been demolished / graffiti painted over, were integrated into domestic objects which are commonly left behind in abandoned homes – in this case a utilitarian gate leg table and an antique pastry table were used.

The Removing Graffiti Removal images were shown backwards on a shelf in close proximity to a mirror. Similar to the negation of graffiti by painting over it the photographic image is made un-viewable. The only way to see the images is either to look over the top of the Polaroid or through the void left by the act of removing the graffiti. Various Cuts shows a selection of fence, house, and graffiti removal cuts. Each side of the fence is shown as well as each side of the Polaroid. This accordion style pillow book that consists of both inkjet prints and colour laser prints on acetate. Unlike the irreproducibility and authenticity of Polaroid photography the book has been produced in an addition.

No Trespassing / Space Available refers to the abundance of No Trespassing and Space Available signs in Buffalo and looks at the signs as contradiction in terms. Often No Trespassing refers to a space that actually is available, whereas Space Available often designates spaces that aren’t accessible. These signs along with physically boarded up houses, vacant lots and graffiti removal now dominate the landscape of many post industrial shrinking cities and therefore have become part of our daily aesthetic experience. This project attempts to go beyond simply identifying or commenting on the ironic failures of modernism, but re-interprets what 100 year of Western development has left us; an urban space where histories are removed, intolerance is enforced, and people attempt to live in a paradoxical space both present and absent, one that refuses unity, stability, wholeness and identity.


Since moving back to Toronto from Buffalo I’ve been looking for a place to install No Trespassing / Space Available (2009). Finally in 2013 my friends Marek Rudzinski and Luciana Calvet of North Arrow bought a house and offered me the space mid-renovation. The “open house” happened over a cold weekend in March. Also included were a few more recent and related works which included Archive (2012) and a yet to be titled video installation which consisted of extended separation wall footage playing simultaneously on five monitors which sat facing each other in a circle on found chairs.

Exhibition history:

No Trespassing / Space Available & related works, 487 1/2 Concord Ave, Toronto, ON, 2013
Borderline, curated by Megan Press, Living Arts Centre, Mississauga, ON, 2013
Art & Music Library Gallery, University of Rochester, Rochester, NY, 2010
1716 Main St. (with Abbey Hendrickson & Shelby Baron), Buffalo, NY, 2009

Publication history:
Colin Dabkowski, “Theme Shift,” The Buffalo News, Buffalo, April 17-24, 2009.

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