by Mark Elijah Rosenberg
July 22nd, 2010

Bill Brown is like the Huck Finn of contemporary American art. A perpetually itinerant explorer of landscape, location, community and mood, Bill has made movies, published zines and books, drawn sketches, and more. Bill’s investigations are always piercingly insightful, but framed in an easy-going, slightly wistful slightly comic mode. He takes you places and makes you feel welcome, giving you the history, culture and politics in a few lines about a slice of pie, or in the image of a laundromat.

At Rooftop, we’ve screened a number of Bill’s films, including Mountain State and Roswell. (You can buy his DVDs, zines and books from Microcosm Publishing.) The Rooftop Filmmakers’ Fund gave a grant to his latest film Cumberland, a landscape film about torture that aims to investigate the cultural milieu that raised the soldiers involved the Abu Grahib atrocities, hoping to understand how “seven representatives of America’s battered working class came to bear the responsibility for the failure of America’s foreign policy and moral authority.”

Bill and Sabine Gruffat have an amazing new locative bike art project in Williamsburg. I highly recommend it.

Devotion Gallery
54 Maujer Street
near the corner of Maujer and Lorimer Streets
Brooklyn, NY 11206
Curated/Organized by: free103point9

Sabine Gruffat is an interdisciplinary artist whose work maneuvers through, manipulates, and challenges prescribed genres and codes. Bill Brown seeks to correlate geographical coordinates with conceptual ones in his work, such as uncovering the memories and histories folded up inside physical landscapes and borders.

The Bike Box is a mobile-media bicycle library and interactive installation housed in the Devotion Gallery. Bike Box allows participants to check out cheap, durable, technology-enhanced bikes and a free open source iPhone application developed by David Gagnon of the Games Learning Society at UW-Madison especially for this project. As participants pedal around central Brooklyn, they are able to contribute site-specific audio through the iPhone application, as well as listen to a curated collection of geo-specific sounds provided by a variety of local land-use experts, historians, poets, artists, and other interpreters.

The Bike Box hopes to explore and give participants access to the layers of lived experience, personal anecdote, and history that are piled up invisibly on every street corner and city block.

The Bike Box will also host a number of performances and special events during the exhbition at Devotion Gallery:

Saturday July 24, 2 p.m.
Sunday July 25, 2 p.m.
Sabine Gruffat and Bill Brown will be leading bike tours through Bike Box geo-tagged sites in Brooklyn.

Curated contributions to Bike Box will include:

John Also Bennett’s contact microphone recordings of audio frequencies emitted by power transformers, electric lights, and air conditioners throughout Brooklyn.

Jonny Farrow’s contact mic’d bicycle ride around the gallery neighborhood.

Rob Ray’s Pedal to the Mental invites cyclists to become “disorienteers” using geographic and environmental queues of Bike Box geotagged locations as launchpads for wonder, confusion, imagination, and adventure!

Dara Greenwald’s exploration of the conflict around the presence, disappearance, re-presence, and final re-direction of a well travelled bike lane in Brooklyn

Huong Ngo’s interview with Mathieu Néron, the last shoemaker of Québec, collapses Brooklyn’s history as a leading shoemaker at the end of the 19th century with that of Québec City, which shares that industrial past.

Cathleen Grado’s field recordings drawn from locations in Ridgewood and Bushwick, focusing on the contrasting sounds of rural and urban environments.

Stephanie Gray’s ruminations on Saint Anthony of Padua Roman Catholic Church on Manhattan Avenue in Greenpoint.

Jenifer Kaminsky’s exploration of the ghosts trapped within the place names of Williamsburg and Greenpont.

Joan Linder and Stephanie Rothenberg’s  Brooklyn-Beijing-Babble overlays the cacophonous sounds of modernizing Beijing onto the gentrifying neighborhoods of Williamsburg and Greenpoint.

Katherin McInnis’ Phantom Highway, which follows the path of the never-built Bushwick Expressway through North Brooklyn, and offers a fragmentary and poetic essay on urban planning.

Paul Lloyd Sargent’s Hydronym: Erie Basin Meets Erie Basin, which traces the Erie Basin, taking its name from a long history connecting Brooklyn to territories deep within the North American Midwest and ports all over the world.

Norm Scott’s field recordings from 2005 of spaces surrounding the (then) abandoned McCarren Park Pool. The sounds harken back to summertime at an abandoned magical swimming pool.

This exhibition is part of a series celebrating the

2009/2010 AIRtime Fellowship Recipients: Zach Poff (July 2-11), Sabine Gruffat & Bill Brown (July 16-25), and Brett Balogh (July 30-August 14.)

More information is at:


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One Response to ““Bike Box” by Rooftop Alum Bill Brown”

  1. Mark Elijah Rosenberg says:

    Update: I went on a Bike Box tour today. It’s a lot of fun, with dozens of great stories and different tours you can take with different themes. You can also upload your own story, so I tagged 265 McKibbin St., the home of Peter’s Car Corp., where Rooftop was located from 1998-2002. For now, the only way to hear my story is to get the Bike Box app and go there yourself (I recommend that, for your Rooftop history buffs), but in a few weeks the whole project will be archived online.

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Rooftop Films is a New York based non-profit whose mission is to engage diverse communities by showing independent movies in outdoor locations, producing new films, coordinating youth media education, and renting equipment at low cost to artists.


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