There has been, and will continue to be, a great deal written about the development in and around the East Village. Whether it’s skyrocketing rents (for both residents and businesses alike) or the leveling of neighborhood landmarks, the character, texture and future of the area seems constantly in question.
On a sunny August morning this past summer, after multiple attempts to landmark the building failed, Mary Help of the Christians Catholic Church was demolished. The church, which opened in 1917, occupied a portion of East 12th Street between First Avenue and Avenue A. It was considered a central part of the surrounding community for decades and was even memorialized in the poetry of Allen Ginsberg, who lived across from the church for years. Now, through windows cut into the wood subfloor fence surrounding the site, passersby can see the sizeable void in the earth where the church once stood. Although the demolition took place nearly 6 months ago and the church itself has been officially closed since 2007, former church members can still be seen standing in front of what was once the building’s grand entrance silently posed in prayer.
This installation is a devotional space. In a traditional church setting, these areas are places of prayer, reflection and ritual. They are very personal spaces. And as with any ritual, their level of importance and meaning is defined by the individual. What do people do when rituals so integrated into their daily lives are disrupted or prevented altogether? What does that loss feel like? How difficult is it? And how do they choose to move on?