For three weeks last month, Greenpoint’s former convent of St. Cecilia was redressed with visuals, sound, and movement. The maze-like, four-story space brimmed with unusual new trappings at every turn, each of the rooms a universe of its own. Evenings in the chapel you might stumble upon silent films on Houdini and Wilhem Reich, live soundtracked by a group called Seance; a sewing circle; an empanada and tamale demonstration; or sound art by Doom Trumpet and the Magic Feelings.
The event, ECSTATIC, was the first public manifestation by the Round Robin Collective, a network of artists seeking better dialogue and communication among Brooklyn artists, and looking to consider new modes of distribution and exhibition.
Vaguely forming in August 2008, the Round Robins started as a monthly studio visitation group, coordinated by a group of college friends as a way to build relationships, exchange ideas, and push individual work forward during a period in which the Chelsea art market was crumbling. With the knowledge that Brooklyn was full of great artists, often working in isolation from one other, they took turns opening their studios and inviting anyone and everyone to attend and critique. After visiting several studios, an artist would then be asked to open their own. Over several months a core formed itself organically, though members continue to join and depart.
Looking to take the community further, and inspired by the art collectives of New York City’s past, like Colab and ACT UP, which also sprung out of waning art economies, the group decided to take exhibition into their own hands, and put together the ambitious Convent show on their own, without the help of gallerists, publicists, grants, or funds. They invited dozens of other Brooklyn-based filmmakers, visual artists, and interactive artists, added panels and demonstrations, and invited the public to attend, for free. This was not a group show in the traditional sense; nothing was explicitly for sale, nothing curated by anyone but the artists themselves. ECSTATIC expressed the feeling of creation, consideration, and production of community-supported art, and the blissful achievement of DIY.
The Robins will continue to act as a visitation/discourse group, with plans to hold huge shows like ECSTATIC, and plenty of exciting offshoots in the works, including bookmaking, radio, storefronts, and anything else they’re inspired to do. Joining the group is, as in most of life, a matter of showing up.
Text by Rachael Rakes, sent by Annaliese. Photos courtesy of Round Robin.