Interior of Antena Books / Libros Antena, photos by Allyn West unless noted
Antena Books / Libros Antena is John Pluecker’s installation open now at Project Row Houses through June 24. Inside, unfinished bookshelves teeter against the walls, where multilingual titles, translations, and experimental writing from small presses in the U.S. and Latin America are available for purchase and perusal. The walls are bare, save for two hanging T-shirts with the face of Trayvon Martin and a few penciled-in poems — a passage from Longfellow and a fragment of verse in Spanish. A reading couch slumps in the corner, draped in baggy fabric, near a computer programmed to create Oulipo-esque etrecissements, or cut-ups, of Shakespeare. Two vintage typewriters—bought for $5—are ready for anyone to come in and bang out something in whatever language she feels like using. Described as a “pop-up bookstore” and “a literary experimentation lab,” Antena Books / Libros Antena functions as both of these things. Though it seems to function best as a symbol.
“The A/C is on the fritz,” Pluecker warns me as I come in. He and his collaborator, Jen Hofer, are sewing on covers for a new anthology, En las maravillas / In Wonder. The row house reminds you of what it must have been like (and how it still is for some) to live in Houston without refrigerated air. Ten minutes go by, and I’m sweating, my jeans sticking to my knees, and I’m starting to smell. This space makes me think that this is good; I’ve been taken out of my comfort zone.
Picture from What We See blog showing a participant in "Jane's Walk," where Toronto students donned Jacobs-styled spectacles and were asked guiding questions to engage their senses about their neighborhood
We cannot always see for ourselves how the world is changing.
Jane Jacobs, the most important urban theorist this country has known, published her first book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, in 1961 to challenge the restrictions, the assumptions — the prejudices, really — that had for decades determined who would live where, and why. If the city would shape how the country changed, Jacobs argued, then we had the obligation to shape our cities better.