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Shanzhai Lyric — Canal Street Research Association: Reserve
For decades Lower East Side trash artist and gleaner Rolando Politi has been a proponent of a local alternative currency, Kap Kurrency, made of found bottle caps. Since June, 2022, Politi’s cap receptacle — a vessel he calls “CROSS EYE CHARLIE” — has been available for visitors to deposit their found plastic bottle caps, which then enter into the Bank of Garbagia’s reserve.
Inspired by Politi, Canal Street Research Association presents an ongoing reserve of bottle caps for Kap Kurrency. Gathered and draped like strings of fruit or beads, the installation references the market as a site of both exchange and decoration. The plastic bottle cap, frequently used and discarded with wanton disregard, is here saved up as an object of beauty that accrues value. With this gesture, the project critiques the monetary systems that govern our lives — and which so often lead to the hoarding, rather than sharing, of resources.
Amidst rising inflation that destabilizes purchasing power, and in a city where so few can afford to get by, Canal Street Research Association investigates alternative systems of monetary exchange: who they serve, how they are implemented, and how we might develop one for New York City.
Shanzhai Lyric is a poetic research unit whose fictional office Canal Street Research Association investigates the rich social and cultural history of Canal Street as a complex thoroughfare of waste and overflow. Their research focuses on counterfeit objects and practices as a lens through which to deconstruct commonly held ideas of property, ownership, and authenticity. While continuing to experience and research the ongoing cycles of development that use artists in beautification efforts only to displace them with higher paying tenants, Canal Street Research Association is currently pursuing subterranean research in the basement of 351 Canal Street.
In tandem with their Window project, during the this year’s NY Art Book Fair, Shanzhai Lyric reprises Çanal Street Researçh Assoçiation, their ongoing homage to the legacy of artists experimenting in retail. The shop takes cues from local retail experiments including Wooster Enterprises, Godzilla’s Curio Shop, Fluxshop — which once stood at 359 Canal Street — and the short-lived Fluxus outpost La Cédilla qui Sourit, or The Cedilla That Smiles, which famously never managed to sell a single item. Named for the transformational grapheme that changes a hard “c” into a soft one, a cedilla looks like an upside down question mark. Çanal Street Researçh Assoçiation will have on offer an assortment of real and bootleg works.
Shanzhai Lyric, Canal Street Research Association: Reserve (2022). Photo by Day Sinclair.