Presenting visual and performance art in unexpected public spaces.

AiOP 2014: FREE Sneak Peek! Jenny Polak “Lengua – Libertad”

Your name/collaborative or group name:  

Jenny Polak

The title of your project:

Lengua – Libertad


Lesson: immigrants in Little Village, Chicago explain in Spanish why it was necessary to stop a new for-profit detention center from being built in Crete, IL.  Photo courtesy of artist.


What does “FREE” mean to you?

Free gets negatively defined, especially in a society that incarcerates more than 2 million people, and one that seeks to put a price on every last thing. It’s unavoidable. In relation to my project for AIOP, I think about how languages are all around us in NY, to be exchanged/learnt by people just by talking to each other: people need these language skills: the freedom to talk to one another, to learn from other’s experience.

Analogous to the extensive work artists do for free.

Why is 14th Street a compelling site for creative response?   

The East end of 14th street is a seam between the small-scale tenements and public housing of Alphabet City, including Loisaida Avenue, and the much larger private residential blocks of Stuy Town. So I’m thinking of the site as a place of translation and interpretation, where a rooted Spanish-speaking working class community meets a perhaps more English-based middle class one – that visually turns its back on the street.

What reactions are you hoping to draw from the public?

I am uncertain: I hope people will try to teach me phrases in Spanish about freedom, freedom from detention in the US, freedom from deportation; and any onlookers will feel inspired to participate. I hope there will be an exchange about the treatment of migrants as low wage workers, in Spanish. Perhaps as we collect the phrases, passers by will see a way to contribute and will join in. This is what I hope.

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