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State Orders Removal of Massive Sculpture from Williamsburg Waterfront

By Meredith Hoffman | November 21, 2013 2:44pm
 An sculpture of recycled objects and political messages appeared in East River State Park.
Sculpture in East River State Park
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WILLIAMSBURG — A mammoth sculpture made for a popular visual-arts performance festival must be removed from a waterfront park because it was installed without the state's approval, officials said.

The 50-foot-long collage of recycled materials called "Queen Mother of Reality" — part of social justice-focused Polish artist Pawel Althamer's work "raising issues around mothers facing eviction" for the Performa Biennial — was ordered removed Wednesday night from East River State Park, officials said.

The piece, in the shape of a reclining woman and includes recycled hats, barbed wire, an American flag and images of Trayvon Martin and Barack Obama, is labeled a "temporary shelter for the evicted mothers of NYC" and filled with politically charged signs, lanterns and bright rope.

A spokesman from the state Parks Department, which controls the waterfront green space, said the restaurant that hosted the sculpture had no right to grant the art approval. It is also reviewing the terms of the restaurant's lease.

"Currently a sculpture on display on this piece of property from 'Performa' does not have the proper permitting," spokesman Randy Simons said. "State Parks has ordered the sculpture to be removed until the proper permitting has been fully secured and final approval given.”

However, a Performa rep said that the sculpture was scheduled to be removed Thursday anyway, so the state's ruling would not it. Yellow "caution" tape surrounded the structure Thursday morning.

Biba's owner did not respond to emails and other requests for comment, but representatives from Performa insisted the sculpture had necessary approval.

"We had been working with Biba under the impression that we could construct on that space," Performa's spokeswoman Jessica Massart said. "We only recently received notice that a permit was necessary and, after learning this, submitted the appropriate application."

The sculpture has writings such as "Bye bye Bloom berg," "NYC minorities, working class evicted" and "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in the 21st century," which are all written on pieces of paper inside the sculpture.

The piece was meant to serve as "a companion to the Statue of Liberty, defining a new spirit of New York that watches over displaced people and offers shelter," taking inspiration from Harlem's Queen Mother, a woman who dedicated her life to service, read Performa's description of the work.