I’ve visited my share of manholes as a working diver, but never have I ever found one that looks like these:
Milan artist Biancoshock has transformed several of Milan’s abandoned manholes and other underground space into purposeful artistic installations. This is exactly the type of industrial art and experimentation that we need a whole lot more of as we consider how to be better users of space. Here on Earth, we’re congested, and tend to build up (where more and bigger is better), but there are those of us who would gladly take steps off the grid and into the abandoned voids of yesterday. Once urban space is created, it can be repurposed almost indefinitely. It makes little to no sense to abandon one space to create another at great expense when it’s not really needed. Consider the hermit crab – he trades up a shell size and leaves the last one for the next little guy. He doesn’t go on a condominium development spree.
This is one of the many reasons I love Providence. There are many abandoned mill and industrial buildings where the industries have all but left, so the arts community has moved in to create something even more important in its place – a center for social and cultural development that can continue to grow and eventually move its tenants on to larger shells and make way for the new ones.
Biancoshock’s installations remind me of the local work by artist Michael Townsend, who is perhaps best known for his year plus long living experiment within the Providence Place Mall. This took place during my time living within the City, and I found it fascinating. In fact, Townsend’s experiment largely inspired my deeper fascination with how to create and manage space [in the context of exploiting such within the ocean environment].
My take home is that there are voids within our community and culture that have not yet been filled. Some of these are physical spaces, others are sociological spaces. Better understanding these helps us manage what we have immediate control over, and most certainly more deeply appreciate how our every action and reaction within these spaces impacts the world around us.
The next time I look through a manhole, I hope it will be at a tiled shower. Chances are however that it will just be another river of $#!T that needs one of us to suit up and get the job done. Even in that however, there is an artful interpretation of this underworld that keeps us smiling and charting forward to a better tomorrow.