April 24, 2010

Respite: On the Grounds of St. Mark's Church in-the-Bowery

Strolling along Stuyvesant Street to the grounds of St. Mark's Church in-the-Bowery at its intersection with E. 10th Street and 2nd Avenue connects the walker in the city to those who passed this way a long time ago, the inhabitants of Dutch New York. This land once belonged to Pieter Stuyvesant, the Governor of New Amsterdam, who purchased the farm (or bowery) from the Dutch East India Company in 1661. The Second Dutch Reformed Church stood once here where the current church stands. The 17th century Dutch would not have been familiar with the term for the present neighborhood - the "East Village," that name only coming into prominence in the 1960s.

in the west garden. back of the statue of Daniel Tompkins

Pieter's great grandson, Petrus Stuyvesant, donated the land to the Episcopal Church in 1793, with the stipulation that a new chapel should be erected here. Daniel Tompkins, the fourth Governor of New York and U.S. Vice-President under James Monroe, is interred on the grounds along with other members of the church. The street itself once functioned as the pathway to the farm, and though it was subsequently lined with trees and lovely townhouses from a later era, its irregular movement within a surrounding grid serves as a reminder that sometimes it's nice to keep with older geometries.

dappled sunlight at the gate to the grounds
I've taken to walking these grounds following screenings for the Tribeca Film Festival screenings, at least the ones taking place at the Village East Cinemas in the next block north, to muse over their meanings. A documentary on experimental cinema, as well as a program of experimental shorts, required perambulating meditation and thought, the sort of walking back and forth in Nature or on sacred ground - hands clutched in the back and head down - favored by Romantic Poets. One of the short films, made with pulsating light, made my head hurt so much that I very much longed to rest with the dead. I also saw a documentary about Joan Rivers, who is very much alive, but this is where I came to think about her life, her anger, and her origins in Brooklyn.

we can thank the Dutch also for their tulips

Reflecting on experimental cinema and the American avant-garde is not such a stretch here, given the church's importance in the past and present alternative New York culture. Allen Ginsburg once participated in the church's Poetry Project, Martha Graham and Isadora Duncan danced here, and Richard Foremon found a home in these walls for his experimental theater. In 1965 a group of experimental filmmakers met weekly to share their work. While The Poetry Project and Danspace Project continue to operate on these premises, Foreman's Ontological-Hysteric Theater has recently announced it will leave the St. Mark's space in June to concentrate on film and video projects.

family vault from the early 19th century. people haven't been buried in Manhattan in over 150 years. the State Rural Cemetery Act of 1847 banned new burials in the city, resulting in enormous cemeteries in Queens. Just thought you should know this.
It's impossible to know whether or not Peter Stuyvesant is bothered by experimental artists dancing on his grave.

Stuyvesant contemplating life and the avant-garde on 2nd Avenue and E. 10th St.
The documentary about experimental cinema screening at Tribeca, Visionaries by Chuck Workman, is good. The movie, Joan Rivers - A Piece of Work, by  Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg, is kind of wonderful. I still have to write the reviews.

Images by Walking Off the Big Apple, April 23, 2010. Images created with the Hipstamatic app (John S lens, Float film) for the iPhone to give it that verdant washed-out look.

3 comments:

Tinky said...

These images are spectacular, Teri--they look like the south rather than like New York City, so lush! I love to think of you mulling over films in this environment...

Cleiton José said...

Very good, I learn English with your blog. Thanks.

Teri Tynes said...

Hi. You are welcome. I'll try to be more careful with my grammar and spelling.