Lower East Class

Ash Tayer est une photographe et « artiste multimédia » basée à Los Angeles. Dans les années 90, elle traînait ses guêtres dans les rues du Lower East Side. Elle en a compilé un tas de photos regroupées sous le projet This Land, un témoignage vivant et vécu de la vie des squatteurs de Manhattan avant que la Grosse Pomme ne finisse par se transformer en musée. Installée avec eux, elle documente ce mode de vie alternatif au fil de leurs actions, en gardant en permanence la PMA. Vingt ans plus tard, elle a recomposé la bande-son de cette époque, où se bousculent aussi bien Nirvana, Minor Threat que Judas Priest. Ash Tayer cherche actuellement un éditeur pour publier ces photos (et aussi une galerie à Paris pour les exposer). Allez jeter un oeil directement sur son site : ashtayer.net



Music and Text for Ash Thayer’s squatter photos:

Fly Sitting On A Ladder
1993, 7th Street Squat
“Roadrunner” Modern Lovers

Fly is one of the most devoted homesteaders and artists that I’ve had the pleasure to call friend. She helped me get these images published for the first time. Her activism and art are one in the same, and she has documented and made art about the punk-squatting community for the past 20 plus years. She is the Mother Theresa of squatters, in my opinion. A very positive, energetic, beautiful, creative soul.

Beer Olympics I
1994, Williamsburg
“Salad Days” Minor Threat

Inside the lot where the Beer Olympics took place that year. Minor Threat was one of my favorite bands and really reflected the tone of the punk culture I enjoyed.  They summed up the demand by youths to be respected as independent individuals with their own politics and values.

Jumping the Fence
1994, 9th Street and Ave. C
“Holiday In Cambodia” Dead Kennedys

This was after the Beer Olympics. We were locked out of the park, so…anyway, the police came and arrested some of the kids for disorderly behavior. Jello Biafra’s lyrics in this song is alive with righteous anger and criticism towards America’s political involvement in other countries. This attitude of defiance towards a government that did not seem to be reflecting the values and needs of its citizens carried over into acts of prankster-ism and culture-jamming.

1994 5th Street Squat
“Bata Motel” Crass

I loved the androgynous look (for women) that we rocked in the late 80s and 90s. There was an unspoken agreement with other women that you didn’t participate in mainstream culture’s definitions of what was beautiful or feminine. Your character and behavior defined you, not as much how you looked. This was Jen. She was strong and beautiful with no makeup, wearing a work uniform and boots. The lyrics to “Bata Motel” was my feminist anthem at the time, and summed up my thoughts on some of these issues.

Blue Room
1994, 5th Street Squat
“Ether” Gang Of Four

1994 Jason’s room had really old layers of heavily saturated green and blue paint that reminded me of 16th century Venetian paintings. I felt these old buildings were characters themselves, with rich and layered histories. Each one drew a group of residents that took on their own specific “flavor” and characteristics.
I just loved British punk and Ska music, and Jason had a classic Brit punk look.

Meggin and Jill
1994, 5th Street
Judas Priest “Living After Midnight”

We loved the men, but us girls were thick as thieves together. Judas Priest was one of the more masculine 70’s rocker bands that I liked, and I had to chose them since Meggin is wearing a JP t-shirt!

Four Square and Fire Hydrant
1995, 5th Street Squat
“Fearless Vampire Killers” Bad Brains

We had a sensational lifestyle, but at the end of the day we did the chores and enjoyed playing four-square.  Underlying everything was a serious drive to live as dissenters of the capitalistic, Darwinian culture that seemed to neglect the poor and thrive on corporate greed and exploitation. FVK by Bad Brains shamelessly expressed this spirit.

Serenity Prayer Pillow
1995, C Squat
“Waiting Room” Fugazi

This is April in her apartment at C Squat. She had been through some rough times, having lost the lower part of one leg in an accident. She was an incredibly kind and sweet woman and always up for an adventure. One night we piled in a cab with a lot of other people coming home from a party in Brooklyn. I asked the driver to let me drive up back over the bridge and for some unknown reason, he said yes. We went really fast and were yelling and hollering the whole time.
Fugazi was another of my favorite bands during this decade. They rocked really hard but were still poetic in this edgy masculine way. Loved them.

Dance Party With Neil Diamond
1996, C Squat
 “Ace of Spades” Motorhead

The parties we had were creatively wild, sometimes were taken into the streets, and frequently ended in metal jams (groups of us banging on metal) and beer elf-ing (marking on whoever passed out first). I have no idea who we were listening to here, but Ace of Spades seems about right.

9th Street Lot
“Barracuda” Heart

This is a photo of Laura and her dog sitting in the lot across the street from Serenity House. Some of the other squatters had made odd sculptural arrangements out of the garbage.
I feel bad that I’m not mentioning more female bands from this era, but I am honestly listing what I was listening to at the time, and choosing songs evoked for me with each image. Heart was epic and stood with Pat Benatar and Joan Jett in my mind of top kick-ass female musicians.

Methadone Poster
1997, Serenity House
“This Hope” Die Kreuzen

This is Skwert, chillin’ in his apartment that he worked very hard on to make so nice. He was a great guy to live in the same building with. He was in the band Choking Victim and The Dregs and was/is a great musician.

Towers II
1998, Serenity House
“Dumb” Nirvana

Mattie taking a smoke break on a work day. The view looks towards downtown from the roof of Serenity House. At that time, there were abandoned buildings and empty lots speckling the Lower East Side.
I saw Nirvana in Memphis when they were opening for Sonic Youth at a small venue, “The Daisy.” It was my first real concert and I fell in love with both of those bands that night.

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