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Basement Sanctuaries

Apartment-hunting can be a stressful, annoying, frustrating and emotional experience. Even after you’ve secured your new home, and moved in, you may need to call on your superintendent (caretakers of multi-unit apartment buildings) to fix something that’s broken, or ask questions about the building or it’s tenants. But what do you really know about your superintendent? Many of them are immigrants, figuring out ways to survive life in a big city while remaining connected to their homeland. Gesche Würfel, an immigrant herself, came up with her project, “Basement Sanctuaries,” while apartment hunting in Northern Manhattan. Würfel says in a statement about the work, “supers often live in basements that are hidden from the public and from visitors, which creates a form of privacy. However, the basement is also a space of work for supers and their environment is on display for the residents of the building. Under these circumstances, the supers’ decorations function as a territorial claim over the basement’s public/private space.” Würfel received grants from the Northern Manhattan Arts Alliance and the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council to fund the work. The book, “Basement Sanctuaries” is now available through Schilt Publishing and a book signing takes place at Word Up bookstore in Washington Heights on May 31, 2014 from 4-6pm.

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