On Tuesday afternoons, The Curator is showcasing an individual artist recognized for their unique voice, ideas and process. Once a month, a featured artist will be selected by Rebecca Locke, a New York City-based artist and curator, who develops collaborative and artist-led projects.
Konstantin Sergeyev’s practice explores subcultures and minorities. He looks for ways in which groups, consciously or unconsciously, assert their uniqueness and define difference in contrast to mainstream American culture.
No Knocking or Banging, Go Away! – A Portrait of C-Squat is Sergeyev’s ongoing work documenting one of the last remaining squats on New York City’s Lower East Side. The artist has photographed the building and the lives of its inhabitants over eight years, becoming accepted by the community in the process and allowed to live there for several months. His work is a glimpse inside a self-contained, insular community that functions within its own rules and culture. This series continues to document the changes to this community, particularly the transition of squatters becoming legal owners of their apartments. Approximately a dozen illegal NYC squats that survived the 80s and 90s (without burning down or eviction by the police) entered into a deal with the city to turn the buildings into low-cost co-ops.
A number of squats completed this process, but others such as C-Squat are still working towards this, still under pressure that the building might end up in a bank’s possession. C-Squat is considered to be the most radical of these squats, its residents punks and radicals (rather than the low-income residents of the many other squats and ex-squats); its basement serving as a performance space hosting underground punk shows. Sergeyev’s work explores how this now aging population is adjusting to this transition, to the changes and pressures that come with establishing legal residence, with paying bills and rent, and how this community – not used to paying rent for years – is adapting. To the artist, this project is about watching a squat enter into adulthood whilst still trying to keep its sense of rebellious, youthful identity. Through his work Sergeyev advocates for the squatters, for the absolute validity of the squat, where they have established home and community in this city.
Sergeyev’s work tells the stories of those fighting for their rights, standing up against police brutality, for the working class, for gender equality. His work, often depicting scenes in New York City, show marginalized people reclaiming symbols of this marginalization, appropriating them and using them to define themselves and to make their voices heard.
Konstantin Sergeyev was born in Odessa, Ukraine, and moved to New York City at the age of twelve. In his early teens he began photographing punk rock shows, and has gone on to document life on the road with touring bands, residents of punk houses and squats, and members of other subcultures and minority groups. He graduated from Hunter College of the City University of New York with a BA in Studio Art, with a concentration in Photography. His images have been published and exhibited in the US and internationally.
As an immigrant, Konstantin Sergeyev displays a fascination with American culture which he approaches as an outsider. His practice explores the personal and social dynamics of subcultures and minority groups and their relationship to mainstream culture. His approach is two-fold: he immerses himself in the cultures of his subjects in order to better understand the social microcosm that each group manifests, and at other times places himself as an observer in public actions, to see culture from the point of view of the public. Subcultures and minority groups bring to the surface the grievances each one has against society at large – state-sanctioned racist violence, an obsession with materialism, and attitudes toward sex – thus his work becomes a mirror to challenge the viewer. Sergeyev attempts to bring together the perspectives of these disparate groups to reveal the picture they collectively paint.