New York City plays host to a particularly overwhelming form of gentrification. It's constant and relentless, meaning buildings — even historic ones — can vanish and be replaced with luxury high rises before you ever realized they were there. Artist Justin Blinder captures that in his new art project Vacated, a series of GIFs created with images collected from Google Street View that shows the changing landscape of the five boroughs, forcing the viewer to question the less-than-invisible forces that bring about those changes.
"Vacated presents a sort of physical façade of gentrification."
Blinder's series was done for Envision New York 2017, a web-based art project that shows New York artists' ideas about life, art, and politics in the city. For each GIF in Vacated, Blinder used the NYC Department of City Planning's PLUTO dataset to find buildings built in the last four years throughout the city. The pieces transition from empty spaces or rundown corners to condos or construction areas and back again almost instantaneously, in a way that's pretty visually arresting. According to Blinder, "Vacated mines and combines different datasets on vacant lots to present a sort of physical façade of gentrification, one that immediately prompts questions by virtue of its incompleteness."
However, there is an activist component to Blinder's work. In an interview with more art, the artist stated, "In just these past few years, I’ve visually witnessed accelerating gentrification – the sort that only accompanies widening wealth inequalities in the midst of a great recession or economic crisis. Since moving to New York, I’ve lived in 12 different apartments throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn in just the past half decade. Most of my relocations were initiated by rent increases." Knowing this, it's becomes obvious in each image that it's more than spaces that change with each new development. It's also whole demographics of people being vacated.