We learned a lot about the James A. Farley Post Office on our visit to the opening of Storefront for Art and Architecture’s installation by Katarzyna Krakowaik, “The great and the secret show / the look out gallery.” First, the exhibit name became clear. The sound installation takes place in a former police corridor just above the service counters in the main hall. “The lookout gallery,” a name dubbed by the workers, is actually an extensive system of secret corridors that connected thousands of rooms in the old Post Office, with small eyeholes for postal policemen to control the working environment through an analog CCTV.
The prerecorded sounds of doors closing, cards being thrown away, postcards being stamped and other current and prior Post Office activities raises “questions of labor, public service, and hierarchy in one of the most visited urban spaces of years past” as the Storefront’s website describes.
Ultimately the installation questions the role of the post office, built for 16,000 workers, in the digital age when less than 200 workers occupy the space in the busiest hours. With the definite transformation of this space into Moynihan Station and the potential reinvigoration of Penn Station, it is a timely piece to investigate the city’s aging, yet iconic urban infrastructure.
The exhibit will be on through November 17th. The corridors are open from 12-6pm, but the sounds from the installation can be heard in the main hall 24 hours per day. Krakowaik has been giving personal walk-throughs today. Scroll down for additional photographs:
You can see glimpses of the main hall from the police corridor: