Have you ever been loath to leave that perfect parking spot right in front of your apartment? Maybe you’ve even considered accidentally-on-purpose dragging that blue recycling bin into the street to deter future parkers. Or maybe you are that person who, in very deliberate disregard of the law, pulls two orange cones from your trunk and plops them in the middle of the spot. You’re not alone. The practice of ‘space saving’ is not unknown in Philadelphia, nor is it a banal one. It is in fact a hotly contested issue in many neighborhoods, and a group of space savers are using art to air their opinions with The Space Savers Project. The pieces neither condone nor condemn the practice, but seek to create a dialogue about new concepts of spatial use.

The Space Savers Project opened Friday at the Breadboard’s EKG Exhibition Space at the Science Center (3600 Market Street), where it will be on display until February 5. A group of ten artists created their own interpretations of space saving objects, which range from practical to political to playful. Piper Brett’s efficient space saver is comprised of laser cut neon Plexiglas, which folds neatly for easy assembly and storage. In contrast, Thomas Buildmore displays a 48” x 48” custom-designed orange road sign (think: “Road Work Ahead”), which boldly proclaims the message: “Today was pretty awesome!!” This sign moves away from practicality and uses the previously passive parking space to “cannibalize the symbols and language of road construction,” and perhaps bring a few smiles to otherwise frustrated parking spot searchers.

A couple of the artists reach toward childhood in creating their space savers. Christopher P. McManus likens the tension-filled quest for a parking space to the deadly conflict over another highly desirable item: Air Jordans. Inspired by the crimes Air Jordans provoked, McManus fashioned a large paper-mâché Air Jordan as a simultaneous “visual joke” and “grim threat”: as silly or absurd as space saving may appear, it’s a real practice that brings real tensions to neighborhoods. The father-son team of Brent and Oscar Wahl channel the same vein of thought with “MINE.” Constructed primarily from Tinkertoys and decorated with glitter, the piece points out that the possessive nature of space saving can be childish, but the urge to claim something as your own can be felt at any age.

One socially conscious artist, Linda Yun, used this opportunity to create something beneficial to the feline inhabitants of the neighborhood: a shelter for stray cats, complete with food, blankets, and litter. “Move Along/Please Stay” is, however, only “seemingly-generous.” Despite its elaborate construction and positive message, the artist admits it is still a selfish space saver.

Despite the differences in the artwork, viewers are continually asked to consider the compelling and pertinent question of private vs. public. Though the idea of saving a public parking space is a bit ridiculous, is it really that absurd to want a space of your own, a space of stability in the ever shifting landscape of urban streets?

Angela McQuillan

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