One-Room Apartment Over Plumbing Store


Location South Park Slope

Rent $775/mo. (market)

Square feet 600

Occupants Dennis Ver Meulen (installation designer, Exit Art; architecture student, Columbia); Maria-Christina Villaseñor (associate curator, film and media arts, Guggenheim Museum)

There are no cafés on this part of Fifth, just pizza places. [Dennis] We’re glad.

It is always the gentrifiers who don’t want the gentrification. We’re not gentrifiers because we’re poor.

You just finished building a milky white, translucent wall to divide the sleeping area from the rest of this long, long room. We made it out of [mumble, mumble].

Did you say Europlast? Coroplast.

I thought Europlast would be something everyone in Berlin was using. No, it’s from a plastic store, only $12 for a four-by-eight sheet, much less messy than Sheetrock. [Maria] It’s this nice, white, dreamy thing. It changes color all the time depending on what’s on the other side.

Originally I came here because I wanted to write about film and space, and since Maria curated an Italian film program with a lot of Antonioni movies, I thought, how perfect! Then I read this essay on Antonioni in Architecture and Film—Antonioni studied architecture, by the way—about how his cinematic spaces and rooms “stalk” the viewer, and then I read how Gilberto Perez said Antonioni is a master of unresolved absence . . . [Dennis] With all that reading, you didn’t have to come here.

I did anyway! Now, I was just at the oh-so-sophisticated film festival in Buenos Aires and architecturally Buenos Aires is so . . . Like a city that wanted to be this grand European city but they didn’t have the money to build it. I mean, that big obelisk, the facing is peeling—it’s a stage prop, pomposity made out of cardboard . . .

That’s a terrible thing to say. Buenos Aires is the nicest city in the whole world, and I bet the people there wouldn’t think Park Slope was so special . . . [Maria] I love the cemetery in the Recoleta where Eva Perón is buried. The mausoleums are little houses.

So ancient with moss, crumbling stone, but when you look inside, there is no depth, just a few feet. They’re pretend houses, well, because the room is taken up by death, the coffin. And there’s no light inside. Which brings up another topic. People spend so much time thinking about furniture, all those opaque objects that just kind of sit there in a room, but it’s really light that makes a space exist or not. [Dennis] Good lighting costs a lot of money. Most people don’t have the time or the money. So we put in daylight lamps.

When-you’re-sad-in-the-winter lights? Full-spectrum bulbs. Winter in New York is hard.

Winter’s great. It’s spring that’s horrible. All that stupid yellow light. [Maria] That’s what bugged me growing up in California—it’s so in-your-face sunlight forcing you to be in a certain mood. I like the contrast of light and dark. I’ve always worked in film archives where your office is a bunker. I came to New York in ’92. Dennis came in ’90. I found this apartment, Dennis moved in two months ago. [Dennis] I grew up near Ithaca—Trumansburg, named after Abner Treman, it was a typo. He was one of those Revolutionary War people who was given freedom to exploit land upstate in exchange for service to the country. He was wandering around in a snowstorm up there and got frostbite. His foot was amputated. That’s where he stopped walking and built a house. That’s where I grew up, oldest house in town. It was not a big beautiful house. The ceilings were very, very low. All the doorways were six feet. I’m six feet six. The day I knew I was over six feet was when I ran downstairs and whacked my head on the door frame and I was knocked out cold.

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