What’s up with those teeth?
For the past few weeks, there have been odd dental-themed art installations seen outside of Nacho’s and on the scaffolding across from Carman on 114th Street. The remains of a former installation are visible on the east face of the scaffolding around the Law Library, and there are probably other locations that haven’t been called to my attention yet.
The pieces consist of protruding sets of faux human teeth, backed by plywood painted in washed out tones. Each piece has a separate and seemingly original poem or song lyric written in chalk: The one on Nacho’s is about huffing, and the one on the Butler scaffolding is about truck driving and singing. The teeth are apparently plaster dentist’s molds and they are fairly brittle. I have come to this conclusion because I broke off an incisor as I was investigating.
The artistic style of the tooth installations closely resembles that of the “Books Through Bars” dropoff box in Lerner Hall (which hasn’t been seen in a while). Books Through Bars is a charitable organization that collects books and gives them to America’s convicts so that they can be fashioned into knives. The New York City chapter of the organization is housed at ABC No Rio, a “center for art and activism on New York’s Lower East Side.” These guys love all kinds of guerrilla street art (some of it good, some of it bad) and this sort of thing
would be right up their alley. ABC No Rio’s building on Rivington Street used to host the weekly meetings for Books Though Bars, which have recently relocated to the New York City AIDS Housing Network headquarters. But the most prominent clue connecting ABC No Rio to the tooth art is a note on their website requesting that people bring their books to a drop off box that they have installed in none other than Columbia University’s Lerner Hall. The case isn’t airtight, but it’s the best one we have.
I tried calling and e-mailing ABC No Rio, but they never got back to me. I even offered to donate my copy of John Madden’s autobiography, Hey Wait a Minute: I Wrote a Book! to their program in exchange for an interview. When they didn’t respond, I destroyed the book out of spite.