It might be reaching to call “Gentrifiers Anonymous” an art project, but that is how the creators style their work. What the project appears more to be is a satiric Alcoholics Anonymous-style group event where those with gentrifiers’ guilt can gather congratulate themselves on being self-aware.
In theory and in motive, “Gentrifiers Anonymous” appears to be good work. It is a meeting template geared to make attendees recognize their own complicity in gentrification, which more often damages neighborhoods than “improves” them.
Mildred Beltre, half of the Brooklyn High-Art Machine team and co-creator of GA, begins each session in a garden apartment with the rules – answers need to be short, will be recorded, and should be free of excuses. She then sets her phone to give an alarm every two minutes, and kicks things off as she means them to continue.
“Hi, everyone. I’m Mildred, and I’m a gentrifier.”
Her brief anecdote is about how she once attended a tenants meeting in a new place only to discover that the meeting was about keeping out people exactly like her, people who came into apartments that previous, long-term tenants had just been priced out of.
Along with the pre-scripted but true testimony of the event’s organizers, attendees are guided by a brief pamphlet titled You Discovered Nothing which illustrates a 12-step process of how to integrate into a new neighborhood without seeking to replace the previous environment. Steps include advice to meet all your neighbors, not just those like you, and to help hold landlords responsible for ethical renting.
So again, is this art? Strictly speaking, probably not. But it is a collaborative performance intended to provoke thought and change, which is the best motive behind art. Cynically, it’s unlikely this will reach most attendees in the way the creators hope. But there will always be a few touched, and that is a difference.