The Market Hotel Diaries: Artifacts From a Bushwick Art Squat

11.05.13 Sophie Weiner

A few years ago, it seemed like anyone into live music in Brooklyn had heard of Market Hotel. Someone’s friend was always bragging about seeing Sleigh Bells or Beach Fossils there long before they were playing to bridge and tunnel kids at Terminal 5 and every other band that played there would go on to get big. Fewer knew that after Market Hotel was officially shut down, musicians, artists, writers and random kids called the ex-DIY venue home for a few weeks or even years.

After DIY mogul Todd P received a $100,000 grant to renovate and reopen the place earlier this year, all of these tenants had to vacate. Jenna Graham rented a spot at Market Hotel from January of 2012 until the eviction in June of 2013 and she took it upon herself to document it in The Market Hotel Diaries.

The diaries are split among two Tumblrs — crowdsourced disposable camera photographs and scanned doodles from the dining room table of the Market Hotel loft apartment.

Jenna would place cameras around the space with notes taped to them telling people to take a photo when they felt the time was right. “I’d put out about 5 cameras at a time. I’m sure a few were lost…never to be seen again,” Jenna tells ANIMAL.

The resulting photos have a timeless quality to them, like they could have come from an equivalent art-squat in any time or place in the last forty years. That was one of the special things about post-shutdown Market – it felt both ephemeral and universal. No one could tell how long they had there. It was surprising the space was allowed to exist at all in an era of rapid gentrification, sterile flash-monetization of all real estate and strategic police crackdown, as established DIY venues like Silent Barn and Monster Island Basement were relocated and shut down left and right.

Jenna knew someone needed to document the space immediately. “I started collecting the drawings pretty shortly after moving in, within a few weeks or so. I started planting the cameras a month or so after that,” she says. “I love the people there so much and didn’t want our time together to be lost. Cute, right? In some sense, the collection of photos and drawings feels like a family photo album or yearbook or something.”

A few of the photos feature members of bands like Royal Baths, Diiv, Lodro and Baby Birds Don’t Drink Milk, many of whom lived in the space. “The amount of creative content that came out of that place was astonishing and the people that created it treated the work like it was nothing,” Jenna says. “Artwork was constantly being thrown out. The most incredible jam sessions on the daily were just treated as playtime. If I could go back and do it all over again, I would have put more effort into recording those sessions, but it’s just such a motherfucker setting up a rig.”

The illustration Tumblr features everything from drunk doodles on napkins and cab receipts to entire comic strips across several pages, their origins mostly unknown.

“I’d wake up and come downstairs and there would be drawings amongst all the crap on the kitchen table. I started grabbing them daily once I realized that they would end up getting spilled on or on the floor really dirty and then thrown away.”

The apartment at Market featured such amenities as a “washing machine that was held together by ropes with a Roger Daltrey mask taped to the front whose eyes would jiggle” when it ran and a solid steel guillotine, which is still apparently up for grabs.

“It was left by Death Grips after a show way back in the day,” Jenna says. “It was pure steel. I mean, heavy as fuck. When we moved out we were supposed to get it out of there but it was too big. I tried posting a craigslist ad but it was flagged, so I didn’t get many responses. If you know of anyone who wants it, I think it is still there. I want to be sure it goes to a good home. I’d like it to be used.”

(Images: The Market Hotel Diaries/Tumblr)