I know next to nothing about Elon Musk and work hard to keep it that way. So if someone were to say to me, "Have you heard that the eccentric billionaire has set up shop on Rivington Street, built himself a tiny little tech hub from which he will preside over the digging of a tunnel to connect the city's trendier spots?" then I would eye them suspiciously and shrink slowly away. I would not blame you for doing the same now, but should you find yourself in the aforementioned social scenario, know that the "Hypeloop" is a hoax. At least as it pertains to NYC in this moment of time.
From now until the end of January, local artist Adrian Wilson's latest installation will occupy 106 Rivington Street. On the top floor, Wilson created an office space that looks generic except for the plastic curtain cordoning off a gaping construction zone. Otherwise, the decorative scheme is pretty straightforward: A messy desk stationed opposite an informal living room area. Above the desk hangs a golden shovel and a sign that reads, "The Boring New York Company."
If you, like me, endeavor to live life as unburdened by Musk News as possible, then you may be unaware of the tech titan's plan to bore tunnels under Los Angeles. He seems to have conceived the endeavor somewhat flippantly—as a solution to shoddy infrastructure—but is now treating it as a real thing. The tunnels would house Musk's "ultra high-speed underground public transportation system," a.k.a. the Hyperloop, and have the benefit of being "weatherproof, out of sight," and not falling out of the sky like his option B, flying cars, could. All of that sounds like nonsense to me—obviously, my dude has never ridden the L train—but Musk being Musk, he had a website and a project leader for his Boring Company ("Boring, it's what we do") lined up a few days after his lightbulb moment struck.
This is precisely the kind of unchecked "we can so we should" tech industry thinking that galls Wilson. "I am sick to death of listening to people talk about digital start ups which add little to our lives, but which seem to raise millions of dollars and result in the gentrification of neighborhoods," he tells Gothamist, nodding to the Lower East Side as an example. "Long-term residents, community stores and struggling artists are pushed out, replaced by private members' clubs and people who are so self important and unaware of the real world."
In Wilson's eyes, that camp includes Musk, but also people like Jeff Bezos, who will receive a cool $3 billion in tax breaks for choosing Long Island City as the spot for one half of his hugely disruptive satellite office. Critics of the deal anticipate that the influx of highly paid workers would drive up the cost of Queens housing at rates untenable for current residents, and that our dilapidated public transit system simply can't handle the strain.
"Why not team up two billionaires and create a unicorn company that is, as Musk calls it, 'Boring'?" Wilson explains. Then, throw in a little L train shutdown action ("to draw the Brooklyn millennials into the ultimate fake new start up"), and you've got yourself a really hot piece of social commentary: "A 'Hypeloop' that runs from the Lower East Side, right by Soho House, to Williamsburg, to Long Island City, and back to the LES."
"What a dream concept Cuomo would salivate over and millions would be pumped into," Wilson says of his project: "The ultimate unicorn." There's even a mass grave out back, "which symbolically marks the death of the local creative community due to the epidemic of gentrification," he notes.
Wilson's friend loaned him the space, and he plans to occupy it through January. The installation isn't open to the public, and if you want to visit it, you'll have to sign a waiver and an NDA, he says. Wilson wants the work to start a public conversation about the palpable value art contributes to the city—along with the Boring deck, there's a free gallery space showcasing local artists, a performance art space, and a cellphone-free zone. Artists "do something real and beneficial. We add to the city we love, adding color and variety and humanity to this big concrete ATM we call New York," he says. "Change is good, but there should also be room for people who make things. Real things. With their hands, not using an app."
Aside from making that point, though, Wilson is also hoping for a moment of viral fame, and best case scenario, "A Twitter spat with Elon."