Dezeen Magazine

The Worlds UnFair by New Red Order

Animatronic beaver among New York installations focused on decolonization

New Red Order has opened an exhibition in an empty lot in Queens that invites visitors to become "accomplices" in decolonization through a series of installations.

The World's UnFair exhibition contains sculptures, signage, audio and video installations and animatronics dispersed throughout an undeveloped site located next to the borough's elevated train tracks.

A large animatronic beaver and tree
New Red Order has created several installations in Queens that invite guests to engage in decolonization

New Red Order, which styles itself as a "public secret society", centred the multimedia installations around calls to return ancestral lands to Indigenous peoples and for guests to engage in the process of decolonization.

"In its most conservative sense, decolonization is a reversal of roles – and we're not here for that bag," said New Red Order (NRO). "The other end of the spectrum presents more liberatory pathways of borderless, property-less, nation-less imaginings."

"It's not about kicking everyone out of what's currently called America – it's about forging new forms of kinship and reciprocity that are centred on the land, and its original inhabitants while calling everyone into that process. You can have a place. But first things first: Give it Back."

An animatronic tree and beaver, called Dexter and Sinister, crafted by puppet creator Axtell Expressions and local fabricators The Factory NYC were installed at the centre of the fair.

A canopy welcoming visitors to the Worlds UnFair
It contains multimedia installations centred around returning land to Indigenous peoples

Placed on a stump, the oversized beaver measures five feet (1.5 metres) in height and was outfitted with fur, large digitized eyes, clawed paws and a slightly open mouth with large beaver teeth.

"The beaver is the animal, besides humans, that perhaps most profoundly alters its environment, and which early settlers saw as a means to capital and property, including New York's pioneer fur trade dealer turned early real estate mogul John Jay Astor," said the team.

Posters on a construction wall
Large animatronics and satirical construction signage fill the site

The beaver's head swivels to engage with the adjacent tree, a sixteen-foot-tall sculpture modelled after the "wise old tree" archetype.

A human-like face was placed at the centre of the trunk, which runs into a series of exposed roots. Three LED TVs, a cellular tower and a satellite dish were installed in the branches of the tree.

A real estate sign branded with New Red Order
The animatronics engage in conversation about land ownership

Through an audio loop, the two animatronics engaged in a discussion about land and "the origins of private property".

Above, the screens played a video installation featuring a group of elected officials, non-profit leaders and others who have voluntarily given land back to Indigenous peoples.

Nearby, the Fort Freedumb sculpture features an additional film installation mounted within a cheval-de-frise and encircled by a white picket fence and pointed logs.

"These boundary-making materials signal their use to both forcibly establish property lines and to reject them," said the team.

Sinage pointing towards Indigenous lands
Signage further calls to give land back to Indigenous people

Spread throughout the grounds, satiric signs modelled on traditional development signage like construction fence notices referenced land ownership and gentrification, replacing standard copy with calls to action.

A central fair booth acted as a recruitment installation for visitors to enroll in direct action steps to further fight for Indigenous sovereignty.

"Through disarming humour, NRO plays with the desire to consume and co-opt indigeneity, not to call you out but to call all of us into their movement," said curator Diya Vij of Creative Time, which organised the event.

"If you answer the call, you will enter a transformative process, simultaneously world-breaking and world-making, that insists on the expansion of Indigenous futures."

New Red Order is facilitated by artist Jackson Polys and filmmakers Adam Khalil and Zack Khalil. The collective was also involved in the Counterpublic public art festival in St Louis, where it installed a billboard above a repatriated site.

The photography is by Cesarin Mateo. 

The World's Unfair is on show in Long Island City, Queens from 15 September to 15 October 2023. For more exhibitions, events and talks in architecture and design, visit Dezeen Events Guide.

More images

A large animatronic beaver and tree
A large animatronic beaver and tree
A fence with cut out columns affixed to it