Join us this weekend at the Visible Evidence conference! We’ll be speaking on August 13, at the day-long workshop at Hunter College : The City and the Expanded Documentary.
It will be a great day, and we’re looking forward to our panel, “The Urban Documentary, New Forms for New Cities” in which we’ll be talking about the new ways that our recent project, The Triangle Fire Open Archive, explores new ways to know the city and its history – through unconventional archives, visual urbanist approaches, and creative forms of participation. In particular, we’ll be talking about some of the newest objects and stories about the 1982 Chinatown garment workers strike (one of these, above) – and the way gathering these objects in the context of the 100th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire tells a complex story about the city.
We’re looking forward to a compelling conversation with chair Martin Lucas and our co-participants, Lise Gantheret and Samara Smith.
9:30 AM – 11:00 AM, August 13
WORKSHOP: “The Urban Documentary, New Forms for New Cities”
Hunter College, Dept. of Integrated Media Arts / 544 Hunter North Bldg / E 68th & Lexington Ave.
The urban documentary has taken new life formally and socially as concepts move away from origins in ‘single channel’ form to a broad variety of new lives in locative media contexts, including GPS triggered audio and video, web-based media from issue-based blogs, to games, to social mapping. Sometimes these are projects initiated by filmmakers, at other times, they are framed by architects, urban planners and organizers. What do these new practices look like? What is their justification? What happens to documentary notions on these new platforms where the boundaries between subject, maker and location shift? This workshop is designed as an introduction to some of these practices in a form useful both to makers and theorists.
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Get a preview of the exhibition
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Most New Yorkers know SPURA, but often, unless they’re Lower East Siders, they don’t know that they do. Many have walked through the LES along Delancey Street, noticing the parking lots on the south side of the street near the Williamsburg Bridge. Or, they’ve walked down Norfolk to Grand Street, noting the unevenness of development and an odd sense of unfinished-ness they can’t put their finger on.
This is SPURA, the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area. It is more than six square blocks that 42 years ago were subject to highly contested “slum clearance” – resulting in the displacement of many people – and an unfinished “renewal,” with few planned buildings actually built.
These decades-old events have resulted in one of the largest and longest-standing undeveloped city-owned plots of land. SPURA is at the center of Lower East Side debates on affordable housing, debates which have sometimes been painful and highly race- and class-based. There are passionate communities involved in the question of SPURA, communities which for 42 years have been unable to reach productive dialogue and negotiation.
Each year for the past three, I have taught a class called City Studio which takes a visual urbanist approach to SPURA. I teach students creative ethnographic, visual, archival, and community-based methods to understand and represent SPURA’s contested urban space.
My classes research in archives and with community members, take part in community planning processes, and work in partnership with our community collaborators, GOLES, Place Matters and the Pratt Center for Community Development. Finally, each year’s class creates and curates an exhibition to help envision the site’s past, present and future(s), and try in one small way to spark, and create space for, productive and peaceful dialogue on the area.
This week was a big one for SPURA itself and for my class.
Today saw City Studio 2010’s final critique (one project, “Framing SPURA”, above) – and it was one that bodes very well for our exhibition which will open at common room 2 in February 2011. Images from all of the projects in the final critique are here, on flickr.
This week, SPURA itself has been in the spotlight. The question of SPURA has been under consideration by Community Board 3 for the past few months, in fascinating conversations, and some heated debates since October about the possibilities for affordable housing on the site. This Monday saw the debates grow more heated – but led a step closer toward agreement, and, importantly, to the potential for a larger stake for affordability on the site. The next few months will be crucial for SPURA – and what its development means for those displaced from the site, for those living in the neighborhood, and for the city at large.
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