Such a pleasure to be interviewed about Contested City by public historian Prithi Kanakamedala for the Gotham Center for New York City History. Read an excerpt of our conversation below — or read the whole thing here.
Your name — Gabrielle Bendiner-Viani — is on the front cover as the author of Contested City (rightly so!) But the work is exquisite, because you weave the community’s voices of SPURA throughout the book. So that the community is not just being written about, but writing themselves into the work. I felt like I knew them all by the end of reading this. Can you tell me more about the process of writing this book — how you spoke to the many publics, the many communities that your work engages with?
Some of this depth comes from the way the book emerged from “Layered SPURA”, a five-year collaborative project that I created with local community activists and my students through five years of my “City Studio” class at the New School. That project created five annual community-based exhibitions, tours, and events about SPURA as a place with a people’s history. This work meant that before I ever knew it was a book, the project incorporated and learned from a great many diverse community and public voices. And the many years of commitment meant that there was a lot of time for nuance, observing, listening, trust-building.