_place_plateau, 2015 site-specific installation Hown’s Den Gallery Kansas City, MO.
Being invited to do a show at the Hown’s Den provided me with the opportunity to think about the situation of its exhibition – the places we live. Houses both as architectural forms and lived experiences are texts themselves – in most cases standing longer than the lifespan of any single occupant and having histories written on/in them by both their inhabitants and communities. Exhibiting at the Hown’s Den was an opportunity both to reflect on my own history of habitation and to investigate the histories of the neighborhood in which the exhibition was taking place – to reach out and come to some understanding of this place – Troost Plateau/5624 Lydia St./Crystal, Bobby and Elliot’s house – and to incorporate what I learned into a series of site-specific projections that investigate history, memory and place.
It was fortuitous that this work took place in a neighborhood with such an activist history of organizing to resist destructive housing campaigns and the resulting racial division created along Troost Avenue. The 49/63 Neighborhood Coalition whose work is highlighted in some of the conversations presented in the exhibit has been unusually successful in fending off predatory real estate investors and creating and valuing a diverse neighborhood by taking their neighborhood into their own hands. Its mission was to “create a nonexploitive real estate market” and to sustain a multiracial neighborhood where people, regardless of race or color, can find satisfying conditions.”” I wanted to meet the people who were continuing those efforts in the neighborhood and find out how they thought about this place where they live.
I condensed my interviews and impressions into a loose script of conversations and activities that might have happened in the very space where we stand today. While looking at the historical materials narratives emerged – the children in the 1940s tax survey photos for example become the characters in game projection, and names of residents of the neighborhood become the names of the characters in the script. It’s all coincidence, observation and projection. The thing about local, small close histories (which is of course in some sense what all histories are) is that they’re extremely fragile and evaporate easily. By interviewing and working with members of the neighborhood coalition, Crystal and Bobby’s landlord, longtime residents, materials from the state archive and my own history I’ve created an imaginary history for this house rendered with video and sound and adding objects to the domestic space as anchors around which the events unfold.
I wanted to create portals – windows into the possible worlds and histories of this place. Houses hold memories – what these are and how we remember them are variable and impacted by storytelling, documentation and time. For example this house was built the same year that Walt Disney founded Laugh-O-Gram in Kansas City – the same year that King Tut’s Tomb was discovered and women won the right to vote.
With _place _plateau I hope to create glimpses into manufactured memories – mapping new half-truths onto the architecture of the house itself to create an animated landscape merging the past with the present, fiction with fact to think about our understanding of place and its relationship to experience, community and connection.