Continuing to build to our October 17th installation, a small piece of the project was exhibited at the Hyde Park Free Library last weekend. Due to weather issues, the showing had to be scaled back. Though, some of the material was able to be seen.
Click here for a link to the video on Vimeo – link
The concept for the presentation focused on the various portraits that were a part of the Libraries collection. The hope was to get the audience to stand next to the images to connect the past and present together. I also wanted to project onto the entrance of the library as a way of thinking of these images as an entrance to the past.
Several weeks ago, I spoke with Harvey Flad, an emeritus faculty at Vassar College, about his work on cultural landscape and the influence that art has on our connection to place. You just have to think about how the Hudson River School influenced an understanding of the United States, as a wild, yet idyllic eden, to begin this process.
In our discussion Harvey noted that the Smithsonian was developing a website to discuss the influence that images have on our culture and life. The Click! Photography initiative is an effort by the Smithsonian to bring together writers, artist, history, geographers, etc to talk about this impact. There are multiple articles and images discussed. I’ve appreciated the articles by artist Wendy Ewald, geographer Harvery Flad, and the curator Marvin Heiferman as they share a similar focus as the Hyde Park Visual History Project. Here is the link – http://click.si.edu/
I wanted to follow up on a post from yesterday concerning the pervasiveness of images and their ability to fit into any place. In an article from yesterdays NY Times, Bill Marsh writes about the “faked” image. (Click here for the article) He points to several famous images that either were or are thought to be manipulated. This brings into question the underlying issues of how images are used. I cannot help thinking that people produce images of themselves and the places they live as they want them to be remembered. This is something I continually have to deal with on this project. When I ask for images, people always defer to an image of Eleanor Roosevelt or some other prominent point/person in the past. It is never about them. They think that there it’s more important that others take a prominent role in the history of Hyde Park. The deferring of this impact is something I find very interesting, as it creates gaps in time, missing holes in what should be a continuous progression. But, maybe they are meant to be forgotten. The phrase “History is written by the few” comes to mind. Or maybe it is just easy to put Franklin and Eleanor out there, because that is what is important about this place. Moving out from under a shadow, is not always an easy think to do.
At a showing in June and last week via the project website, someone noted an issue with both of these images. Several people involved with the Hudson Valley Railroad Association confirmed that the image on the left is not nor every was in Hyde Park. Their guess is that it was from New Hamburg, lying 45 minutes to the South of Hyde Park. The image on the right is almost too generic. It could have been shot near Staatsburg, but several attending the exhibition were very doubtful. So, how do these images end up in a collection of historic images of Hyde Park? My guess is that someone donated the images, these included, and it was assumed that the images came from the area.
This has me thinking about the pervasive nature of an image. An image of a person standing in front of a restaurant could have happened anywhere and the accuracy of situating that image isn’t always precise. You could get caught up in this, wanting to make sure that the image is put perfectly in its place. But, maybe that is what is so powerful about an image. It can come from anywhere and you can directly connect with it. There is no need to find a home for the image, because it can reside anywhere in your memory.
This morning I came across an article and accompanying audio slide show by photographer David Gonzalez in the NYTimes (click here for the link) Having grown up in the Bronx, Mr. Gonzalez returned after his education at Yale to teach in the schools and document life. Two things come out of this article that I think are interesting, one being about culture and the other about connections to place.
In terms of culture, he talks how at the time he was working the Bronx, culture was free. It was everywhere on the street, from exhibitions of photography to majorettes parading, music to street theatre. I would think that most of us consider culture to cost something. You have to buy a ticket to see a film, a concert, or enter a museum. Thoughts turn to the 50million dollars allocated to the NEA earlier this year. Part of me thinks that culture should cost something, otherwise how is developed and expanded upon. At the same time I feel culture should permeate people and place, not necessarily define by a specific group or person, but at the pulse of everyday life. To me people too easily over look this or try to force it to happen. Culture is every present. It just needs the time and space to develop, coming to define a place.
Later in audio slide show, Mr. Gonzalez talks about his connection to the Bronx. He mentions how the Bronx will always be a part of him. This makes me wonder how people feel about Hyde Park. I believe that those who live here feel much the same. Yet, I also feel a distinction is being made between those that have always been here and those who are new to the area. Might this be a reaction to change and the possible loss of a specific identity? Is it about holding onto something that might be going away?
Having grown up in Wisconsin, I feel that that identity is very much a part of who I am. Yet there are other experiences that have influenced who I am. For the last two years, Hyde Park is having an influence on who I am. Though there is also the time I spent in Switzerland, London, Virgina, Indiana, etc. Instead of holding onto one specific identity, I shift between of the influence of multiple experiences.
Hyde Park tends to want to put forward a specific understanding of itself. Thought during this project I’ve come to see it as a much more complex place. I hope that this project can show this, but I’m not sure if it will.
I’m constantly looking for connections to broaden the discussion that the Hyde Park Visual History is trying to accomplish. Two such discoveries came from podcasts that I follow – RadioLab and To the Best of our Knowledge.
From To the Best of our Knowledge, we have an interview with Guy Benier. He talks about local history and it’s impact on social history. He mentions an event in Irish History, minor to history as whole, but having quite major effects on the local people. It has taken on a mystique that holds great power in the local mind, effecting how people relate to the land. You can listen to the link here – TTBOOK_Benier
The second is from Radiolab. In a show they did on the afterlife several weeks ago, they interviewed neuroscientist David Eagleman who wrote a book entitled Sum. In a reading from the book, they talk about three kinds of death. One, when the body ceases to live. Two, when the body is put in the grave. Three, when that person’s name is spoke for the last time. This had me thinking about the people I’ve been seeing in these photographs from Hyde Park’s past. Have their names been spoke for the last time? When turning the photo over to see if a name exists on the back, am I speak that person’s name for the last time? Here is the excerpt – Radiolab_Some