This project has been made possible by a grant from the Creative Arts Council of Brown University.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Providence Postcard Project

Last week at the Granoff Center for the Creative Arts at Brown University was the opening of “The Providence Postcard Project” by artist Betsey Biggs, which featured a postcard of the Arcade. It was a project realised as part of the Urban Cultural Heritage and Creative Practice international research collaborative, and is summarised in this excerpt from the UCHCP website:

1000 postcards – 100 photographs – 22 neighborhoods. ”The Postcard Project,” by artist Betsey Biggs, explores the familiar souvenir medium of postcards as a source of reflection by the residents of Providence on what meanings the city holds. Beginning this week, the project will be distributing pre-addressed, postage-paid postcards featuring photographs taken by Biggs during her visits to the neighborhoods of Providence. Local residents and members of the general public are invited to pick up postcards at Providence Community Library locations throughout the city, write to the Postcard Project, and share their own stories about the many places of Providence.
One of Betsey’s photographs featured the Arcade, and there were some fascinating responses that I got to read at the opening of the exhibition. Betsey was kind enough to let me reproduce the Arcade postcards on this blog, as they provide an interesting addition to the research conducted for this project.

Front of the postcard featuring the Arcade, from "The Providence Postcard Project" by Betsey Biggs. The photo depicts the stairs to the second balcony level on the Weybosset St side.

When I saw this postcard at the opening reception of the exhibition, only the top message was there. This was written by Tim, one of the dancers involved in this project, and details the phrase that occurred on these steps as part of the piece. The message below was added during the time the exhibition was up, and seems to be a response to the new plans unveiled for the Arcade.

I would love to hear more of this story.

This was another postcard that had a second note added to it while being on display in the Granoff. The sideway message is hard to make out, but reads roughly as follows:

'Worked on second floor in sales / saw many stores come + go / 2nd floor not much traffic. First night nice music they hosted/ Johnson + Wales / store (?) full of yummy thin (?) / the Prov ____ / ____? not sure but giant cookies'

Cookies have come up before in some of the interviews I did way back in September (see here and here for two sets of memories that involved the cookies); memories connect and interweave, maybe blur, and ultimately reinforce a sense of place triggered by the invitation to write on the back of an empty postcard. 

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Next steps

Since the time of the performances, almost exactly three months ago, I have continued to think and reflect on the project. Despite envisioning the performances as something of a culmination, I was aware that there would be a period of processing and reflection. Some of this (as much as I could manage) has made its way onto this blog, but much has not, some of which I hope has been going on in the minds of others. One thing that has come up for me is how central the theme of mediation is to the project. Especially after seeing the the video footage and still photographs that were taken during the performances, I realised just how many layers of mediation are involved in the various outcomes of the project: bodies mediating memories, memories mediating place, bodies mediating place, archives mediating place, video mediating bodies, photographs mediating bodies mediating place…the list circles back on itself endlessly.

The appropriate response to this continuous mediation of place with its many rich layers seems to be to highlight it, and to that end I am starting to work on an installation version of “An Arcade Project.” 

“An Arcade Project, Installed” will be exhibited as part of the American Dance Legacy Initiative’s winter Minifest, and will be displayed during the second week of March in the “living room spaces” of the Granoff Center for Creative Arts at Brown University. My ideas for the installation are still taking, and shifting, shape. But here are a few preliminary ideas for things I am interested in including: video footage of the performance, an audio soundtrack of the interviews, feedback and thoughts on the piece, still photographs (framed and hung? projected onto walls?), and I would really like at least one interactive component. Since I did not take any of the video footage or photographs, this installation will almost certainly involve some collaborators, and I am excited to see in what new ways the project material manifests itself through this collaboration.

Meanwhile, the life story of the Arcade continues, and I continue to document news and stories related to the building.