Friday, November 20, 2009
Photograph by Michael Premo (c) 2009
LISTEN TO THE PODCAST EPISODE HERE, OR BETTER YET SUBSCRIBE TO THE PODCAST SERIES ON iTUNES HERE.
Michael Premo and Rachel Falcone chat with me about "Housing is a Human Right," a multimedia documentary project of the struggle for Home in New York City. The project collects and shares first person stories of Home, community and ongoing efforts to maintain or obtain housing, celebrating our desire for a place to call Home.
I spoke with the duo at a laundromat in the Fort Greene neighborhood of Brooklyn, where they had mounted an installation of photographs and an audio presentation of stories of people, many of whom had been forced out of their homes. That particular exhibition of stories was supported by Michael's residency with The Laundromat Project, which supports public art projects by artists of color in their neighborhoods. (Michael himself was recently priced out of Fort Greene!)
Fort Greene is an apt place for this project. It's a largely African American neighborhood that has been gentrified mightily in the last several years (including by me, though I just moved out myself). The stories were at once a bracing reminder of the sometimes brutal unfairness in housing trends (someone who loses housing after getting cancer), the mixed feelings some longtime residents have about gentrification (better services, loss of old neighbors), the complicated mix of actors (not just old and new residents, but the people who make housing policies that affect all of them), and a poignant elegy to people who've lost everything they had (an elderly couple who get forced out of their apartment). Whether it's old residents or new listening to the stories, I can't help but think that we all have to place ourselves in the interplay of neighborhood life. Whom did I replace, and what if any is my responsibility to them?
Two of the many cool things about Housing is a Human Right -- they "remix" oral history, and they put stories in unusual public places. (The sound montages or "story-scapes" were mixed by Oja Vincent.) To learn more about these and other bits of goodness, listen to the podcast, and visit the project's site.