For the Bridge 4 for Integrated Studio 2, each student worked individually in the creation of a visual project based on something we learned from the Neighborhoods we were studying. Throughout the semester I studied East Williamsburg. I researched statistics about the space, its history, and old photos. Also, I participated in ethnographic research in which I had observations of the areas while I walked. I also interviewed individuals on the area based on a research question.
Some of the keywords that I think of when I look back at my research on East Williamsburg are gentrification, diversity, economic growth, pollution, income inequality, and artificial.
The research question that I used for my research for the Integrated Seminar class is:
I am studying the history and gentrification scene of East Williamsburg.
Because I want to find out how the renovations in the area can affect restaurants and its longstanding customers.
For my reader to better understand the impact that gentrification can have on a business and its audience to open a conversation about who is being benefited by gentrification, and how it can be managed differently.
I did not use this question for the Bridge 4 for the Integrated Studio Class. Instead, I thought of doing my Bridge 4 project on something else that I found interesting from my research. When I was brainstorming on topics related to my research on East Williamsburg that caught my attention I thought of the contrast of opinions between the consequences of gentrification, air pollution, the controversy on which is the name of the area, the presence of a prominent Hispanic Community, and the effect that women had in the neighborhood’s dynamic.
All of those topics were interesting to me. However, after analyzing each subject, I thought that I was mostly interested in the controversy that comes as a consequence of the recent gentrification of the area (started 1990s) that creates displacement of the less affluent residents (which in most cases are the one that lived in the area for a long time) and the questioning behind whose home this really is? In the 20th Century in Williamsburg attracted immigrants from mostly Europe, and Latin America due to its industrial nature. By the 1980s this area did not contain the right infrastructure for all its citizens, which caused unemployment and crime. East Williamsburg became a neighborhood that people avoided until the late 20th – early 21st century when urban planners were attracted in the area and decided to “revive” it by creating new infrastructure, which made the housing rents increase. This increase in the rents affected mostly the low-income residents, which in most cases were family of the immigrants that first came to the area.
With that in mind, I asked myself: Who considers East Williamsburg their home? Whose home is it?
I wanted to explore this concept through my piece. Below are photographs of my brainstorming process to decide my medium.
Although I thought these were good ideas, these were not what I was looking for. I wanted to make a piece that will resonate with my audience. I wanted to create an interactive experience. I had the opportunity to brainstorm a little more with my Professor Carrie, and I told her that I wanted to create an experience like a game for my audience. After talking with her for a little bit, she proposed that it could be interesting to make my piece performative. I immediately agreed with her and proceeded with this idea.
I began to research about participatory theatre, and that is how I found Augusto Boal. I wrote an artist post about him, which you can see in the following link:
His pieces encouraged the audience to participate in the theatrical piece. I wanted to do the same with my piece for Bridge 4. I decided to create a video as the background of the experience. I thought the people could “act” or participate in front of the video. To make this possible I:
- Created the video:
I used footage from online youtube videos that could serve as a visual reference to show the historical information I had. (The citations are the end of the post). I decided to divide the video on the historical moments that represent an essential change of population for East Williamsburg or that give a reference to the civilization at the moment on the area. The dates that I found noteworthy were:
a) 1903: The Brooklyn Bridge was opened for use and immigrants from the Lower East Side crossed the river looking for opportunities.
b)1930: Jews were arriving at the area. They were escaping from the Nazis.
c)1940 – 60s: Individuals from Latin America came.
d)1980s: crime increased.
e)1990-today: gentrification is occurring in the area. Urban planners and real alters decided to “revitalize” the area. We see this represented in the rise of a popular scene in East Williamsburg, but also on the displacement of longstanding residents that can not afford the rents anymore.
(With those dates in mind, I also took the liberty to include other clips that I found were relevant for the piece. For example, there is a clip of a 70s club, or of the inside of an industry space).
It was not enough for me to have the clips that I selected. I edited them, as well as found audio that I thought went with the mood I wanted to portray in each part of the video. I also wrote a script of the voice over that I used for the video. The following is the script.
- Created the character instructions for every participant and decide their props:
Since I wanted my piece to be participatory, I needed to give each member of my audience a role on the piece. I created a character for each of the clips, which would be the one an audience member will partake. I gave every actor a name that went with the race or ethnicity that I wanted to portray. For example, for the character that crossed the Brooklyn Bridge in 1903, I googled “Old American Name.”
Below you can observe my thinking process on creating the characters (some of it is in Spanish):
It was at this moment that I thought which props each individual was going to carry with their character. I then found the props I needed some I had at home, and others I had to buy. Below you can observe some of the props.
- Though on how to organize the actors of the piece in the space:
Since I knew, I was going to have 12 people as my audience, and I only had ten individuals I thought of having the other two to be old residents of East Williamsburg and to sit on the ground in front of the screen and then have the rest of the characters to come when their turn came.
I first thought of including the names of the characters in the screen when it was their turn to participate. However, I decided not to do this since I thought it could distract the attention from the actual message. Therefore, I decided to name every character. I decided to print those numbers big, and show them at the time I wanted them to act.
I thought of having the numbers with fonts that would go with their theme, but then I decided to have them all identical. I did this because I thought the other way could be distracting.
I also wrote the instructions for every character and printed them. At first I wanted to make them on the format of an ID or a more artistic approach, but I thought that would take too long.
- Thought how to ensure my audience understood their role, and was aware of the importance of their participation for the piece to succeed:
My piece would be anything without the participation of my class. Therefore, I took some time before starting the video to make sure everyone understood their role. I also asked several times if someone had questions.
I do not have a photo or video of the final piece since we were all participating while it happened. However, I have the video.
Tours, Brooklyn. “History of Williamsburg Brooklyn.” Like A Local Tours. Accessed July 29, 2018. https://www.likealocaltours.com/williamsburg-brooklyn-history/.
Ulrich, Katherine. “City Living: East Williamsburg Has a Multi-layered History.” Am New York. May 14, 2015. Accessed July 26, 2018. https://www.amny.com/real-estate/city-living/brooklyn/city-living-east-williamsburg-has-a-multi-layered-history-1.6820973
Strickland, Julie. “The Neighborhood Name Police: East Williamsburg.” Brooklyn Based. August 14, 2015. Accessed July 26, 2018. https://brooklynbased.com/2012/07/24/the-neighborhood-name-police-east-williamsburg/
Williamsburg. “Brooklyn Public Library: Brooklyn in the Civil War – Soldiers.” Accessed July 26, 2018. http://www.bklynlibrary.org/ourbrooklyn/williamsburg/.
HuntleyFilmArchives. “Building The Brooklyn Bridge New York, 1920s – Film 33827.” YouTube. November 18, 2016. Accessed August 07, 2018. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h2bQhezPyRk.
Mr888Funny888. “Top 10 MOST AWESOME Street Performers Musicians – People Are Amazing.” YouTube. September 18, 2017. Accessed August 07, 2018. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gIBT88O_S_4.
“Crime Scene Sound.” YouTube. November 08, 2015. Accessed August 07, 2018. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EEVsol-4xJ0.
“70’s Disco Greatest Hits || 70’s Disco Party Mix.” YouTube. July 11, 2017. Accessed August 07, 2018. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N9xDAk1W248.
TheMSsoundeffects. “Cars Passing by Sound Effect.” YouTube. January 05, 2013. Accessed August 07, 2018. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WPzPcjfAfTc.
“Relaxing Train Journey – 10 Hrs Video W/ Soothing Sounds for Relaxation, Meditation, Study and Sleep.” YouTube. February 06, 2017. Accessed August 07, 2018. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OGpsKIDd4kg.
“Marketplace White Noise 1 Hour.” YouTube. January 08, 2016. Accessed August 07, 2018. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vHEIImSM1Do.
Elpachineo. “Juan Colon – Jovinita (merengue Instrumental).” YouTube. September 04, 2013. Accessed August 07, 2018. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AqzcvcNh26A&list=PLST0O-nJDO90Ce4OEPDf2JGHsaR_Q33Y5.
8HoursOf. “INDUSTRIAL SOUNDS, FACTORY SOUNDS, MACHINERY BACKGROUND SOUND EFFECTS & WHITE NOISE FOR 8 HOURS.” YouTube. July 18, 2016. Accessed August 07, 2018. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wbvIl2HFbiw.