Describing Bed-Stuy: A Community-Based Archival Project
When: Saturday, June 2, 2018 (2-3:30? pm)
Where: Macon Street Branch, Brooklyn Public Library, Lewis Avenue, Brooklyn, NY
About the “Describing Bed-Stuy” Project:
Written descriptions provide a highly personalized and in-depth record of the built and human environments that make Bed-Stuy unique. We are interested in your stories and your perspectives on your particular experience of living in Bed-Stuy. These descriptions will be collected and archived as part of an ongoing project to document the history and present of our vibrant neighborhood.
About the Workshop Facilitator:
Johannah Rodgers is a resident of (Eastern) Bed-Stuy (845 Hancock Street @ Ralph and Howard Avenues) and a writer, artist, and educator whose work is concerned with technologies, environmental sustainability, and the preservation and definition of humans and human-built structures, rituals, and artifacts. She has been teaching writing for over twenty years and is the author of several fiction and nonfiction books and projects, including Technology: A Reader for Writers, DNA: A Digital Fiction Project (dnanovel.com), digitalcomposition.org: an open access, i.e., freely accessible, web site about writing, writing education, and things people do with writing.
About “Description 1: 11233”:
In late 2015, the poet and critic Albert Mobilio invited me and Donald Breckenridge to participate in Double Take, a reading series that he has curated over the last nine years at the Apex Art gallery in Manhattan. The reading series is organized around a constraint: two writers trade takes on a shared experience. Donald and I talked about several possibilities for the project that we would collaborate on, deciding finally that a description of our neighborhood park, Saratoga Park, where we walk together at least once a week would be a fitting subject for our shared project. No description of anything is ever exhaustive. As a result, some of the questions that we considered in this project and that I’d like you to consider today are: What does it mean to describe a place? What does it mean to see something? What do you see? How do you see? How does what you see differ from what I see? “Describing Bed-Stuy” is, in part, a continuation of this project that will document other shared spaces in the 11233 zip code.
Writing as a Medium for
Documenting Spaces and Places
Writing is highly personalized
Writing is uniquely impressionistic
Writing combines perceptions from all of your senses
Writing is informed by your experiences across time and encompasses a unique history of you and your family and your heritage
Writing is highly transportable
Writing is, or can be, comparatively inexpensive as a medium of documentation
Writing is also, unfortunately, somewhat stigmatized because it is not, like talking, used on a daily basis
Some Guidelines for Today’s Workshop
We will not be concerned with writing as a “code” that is supposed to be used in specific ways and according to strict rules of usage as defined by the guidelines of Standard Written English.
Instead, we will use writing as a means of transcription to document our unique and personalized accounts of what we have seen in our neighborhoods or what stories we have to tell about our neighborhoods. We will write in whatever way and in whatever dialect (formal, informal) we are most comfortable with. We will not be concerned with conventions of punctuation or word choice. We will pretend we are talkng to another person using writing to convey what it is we have to say. We may draw pictures to describe things we are talking about. We may make up words to describe things that we have seen or want documented. We will think about not only what words we might use to describe our neighborhood but what words come to mind when we think of our neighborhood and are often in our minds when we are in our neighborhood.
Some Prompts or Possible Beginnings…
- What does your block look like?
- What makes your block unique?
- How has your block changed over the last week, month, year, decade?
- Who lives on your block?
- If you had to choose one word to describe your block, what would it be? Why did you choose that word?
- If you were to tell one story about your block, which story would you tell? Why?
- Describe a typical or single day on your block.
- Write a letter to future residents of your block about what you would like them to know about your block.