[ Interactive documentary ]
An interactive exploration of South Central LA and Echo Park, two historic neighborhoods which have experienced radical demographic shifts, social upheaval, big city politics. A collaboration with OnRamp Arts, 2000.
Norman Klein detailed this project in his chapter “Mapping the Unfindable: Neighborhoods West of Downtown LA as a Magic Realist Computer Game” in the book Unmasking LA: Thirdworlds and the City, edited by Deepak Narang Sawhnew, Palgrave Press, 2002.
“OnRamp is located at a retrofitted fire station in Angelino Heights, just west of downtown. It’s co-directors, activist designer and artists Jess Irish and Stephen Metts, decided to rediscover as many “erased” sites as possible, mostly in Echo Park, Crown Heights, MacArthur Park, and part of South Central. They trained Latino high school students to initiate field work, set up interviews, work on computer design. They they brought in consultants like me and set up a workable, elegant design for a huge map/interface of LA. At least 140 “forgotten” location were videotaped. They were edited with sound and inserted in to the website.
What resulted is clearly as complex and poignant as any computer site for any city I have ever seen. The various layered computer experiments can rival Turning from the Millennium. and certainly as as elegant. But OnRamp was determined to sustain the point of view of the teenagers who live in these streets. The sense of engagement is unique, certainly at that scale, without the bureaucracies that often turn such projects into image drunk leviathans more than neighborhood field work. How do people actually walk the earth? Beyond our easy answers, how does the rhythm of a neighborhood street function as media? Are we willing to put aside our ideological assumptions and actually take a derive with the camera—equipped also with a sense of arts installation and of urban anthropology, urban aesthetics, media history—to take all fo these tools and let the chips fall where they may? And then design a whole out of it?”
Full chapter except here