Fall 2012 Fellow
Fellow: Melanie Crean
Project: Memories of the Future

about Memories of the Future

Memories of the Future was a series of art projects created by Melanie Crean in conjunction with Majora Carter’s Hometown Security Laboratories, acting as conduits for Hunts Point, South Bronx residents to articulate how they have transcended the over-incarceration and environmental discrimination that seemed to be encoded in their surroundings. The project was conceived in response to location-based research Carter had done after the closure of the notorious Spofford Juvenile Detention Center in 2011, which dominated the Hunts Point neighborhood for over fifty years.

In addition to Carter and Crean, the project’s core participants were a group of fifteen poets and community activists living in and around Hunts Point. The group worked together to compile story fragments utilizing a series of performance based ideation methods facilitated by the group Theater of the Oppressed NYC. These texts were initially used to create a participatory Forum Theater Play, which was performed at the Bronx Academy of Arts and Dance in May 2013, based on the life story of a participant who was remanded to Spofford, sparking much discussion from local residents and council members.

Through this process several members of the group began to write spoken word poetry, in which elements of the urban landscape, such as detention facilities, waste management plants, industrial parks and strip bars provided a backdrop not only for adversity, but also for intense creativity, and the possibility for reinvention. The poets decided to write from the point of view of a particular location that had witnessed a significant event in their lives, beginning at the Hunts Point train station with a view of the past, and ending with the Bronx River with a view towards the future.

This material provided the basis of a location-aware mobile application where each video vignette in the collectively written story can be viewed in the location on which it is based, and where it was ultimately filmed. Subtle visual effects in the videos alter the landscape, facilitating the viewer standing in that location to see it anew. Crean developed the Memories of the Future mobile application with a group of designers from Parsons The New School for Design, which was available for free download from the Apple App Store and Google Play.

On June 21 the collective narrative was featured in a Poetry and Cinema walk event sponsored by the Bronx Museum. Audiences accompanied poets as they performed at each location in the story sequence.

artist bio

Melanie Crean is an artist and teacher based in Brooklyn, NY. She is an Assistant Professor of Media Design at Parsons, teaching production and theory classes in experimental time based work, interactive design, mobile media and urban intervention. Her art work explores relationships between media, speech, history, and the social structures of control. Recent projects have focused on the location based narratives and the nature of histories encoded in urban landscapes through architecture and design. Often working collaboratively, Crean and her partners experiment with narrative form to explore who has the authority to be heard, and what happens when these voices are silenced.