I know I promised a post after the first week but here I am, a week late, hat in hand, and asking you to hear me out. A week of ice-breakers, introductions, guided practices, main writing lessons and high energy socializing really knocks it out of you. The weekend between the two weeks of camp consisted of a lot of sleeping and re-energizing in nature, meaning my update now will be a full camp overview! Phew it’s over!
We started strong Monday, June 10th. I was proud to Co-Lead the class with my manager, Pedro Estrada, swapping over sections of the lesson plan as we planned every morning an hour before the kids started knocking at our door. The first day, I felt happy to take a page from my past experience with CityArts, by asking the students to help build the community agreements as an introduction to the space. Loudly and enthusiastically I asked them if they knew what the number #1 rule at 826LA was. “Respect!” beamed through the room. I was actually quite surprised until I realized it was because there was a poster behind me revealing the answering. I asked them what makes them feel respected; listening to each other and keeping hands you themselves were popular suggestions. With help from the volunteers I told them to wrote their answers down on a sticky note and come up to the board to stick it on. Quietly they began, taking their pencils, peeling sticky notes from the stack and telling the volunteers at their tables they didn’t know what to write. Conversations unfolded between students admitting what respect looks like for them and volunteers adamantly listening while further prompting them to consider how other’s actions make them feel. Moments like these, hushed conversations led by a prompt projected onto the screen asking students to dig within and find a feeling were incredible. I would find myself asking if I did that sort of self reflecting and self questioning at their age, and what a sense of individuality it could grow to start doing so, so early.
It occurred also on day 4, I think, all the days are a big jumble in my head. The lesson plan was album cover creation, a day that truly homogenously mixed the musical, visual and literary arts. The students were tasked taking inspiration from a previous lesson plan that questioned moments in their life they felt a strong emotion, choosing a song that could represent it, and explaining it in a paragraph. For the current day’s lesson we asked them to gather their songs and compile them into an album. They tackled questions like what was the overarching feeling their songs or experiences exuded? Was there a narrative present throughout the songs? And how could these sentiments best be represented in the cover art or the back matter describing the “album” as a whole? If the presence of glitter markers wasn’t exciting enough, they also had the opportunity of having their picture taken with a Polaroid to paste onto the cover in order to further personalize the final product. Students were so proud of their creation, we hit our record in most participants during share outs (a daily part of the lesson plan where students can share anything they made during that day). They shared albums inspired by their experiences with friendship, pets, memorable vacations and special days at school. Also to my surprise, most of them were begging to keep working on it the next day!
Summer camp was a blast, the growing comfort the students felt sharing about themselves with me by the last few days was nothing short of incredibly rewarding. My only gripe was that it wasn’t longer, as a two week program is a challenge to any educator getting to know their students. Now, I only have a week left of tying loose ends! Will report back soon 🙂
So it’s been around 3 weeks into my time as a Maharam Fellow at The ArQuives in Toronto. It’s been one of the most reflective, enriching, and unexpected experiences I’ve had yet as a student at RISD. While it was initially quite nerve-wracking, I found myself entering a space of extremely passionately queer, intelligent, and kind experts in their fields! It is no wonder that my brain has grown quite a lot since being here.
Some fun acts about The ArQuives:
- With over 100,000 items in its collection, The ArQuives is the largest independent LGBTQS+ Archives in the world and the only one of its kind in Canada!
- I’ve also been told it has one of the largest porn collections in the country, if not the world, as well.
- We do our work in a historic building that dates back to 1860! One small historic house surrounded by the skyscrapers of one of Toronto’s busiest shopping and business districts! (Think the house from the movie Up!)
- Did you know archives actually write about space three-dimensionally? A storage room isn’t 150 square ft, it’s actually 1500 cubic square ft! Even records as small as magazines are catalogued by thickness as well as diameter. How are you gonna know how many records you can store when you only think two-dimensionally?
These facts may or may not help illustrate what my experience has been as of late—combing through thousands of records in this little treasure trove of history in the heart of Toronto. Man have I done a lot of combing. My projects and initiatives are all based around discovering what home and domesticity was like for Toronto’s historic queer community. What does that look like aesthetically, infra-structurally, and politically? How can I visualize this history and make it more accessible to the public? I’m especially becoming interested in queer POC communities!
Everyday at work is a little different. I may be reading through The ArQuives’ extensive books collection, looking through old artifacts (newspapers, census records, etc…), digitizing photographic records, or watching videos made by prominent queer filmmakers in Toronto. Along the way I’m taught archival vocabulary (which is kind of a lot), tour offsite storage facilities, and learn about Toronto’s queer community from my colleagues. It’s been a lot of reading, writing, and learning.
That’s about it for now but stay tuned for a couple interviews, research trips, and new findings I’ve set up that I’m very excited for!
Finding the synergy of architecture, sustainability, and urban development in Ethiopia, Ruth Wondimu, MArch 2023
Hi everyone! With time flying by so fast, there has been so much for me to share.
The final few weeks of the fellowship were the most productive, insightful, and joyful parts of the fellowship. The fellowship finalized in the panel that became the ideal synergy of my architectural education, interest in sustainability, and urban development topics in Ethiopia.
Working towards finalizing the panel involved multiple coordination, cooperation, and outreach with various unexpected challenges. To explain this further, I will divide this journal into three parts. The first part is what I would consider the planning phase. The second one involved various outreach activities and the third one involved the execution of the tasks.
In the first phase, my team and I had struggled securing partnerships in methods we had assumed would be successful. We had been dependent on using emails, phone calls, and social media channels to reach out to multiple groups we wanted to partner with. However, our concerns with the timeline led us to taking a more assertive approach. We started heading into various offices without an appointment. Although we were weary of the consequences, we were surprised to see a different professional culture where people preferred to have the conversations in person. Since then our trajectory towards conducting the panel became exponential.
We were first able to find the ideal space and partnership for the event at a multidisciplinary organization called The Urban Center. Although the space came with the organization that would provide us the community outreach we needed, it also came at a cost. Therefore our next step was to find sponsorship. The need for sponsorship led us to find more of our ideal company, Kefita Building at Rock Stone development, whose members became our partner, sponsor, and panel member. With our panelists in order and space secured, we were ready for the next phase of our project.
The second phase of our project involved multiple content creation and outreach. Although sustainability and green architecture are terms that are used often, there is a certain level of vagueness in their meanings. Therefore, to set the tone for the conversation, we decided to create and share the following content that provides the definitions and examples we were thinking about. I also further used these same slides for a presentation that preceded the conversation at the panel.
While sharing the above content, it was also very important to cater to each panelist’s expertise when devising the questions. Therefore, much of our time was also taken up with developing the following document that contains the questions and related contents of the panel. This document allowed us to stay on top of our topic and to have a very successful engagement with the audience.
In the final stage, which is about the last week and half of the panel we focused on outreach and finalization of the content. In this process it was very interesting to see how different skill sets come into play. For instance, although my architectural education had allowed me to learn some of the software that graphic designers would use, I was struggling with the layout and intricacy of the poster. Then, one of the members of green Ethiopia, Dawit Yitref, was able to take the concept notes and turn it into a professional poster that had surpassed what we had imagined. The poster, attached below, was then distributed through various social media channels allowing us to register 91 people ahead of time.
The day of the panel unfortunately started with two disappointing news. The first one was when one of our panelists informed us that they will not be able to attend due to unforeseen circumstances. The second one was when the national TV channel informed us that they have overbooked events for the day and that they might not be able to cover the event for us. Throughout the day we worked tirelessly calling every media channel, camera crew, and host we could find to no luck. Finally, a close friend of one of our members, Sintayehu Teferi, was able to capture all the important moments.
As soon as the time for the panel got close, people in large numbers started coming into the space. We had our panelists, our photographer, and our attendees ready. This was an exciting moment for me personally because I could see my parents and friends in the audience. I could see the people I look up to on the stage with me conversing on issues that I am extremely passionate about. The concepts of locality, context, equity, and more were always a part of each question we raised. The answers that came from the panelists were some of the most insightful and diverse set of knowledge I had acquired.
Based on the document mentioned above, the questions were divided into topics of Energy, water, material, equity, measurement. Through each of the topics our panelists Adiamseged Eyassu, Elias Ayalew, Yasmin Abdu, and Fitsum Gelaye shared their expertise.
Adiamseged Eyassu, project director of Rockstone Ethiopia Real Estate, shared his experience in developing a green high end residential building in Ethiopia. He was able to explain the systems, technologies, and methods Kefita utilized in order to be able to design and build a green building. He also went further into the possibilities the future can hold in looking into affordability and accessibility in the industry of green building. As someone that was working on a building that was in the process of a green building certification, his insights were inspirational for the professional community in the audience.
Architect and lecturer, Elias Ayalew, was one of the panelists who gave the most contextual examples in the methods local architects and construction professionals utilize to produce green buildings today. He was able to share his expert knowledge on the challenges and opportunities the industry faces in making green buildings. His examples ranged from high risers in the middle of the city to small huts in some of the most climatically difficult areas in Ethiopia. He was also able to define what green building means to him and how having an in-depth understanding of context is important in approaching these issues.
Fitsum Gelaye, who works as Programs and Engagement Consultant at Resilient Cities Network, had many insightful examples and knowledge to share especially at the urban scale. Her insights ranged from challenges Addis Ababa has with informality and lack of basic resources to the challenges other african cities are facing. As someone that had worked with water for most of her career, she further emphasized her points related to water conservation, mitigation, recycle, and the heavy intersection between the architectural and urban scale. During our equity portion, her quote that is read as the following, became one of the highlights of the evening.
“A city is as resilient as its most vulnerable community”
Yasmin Abdu, who is a researcher and architect, was also one of our insightful panelists who was able to share her knowledge on advocacy and community engagement. Her points mainly spanned the relationship between every topic and its implementability on a community level. Her examples were on research conducted on the effects of sustainability related topics that impact the community at large. She further demonstrated her ideas through government led projects as well smaller initiatives that integrate community advocacy with sustainability. Finally, she emphasized that the desire to integrate community engagement in making decisions should be amongst the main discussion points on any project that comes forward.
The panel was then followed by a question and answer that was just as fruitful and engaging. The panel that we had intended to be a total of two hours took a total time of two hours and forty five minutes. Nonetheless, most of our audience was still there supporting us, engaging with our topic, and continuing to converse at the networking session.
As I got on the plane back to RISD for my final year as a grad student, I realized that this experience is one that I will cherish for a very long time. It is an experience I learned so much from, an experience I developed connections I wouldn’t have been able to otherwise, and an experience that stationed itself in the place I will always call home. For that, I am very thankful for RISD and the Maharam Fellowship.
Stay out of the conversation.
Twenty to forty years ago, speaking of this massacre was not only prohibited but many were also executed for even mentioning it. I’d never heard of the stories as a kid. What I have observed throughout my journey, there was a definite fear of remembering the past. Although it has been thirty-plus years since lifting more than half a century of martial law, terror and miscommunications exist.
“We don’t talk about politics” or “Keep politics out of this” was what I got a lot of times when starting conversations about the massacre.
For one of my past projects with Kiong Seng, we made a poke-a-present game filled with stories of the massacre and had the public interact with it. The game was laid out like the map of Taiwan. We walked out into the streets and invited passersby to participate and “win a prize.” When they poke through the map, they will find stickers and a letter. In the letter, we wrote the stories of the massacre in that region. Then, we encouraged the participant to write their thoughts on a post-it note and cover up the hole they had just made.
The purpose behind the game was not only to spread awareness of this historical event but also to start a conversation. We saw many parents telling their children about this historical event and many elders willing to share their stories with us. However, there were still many that refused to write anything. Some think we were bending the truth, and few told us not to dwell in the past. Despite the mixed results, this activity presents the current situation of transitional justice and remembrance of the massacre.
A pop sound is made when they poke through the map, made of heavy-weighted paper. It is an aggressive and nerve-wracking action of breaking something that looks perfect and well-sealed. Similar to the process of uncovering injustices in the past. The participants read the stories of the past. Some stayed silent while they absorbed the pain in the letters, while others were in awe that they had no idea of a story so close to them. When they choose to write on the post-it note, they are in conversation with the past and themselves. It perpetuates the constant revisions, understanding, and reimagining of history, thereby preserving it. In the end, the map was filled with colorful post-its representing the beauty of diverse opinions and people on this land. Even though some holes are not poked through or covered up, it also shows the continuation of working through and discovering more stories and more conversation.
Keeping the conversation going
For this recent mapping project, I was interested in the act of remembering and memorial. There are many ways to remember a historical event. Though in recent years, the government has made 228, February 28th, a national remembrance day of the massacre, I realized that many still don’t know what that day is for.
I begin by thinking of how to map the act of remembrance. The first thought that came into my mind was the few memorial statues and sculptures in each city. Upon further research, most of these sculptures had misinformation or that it had a lack of maintenance. Conversely, we also have a lot of statues of the past dictator in almost all public schools. This dichotomy of historical sculpture and statue preserving two different ideologies interested me.
I began to invest in different memorial sculptures and designs, trying to understand why people don’t know about them or don’t care. I organized and collected all the other monument places on a spreadsheet. I wanted to apprehend how younger people, like me, think about this issue. Therefore, I planned a road trip, inviting many to join my conversation on the 228 massacre. Many were students like me. Most of them had little to no knowledge of this historical event. I started the road trip by introducing the historical event in the city we were in, encouraging them to ask questions and share their thoughts.
I was really surprised by how a lot of the conversations turned into. One of the participants, whose political stance was more towards the party involved in the massacre revealed that their relatives were political victims. Though they understand the historical trauma, they still believe in their political views. While I traveled to the different cities, telling stories and talking to people, I kept reflecting on the purpose of this trip.
After the conversation – now what?
Why is it essential that we talk about the past?
This is a question I asked all my interviewees and myself.
History is not about the past. It is the present and the future.From the tour guide for GinSan 228
It’s important to talk about it because we can now. Being able to speak freely and have conversations about it, whether pleasant or not, is a privilege.one of the interviewees as we drove through the city of Pingtung
To me, the current conclusion I have, talking about the past, is human nature. We like to remind ourselves of what happened yesterday. When the elders speak about the past, they are not just talking about the horrendous past, but also about their past. The history they lived through. Just like how in some of the historical tours, the purpose was to learn about the city’s past.
Learning about the collective past is a way through personal history. Regardless of what side of the story you are on, active learning and listening are love. Love to the land.
This is similar to those whose loved ones were lost during the massacre. Preserving history was an act of preserving their loved ones. Giving their stories truth was a way that we, who were fortunate to not have to go through the same trauma, can respect their love.
Remembrance of the traumatic past of this land is to remember it was once loved.
Remember the land.
Love the land.
Sidenote: There have been dramatic political changes recently with the visit of US Congress Representative Nancy Pelosi. Broadcasts of China’s aircraft and military drills around the island report non-stop.
Regardless of what happens, life goes on. There will be hope as long as we’re alive.
Navigating urban narratives and green alternatives #2, Ruth Wondimu, MARCH, 2023
This past month in Ethiopia has been a time of reflection, learning, and asking many questions for me. My conversations with many architects, family members, and the community have often been my method for getting to know my home again. Although I was hoping that everything I continue to learn about would be something positive, I have been able to learn about the difficulties people live through on a daily basis. For some time, I had found the outreach work challenging because it had been difficult to securely book some time to talk to the organizations that I had believed were highly relevant. However, my work gained a positive trajectory when I was able to attend the annual conference for the Ethiopian Architecture Association on July 23, 2022.
The Ethiopian Architecture Association hosts a panel discussion and an election ceremony annually. However, this panel was happening after three years of discontinuation due to impacts of war and Covid. Therefore, this panel was also a time of reflection for the community. The panel started with a moment of silence and prayer for the victims of war that’s still happening across Ethiopia. From the way everyone immediately stood up, it was easy to see that there was this moment of collective grievance and pain. That became one of the points of conversation for the conference.
This conference was a very eye-opening experience for me because I went in with the hope of making connections and sharing ideas on sustainability topics. However, that was only a small portion of what I was able to attain and learn from. The first topic of the conference was post war construction. In the hope and belief that one day, this war will come to an end, the discussion was on how architecture can play a role in reconstructing and building new health care facilities, schools, residential places and more. For me, it was a reminder that it is a time of grievance as a country and that people were actively looking for ways to contribute to the better future.
Although there were a variety of topics that were mentioned such as architecture’s role at a time of covid and what the association has done, a project that caught my attention more deeply was called The Ethiopian New School Project. It is a project on developing design prototypes for over 1200 new public schools based on the latest technological advances and environmental considerations. Therefore, the designs were a variety of prototypes developed based on their climatic and locational conditions with heavy considerations of water systems, energy access, and comfort. I was immediately excited to figure out who was responsible for the environmental consulting aspect of it. I was later informed that there aren’t many groups responsibly dedicated to the environmental aspect of the project. However, I was able to obtain the contact information of the few groups that could be of significant value in discussing environmentally conscious projects.
Following the conference, I have been able to connect with two groups that have been pioneering discussions surrounding architecture and urban development. One of them is Architecture Werhawi (Architecture Monthly) and the other one is The Urban Center. The two groups also often collaborate on a variety of projects. I was able to send my proposal where teams from each group will be able to review my proposal and hopefully collaborate.
On a personal reflection, I believe that this experience has taught me that circumstances on ground have been and continue to be difficult for people. The consequences of war impacts people on the daily through personal stories, inflation, and unattainable living expenses. The unemployment rate and low wages have been discouraging for many recent graduates. That, however, makes me believe that there is a role for the green industry to play here. The fact that a new type of industry might create new employment opportunities, encourage utilization of local resources on a more industrial level, and make water and electricity more easily and widely accessible is a good enough reason to discuss this topic. Therefore, this experience has empowered me to facilitate this conversation further.
For the past two weeks, alongside continuing to make the website and mapping the historical event, I have been interviewing people who have previously worked with the organization with walking tours about the massacre. Due to geographical constraints and timing, some were online, and some were in-person.
The purpose behind these interviews was to gain an insight into how these researchers and tour guides organize and develop the route. In addition, I want to hear their thoughts on this issue. They are the medium for us to look into the past.
I was fortunate to participate in the walking tours for some of the lecturers I’m interviewing. Learning history by foot was a different experience than in the books. This experience inspired me to create this project where I interviewed these tour guides. At first, they were hesitant about why I would be interested in their story. They have always been the ones telling others people’s stories. I explained that I feel the stories being passed down might encounter alteration due to the people telling the story. I want to know their thoughts and why they are passionate about the issue. Their story is very much part of the narrative of historical memorization than the stories of victims or their descendants.
Walking tours, I believe, are very much a process of mapping. And active mapping where visitors and audience are forced to be in the landscape while imagining the past. While these routes are carefully designed considering time, geographical constraints, and storytelling, every tour is unique due to the people participating, the weather, and other unforeseeable circumstances. It is a device to the past through the people telling the story. It is also a pathway of the present.
The main thing I have taken away from these interviews is that knowing the history of the massacre is only part of these walking tours. The core purpose is to learn the city’s history. In the process of knowing where you are from, telling the story of the massacre is inevitable. Due to the nature of this historical event, the accounts of the massacre are embedded in the bricks of architecture, roads, and waterways.
For example, in one city, Tam Sui, the tour guide I interviewed, said that she didn’t care about this part of the history until her late 40s (she is now in her 60s). When she was little, she would hear from the elders that the Tam Sui River was once dyed red with blood. Ports were places one should not go, for many spirits resided there in the past. She didn’t believe what the elders said. “How is it possible that the whole river was dyed of blood? That is impossible!” It was not until she started reading more about the city’s history that she connected what her elders told her and what was documented. The port, they said, was a place where all those captured in the name of treason were excuted. Hundreds were killed, thrown into the river, reding the river with terror.
Emotionally, it was hard to process all these stories. Older generations I’ve interviewed were much more emotional and passionate about the issue. They were closer to this part of history. All of them heard stories from elders, and the terror of knowing became a passion for sharing. When I asked why it is essential to learn about the massacre and continue advocating on this issue, they said it was for the truth to be seen.
“When I was talking to the descendants of victims, they don’t want the compensation or reparation. They just want to know why. “Why was my father taken one night and never came back? “
In a text chain I had with the historian, he said,
“We must not give up the pursuit of the truth in history. The connection and emotions through the process are personal, humanitarian, and societal.”
“This is very true. Thank you so much for what you are doing. 228 is about the history of the land, but it is also the scar and pain of the land.”張文義 (Writer of Kavalan 228, oral history historian of Kavalan region, tour guide of 2022 Kavalan tour)
I am very grateful that I have this opportunity to keep their story alive.
Younger generations, like me, had little understanding of this issue until we were much older (high school or university). Most of them are passionate about this issue not because of pain but because of the unjust. There is a diaspora of identity due to the change in education. We were not taught much about the massacre in our educational system, and most of us are fortunate not to be related directly to this massacre.
When asked the same question, “Why is it important that we, the younger generation, remember and learn about this part of history?”
One answered, “It’s about justice. Why is it that the descendent of one of the generals in charge of the massacre in Kaoshiung was able to be a famous architect and have something out of him? At the same time, the descendants of the victims suffer mental disorders and societal trauma?”
Another thinks that knowing the history of your city, country, and land is important because it ties to other social justice issues such as human rights, environmental, and other political issues.
It was fascinating hearing from both sides of the generation. I started with this project wanting to know the thought process of organizing walking tours and the opinions of these historians and tour guides. I ended up with a more in-depth understanding of the gap between generations and the importance of this issue. For the older generations passionate about this issue, it is a matter of survival. Talking about this puts a light on this part of the history that is vanishing.
It is to keep this story alive, for these stories die with them.
On the other hand, for the younger generation, it is a choice. It is a choice of personal growth in learning about your history. It is recommended to choose to recognize the land and care about this humanitarian issue.
“Ms. Hung, this is a very traumatizing story for me. If it were twenty years ago, I wouldn’t have accepted your interview request.”
For me, I’m touched by their love for the land. It was hard emotionally to hear such a traumatic story. Like a boulder in my heart, I often feel unbearable emotionally. Sadness is inevitable in this process.
Upon stepping out of the 15 hours plane ride from NYC to Taoyuan Taiwan, I was hit with the unfamiliar density of hot humid air. Last time I was home was a year ago. The air was the same, I’ve just simply forgotten about it. As much as I have try to involved myself with the topic of 228 Massacre and transitioanl justice when I was in the states, it was not the same being back on the island. On the ride back to my quarentine hotel, I pass Zhongzheng Rd (中正路) which was named after the dictator/president responsible of this historical trauma.
History, it is in the air.
For those who don’t know I’m working with the organization called the Taiwan Youth Association for transitional justice and Kiong Seng, located in Taipei, Taiwan. They advocate the importance of remembering the forgotten history. Their research focuses on the 228 Massacre, which was not taught in history textbooks until the past twenty years. The 228 Massacre, a uprising after the regime change after WW2, marked the beginning of the seventy-year-long White Terror authoritarianism era. Kiong Seng holds history workshops, lectures, summer camps, publications, and music festivals in relation to this massacre. By educating younger generations, they hope to preserve these stories and accomplish transitional justice through the process.
Making the Website
The first project I started with was the official website for the NGO. Before my arrival this summer, I worked with my then supervisor on the preliminary website, helping him figure outthewebsite’ss platform, domain, and service. While I was in the government-mandated quarantine for seven days during the first weeks, a lot happened.
I was told that the original supervisor had resigned and that I had to find another supervisor who just returned from her vacation. A rocky start. I did not know what to expect and what to do at first, so I started brainstorming and creating prototypes of the websites on Figma before I could get a hold of my new supervisor.
But everything turned out fine. They were all very communicative, and I was able to set a meeting with my new supervisor. In our meeting, we set up new goals and deliverables and shifted the website’s purpose from blog based to archival. However, during this meeting on a Friday 2 in the afternoon, I was given very short notice that the website would launch at 7 the same day. I had four hours to fix and create just enough content before the website announcement.
We managed it! The prototypes helped a ton.
To speed up the process for the launch, we had to use a ready made template. Going forward, I will be adding and design the whole website to better suit the need of the organization.
The following week, I went to the office and started my archival work, working on collecting past event documentations and dicussion on my map making. Transfering ten years worth of documentation of events, puplications, and documentation onto my drive took a few hours. After which, I did more archival work, transfering posts and photos on Facebook, their primary use of social media and documentation, onto google drive and creating a itininary of all the events that will be shown on the website.
file names matter!note to self
Without planning it, my process of creating the offical website of the organization helped me a lot in my personal project. While riffling through all the past event documentation and files, I became a historian. I was giving the oppertunity to tell the history of this organization. And what was the first thing I did designing the website? Mapping out the flow chart of the website.
Planning and drafting the mapping project
Through mutiple discussion with my supervisors, we came to a conclusion of what this map might look like. It wil be a layered map that tells the stories of 228 massacre in different cities and a dicussion of walking tours hosted by the organization. We went through many different iteration and ideas of what the map might be. At first, we thought about telling the story in a linear fashion, while the reader scroll through the page, storys pop up chronologically, telling the overall history of the massacre. However, that had been done before by governement departments or vmemorial museum. I’ve also thought about doumenting and interviewing all the past walking tours, catologing and presenting the tour digitally. We decieded the value of these tours are that people walk within the streets and see the buidlings in-person as a immervise experience. Changing the medium into the digital lanscape will take away the impact of these walking tours. Through our dicussions, we decided to include stories from different region but also include interviews with the tour guides on how they plan the routes and their view on learning history in an unconventional way.
The second part of the map will be a project called, “Transitional Justice Cab.” I will be inviting people, such as, lecturers, students, people interested in history, and people with little knowledge of the history on a ride to the each memorial park in their city. During the ride, I would like to interview and spark conversation on how they view this historic past and what they think about transitional justice.
Overall there are three parts of the mapping project:
- 228 Massacre regional map: telling the story of what happened in each city and the people, victims involved in the event
- Kiong Sheng walking tour documentation: interviews with past tour guides and lecturers on how they plan walking tours and their thoughts on historical sites and rememberence
- Transitional Justice Cab: a conversation of understanding the past and thoughts on memorial parks and museums
Collective Memory and Maps
Through the past two weeks, I’ve spent a lot of time reading more in depth on transitional justice as well as the massacre itself. I was fond of the idea of “Personal history is collective memory.” It is easy to get caught up in numbers, statistics, and overall picture of historic events if we understand it through the lense on how history is taught in public education and media protray. However, at the end of the day, the root of which is still about people and their stories.
I’ve always been fascinated about maps. Perhaps it might be that Taiwan was not drawn in many world maps in the world or that the representive maps we had are mostly colonial maps by colonial and imperial regime. To me mapping and map reading was always a way to reconnect and understand the locality and history of my culture and identity. In some of the reading recommended by the organization, mapping was a way of storytelling.
there are some phenomena that can only achieve visibility through representation rather than through direct experience.James Corner, The Agency of Mapping: Speculation,
Critique and Invention,
I’ve begun to start thinking about my project. How do I map memory? History? Relics? Evidence? Trauma? I’ve been cautious not to fall into the pit of contributing to Trauma Porn (excuse my language), but all the articles, exhibitions, and documentaries on the subject pivot on pain.
How do I tell a painful history respectfully?
This is a question I will continue to ask myself in my journey of mapping.
Hearing the Closet: Archival Interventions with Costume + Textiles Collections – Holly Gaboriault, MA Global Arts + Cultures 2021
Central to understanding identities of people, their behaviors, and lived experiences are the material objects created and consumed. Long after they are placed upon a hanger or shelf, objects, clothing, and textiles continue to operate as expressions and historical markers exploring the power of place through cultural production, civic actions, communities, and their landscapes. In the discourse of looking and making, the politics of accumulated differences, disjunctions and dislocations centralize objects in social, cultural, economic, nationalistic, and historical entanglements.
In the past decade, the field of material history has emerged as one of the most urgent areas of research and pedagogy in the art and design world. Related to my previous studies and research of global history, culture, and design influence, the themes and subjects I examine are viewed through the lens of history, geography, and textural social integration seeking better practices for connecting concepts and critical thinking. My recent investigations surround methodology for object-based textile references used by both historical and contemporary textile and apparel designers exploring the boundaries of translation, cultural oversights, and historical misappropriation.
Material histories serve as dynamic vehicles to activate systems, values, cultural identities, and the dialectical relationship between the maker and the medium. During Winter 2020, I conducted a case study of the biennial juried exhibition projects Designing Traditions: Student Explorations in the Asian Textile Collection 2008-2018 within the Costume and Textiles Collections at the RISD Museum of Art. I hoped to continue this research working in the Rhode Island Historical Society’s Textile Collection putting aesthetic qualities of an object in dialogue with the colonial, racial, and environmental histories surrounding it.
Prior to COVID-19, my initial concept for this fellowship coincided with the women’s suffrage centennial, to work with the Rhode Island Historical Society researching their multimedia archive, including film, documents, and textiles to connect diverse stories of women who pioneered civic and cultural leadership in early Rhode Island history. This project extended that directive by composing a unique narrative using research and film to write and produce an original work for Rhode Islanders and beyond featuring the legacy of women who dedicated themselves to the fight for women’s equality and independence. Combined with scholarship and historical backstory, I intended to learn how people can better connect and engage with Rhode Island stories on a national and global level to produce a multi-phonic platform illustrating how people contribute to a place and how they shape it.
When I realized gaining access would be an unknown factor of proportions I could not have anticipated, I pivoted with a second idea to create a series of vignettes highlighting selections from RIHS collection of textiles, objects, and furniture exploring a profusion of multiple narratives existent within a singular object. By implementing an integrative framework for questioning interdisciplinary experts, scholars, and researchers, each theme is not intended to be exhaustive, but rather as capsules of curiosity providing opportunity for beginning future research and unpacking its history from different perspectives. Aligning with RIHS’s mission to teach people how to think historically, my intentions were for this project to give voice to objects, their hidden lives, and the lives of those who made them and used them. However, operating in and around this pandemic would NOT be easy.
The RIHS does not collect items, but rather “actively acquires” in a considered fashion. These collections include some 25,000 objects, 5,000 manuscripts, 100,000 books and printed items, 400,000 photographs and maps, and 9 million feet of motion-picture film. Approximately 7,800 objects reside in the RIHS Textiles collection, spanning the 1670’s through 2005, encapsulating domestic: including samplers, carpets, quilts; costumes worn on the human body and accessories: including fans, purses, hair combs, jewelry. Using material culture, object-based research provides opportunity to examine complex and shifting historical relationships with objects and how they transform over time, readdress exclusions, and allow a diversity of ethical perspectives to perform a reparative intervention. But what is evidence – or perhaps – what is a life lived for an object or textile? Frayed edges, the worn wood from human touch, a party stain from a drink spilled on a dress, sweat stains on the interior lining of a suit, the scent that lingers on fabric from a person or place, repeated mendings of the well-worn, and hasty repairs done by the novice hand – each ascribing social information to their individual narratives.
Many, if not all, of the subjects and items I searched for on the RIHS NETworked Online Public catalog (its NETOP database) did not have photographs – an obstacle I first encountered researching the RIHS material histories in attempts to select items to film for the project. As a design researcher, you HAVE to be able to see objects to find visual clues. I proceeded to initiate concurrent dialogues with C. Morgan Grefe, Executive Director, and Dana Signe K. Munroe, Registrar and residing digital overseer for the RI COVID-19 Archive. Her knowledge of the RIHS costume and textiles collection was unparalleled as a result of her long tenure at RIHS, coupled by her knowledge of textile conservation and passion for making. Dana and I set out on a journey to try to explore what we could within extremely tight time and COVID-19 restrictions. I was unable to enter RIHS property and continued to conduct extensive research through books and databases, including the Guide to Manuscripts at the Rhode Island Historical Society Relating to People of Color and possible inter-institutional knowledge from the RISD Museum online collection.
ABSENCE motivates my research. Reframing concepts of inclusion and absence, diversity and the tangible manifestations of the presence of women, especially within diverse communities and public life, sharpen my curiosity for such interdisciplinary connections. The mission of the RIHS is to tell compelling stories about the events and people of Rhode Island within their museums, programming, and archives. And the importance for featuring the stories of women from migrant and marginalized communities will testify to moments that resonate today. Aligning with RIHS’s desire to create tools aligned with their mission and ongoing dialogical interpretation, I was focused on a different way of viewing Rhode Island history and teasing out potential narrative ‘threads’ hidden within a textile or object, primarily examining the people and moments that shaped these items and their context.
Through a mixture of Zoom meetings and emails with Dana and Morgan from mid to late summer, my list narrowed to a selection of possibilities to explore: independent dressmakers and female entrepreneurship through tailoring; black seamstresses, tailors, millinery, haberdashery businesses; industrial objects designed by women; objects belonging to female athletes and/or athletic objects/garments made by women; objects / garments attributed to female writers/journalists; and items displaying cultural appropriation and/or cultural attribution from global trade (such as the Orientalist influence from the late 19th and items obtained from the China Trade). Eventually, with health safety regulations permitting, I was finally able to schedule a handful of visits over the course of late-July and August to see these items housed at the John Brown House Museum. Once I curated a small selection of objects and textiles, I could then begin to craft individualized narratives and plan filming.
For those unfamiliar with Rhode Island, its prosperity and commerce comprised of waterways and ports which proliferated the Industrial Revolution, global trade, and transatlantic slavery. Wealth and privilege was predominantly white, as were ideals and Westernized concepts of preservation and historical importance. This becomes a tricky proposition in the historical paradox of which objects and stories get saved, and those that do not. Located at 52 Power Street, on the edges of Brown University, just a few blocks from Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), the John Brown House Museum is noted as the first mansion constructed in Providence, Rhode Island circa 1786-88. John Brown, its original owner, was an early benefactor of Brown University, a merchant, statesman, and slave trader. Consequences such as these tangle the fibers of what manufactured America into a leading world figure and expansive agent of power. And yet aside from these truths of affluence families of industry, the RIHS staff works continuously to tell the stories of those who overcame enslavement, prejudice, exploitation, including women who exceeded the limitations of their gender and predetermined expectations. My hope was to find more of these women’s stories and interconnect them.
On a staff-guided walk-through, I make note of objects that seem both domestic and curiously designed. When I walk into the textile storage, the rooms are darkened by dark-colored shutters and the light cast shadows from two mannequins dressed in widow’s mourning outfits. Stacked on one side are flat file drawers, garments peak out from tightly packed closets and archival boxes tower up to the ceiling. Not sure of what era or even what I am looking at, I catch glimpses of faded, the tattered hems, ruffles of brown velvet, slices of bright purple satin, tassels, white feathers, woolen weaves, printed cotton patterns, and yes – more ruffles. It is a balance of asking to see what immediately catches my eye and viewing what Dana produces from our research conversations. Some items have little information attached to them; some are a complete mystery. Several items will come as a surprise; most will be just the beginning of a much larger story to tell.
One of the major issues that I kept gravitating towards, this summer was the ugly situation of the trucking industry in India. Most truckers are men with little or no education- they can barely read signs in their own language, and often think of bribes as just a way of life. This is an incredibly complex issue that ought to be addressed from multiple perspectives. It is an issue that concerns a small group that is treated wrong, but it contributes to general public health issues. Truckers operate with very little and entirely too uncomfortable sleep- as they are perpetually under the danger of being robbed. If robbed, their employers blame them for any lost goods. They have neither respect nor dignity in their jobs which take up most of their life. My work in the future will be looking to address this.
As of my fellowship, it was interesting space of in betweens. I was both a part of the team, yet not. Being a designer in the NGO with 2 main teams- 1. Policy and Research and 2. Training, was mildly confusing for me at times. It was sometimes hard to keep track of my own work. I certainly developed a language for communicating with non-design persona. Besides that I gained a realistic understanding of what policy work involves in India. There is a lot at stake for everyone involved and everybody has their own agendas- even amongst the groups with the same goals, their approaches and philosophies create clashes that create negative work. Working in the policy arena is an interesting, yet complex experience. I had my first taste and now I look forward to delving in further in the future, with more experience in the design field too.
Road safety isn’t an issue that people are overly concerned with. To remain optimistic, we choose to believe the bad things don’t happen to us. It is better that way to an extent. We do not want ourselves to be overly paranoid and avoid ever driving et cetera. When one thinks of the lack of road safety in India, gruesome details of hurt people on the road and burnt broken vehicles on the road come to mind. India as a country isn’t censored in the morbid or the gruesome. We see our chickens skinned and hung up outside butcher stores in plain view. We have all seen the gruesome remains of accidents too. Most of us have in some way been touched by these accidents- either by being hurt ourselves, or having our loved ones in close encounters with death and worse.
The biggest challenge that road safety spearheaders in policy face is one of public solidarity. How does one appeal to a crowd for support, when the said crowd would rather not dwell on what isn’t working? As an artist and a designer, I choose to work with narratives. But how does one create a narrative about something naturally pain inducing, and somehow induce hope in the audience? If the end result of the narrative isn’t some sort of hope, there is no real way to lull people into action.
Politicians are seriously daunted by the case that any action taken can make for or against their positions in each situation. When most of your voters aren’t interested in road safety, they won’t be very understanding if you take it up as your main fighting point in the parliament.
More than anything, this fellowship lead me to more informed questions on how to influence policy. The people I worked with this summer, are in a constant flux of gathering information, analysing it and representing it in ways that make their cause seem important to different power players. They are trying to make road safety seem like a non-politiciized issue- as politics in India are heavily leaning towards being identity politics and if a public safety issue like road safety got caught in it, we would never move forward. It has to somehow carry appeal as a nationally unified problem.
I was rather deeply hurt by one of the recent incidents. One of India’s retired famous actor-turned politician, got into a road traffic accident. It was the fault of her driver and herself, but they were well protected in their luxury car with airbags et cetera. She was nicked on her entertainment system due to her neglect in wearing a seatbelt. The flip-side of this was another not so luxurious car that got caught in this accident. The family in the car lost a child due to sheer neglect. The actor got all the care she needed and more- a lot of pity from the media and love from her fans. The girl did not get checked on by the said actor or the police officer that was more inclined on lending a shoulder to lean to the actor. The country is entrenched with ideas of of one life being more important than another. It has been rather hard to remain optimistic and I admire this organisation for keeping on with the cause despite receiving heartbreaking news everyday. I hope to start making short illustrations of hope in the world of road safety to join them.
In memory of a child lost to neglect.