After my presentation last week, I was at something of a loss for where to go next. Reviewing the notes that were left in the collaborative Google doc, I saw RepoHistory’s Lower Manhattan Sign Project. This and the Queer Spaces signage they created reminded me of faux-historical markers I had seen online some time ago – after some research I discovered they were the work of Norm Magnusson, and I found there were other similar projects (like Mark Daye’s homelessness street signs). This was the inspiration I was looking for.
I realized that Magnusson’s historical markers represented this great means to intervene, to put something into public consciousness through taking over a recognizable, legitimized medium. They can carry the message that I originally felt needed to be known – the personal narratives of misrepresented citizens, the history and stories of people who live in the contested space.
Oral histories and popular media usually focuses on the lives of people we qualify as important, victims of homicide and statistics relating to crime usually focus on the quantitative facts that can be easily remediated into data sets and reports. These lead to the prevailing views that dominate public consciousness when we lack the critical skills or media literacy to question those impressions. Ordinary people lose their agency and sense of proper representation.
The “product” or pilot of this is to create official looking signs which tell the stories of victims of homicide in New Haven during 2011, when there were 34 murders. As a pilot, I will research and attempt to learn about a few of the victim’s lives before they were killed – experiences and truths otherwise ignored. Signs to commemorate their lives which mimic the other examples will be created and installed at the locations where they were killed. The point is to see them as something other than just victims – as people who lived in the area and had lives worth hearing about.
I know this is still a pretty serious subject matter/concept, but I feel like lightening it would be to cheapen or denigrate the goals or subject.
The revised proposal, which is on Zotero in the week 8 folder, also explains my motivations and framing for this intervention in other terms.