Memories of the Future is a project and associated mobile app developed by artist Melanie Crean, and produced by Jordan Parnass and JPDA.
The app provides the user interface to a location-based cinema experience for participants who can view local poets performing their works at a series of sites in the Hunts Point neighborhood of the South Bronx.
The genesis of the artwork is located in socially engaged research and design by artist Melanie Crean, in which South Bronx residents are empowered to articulate how they have transcended incarceration and the environmental discrimination that are encoded in the landscape and architecture of their surroundings. Memories of the Future was conceived in response to the recent closure of the notorious Spofford Juvenile Detention Center, which dominated the Hunts Point neighborhood for over fifty years.
The project’s core participants are a group of sixteen poets and community activists living in and around Hunts Point. The group worked together to generate poetic story elements resulting in two works: A Forum Theater performance and a location-based cinema application for mobile phones, in order to reimagine possible futures for their community.
The first phase of the work utilized a series of performance based ideation methods to create a participatory Forum Theater Play. The narrative reflected the life story of one of the participants who was remanded to Spofford. The interactive performance, performed at Bronx Academy of Arts and Dance in May 2013, sparked much discussion from local residents and council members.
Through the course of compiling story fragments from lived experience, archetypal elements of the urban environment continually reoccurred that had shaped the lives of those residing there. Detention facilities, waste management plants, industrial parks and strip bars provide 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, speaking as interpreters, testifying on behalf of the location, 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, allowing each video vignette in the collectively written story to be viewed in the requisite 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.
The Memories of the Future app presents the second phase of the work, creating a performance / film / location based mobile narrative that circles around the periphery of the Spofford facility in a seamless loop. The story, told in poetic chapters, loosely follows the cycle of a chrysalis, describing how a figure improbably loses himself in the dark abyss of a small room, ultimately ending up in a place where dark is light.
The projects uses poetic text to critically discuss issues of urban spatial injustice and the disproportionate effect that correctional facilities and environmental discrimination have had on marginalized neighborhoods. If urban landscapes are monuments to time, etched with memory, then certainly they can be read, and if necessary, re-written.
Poets: Caridad La Bruja De La Luz, James Peach McClory, Simply Rob Vassilirakis, Paula Ramirez, Robert Comanche Romero, Audrey & Sandy De La Luz, Marta & Izzy Latimer, Rita Jones, Shandle Burton, Rachel & Mawa Erkalo, Antuan Thug Love Sumpter, Gabby Nelson, Big Rob Kimble, and Melissa Lomba.
App is available for download from the iTunes store: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/memories-of-the-future/id847693113