Interview with Rebecca Locke, CFW’s Artist-in-Residence
In October CFW introduced the inaugural Artist-in-Residence, Rebecca Locke, and commissioned Rebecca to create a new piece of work exploring the theme of celebration. The resulting body of work and we all came in together, an immersive installation, utilized new digital media, analogue technologies, video, objects, found images and discovered stories to reflect New Yorkers’ ongoing relationship with the city, exploring celebration as memory and its meaning defined through the interaction of people. At its core, Locke’s and we all came in together is a city-centric practice in seeing the unseen.
Recently, CFW interviewed Rebecca about the making of the work and this is what she said.
Where did the idea for the commissioned work ‘and we all came in together’ come from?
Following Hurricane Sandy, Dimas Salaberrios, a pastor from the Bronx, would take an old school van every day from the South Bronx to Far Rockaway bringing young men who’d pump the basements of anyone who needed help. I went along with Dimas and Christina Stanton (Redeemer Missions) and someone asked me to check on their neighbor. We came across a dear 96-year-old lady whose home had flooded, but she didn’t want to leave for fear of being looted. In this time of distress she wanted to tell her stories and show photographs from her album. I was struck by how many of her memories, her most meaningful memories, revolved around celebration, and of course that meant the people she had made those memories with.
When CFW commissioned the work on the theme of celebration I thought of her and of what she’d shared with me. In thinking of celebration as memory, I invited New Yorkers, particularly New Yorkers who had known the city for a long time, to tell their stories of celebration, relating to their lives and to the city. It was these stories—these discovered stories—that would form the basis of the piece. It is a very ‘New York City’ piece of work.
A very ‘New York City’ piece…
It is inspired by memories collected from New Yorkers who have known the city for five decades or more, memories that I then distilled into twelve New York City stories. These are very small, very short stories, no more than a stanza long, the longest is a hundred and sixty words.
These stories include traveling from New York for the March on Washington, the spontaneous Times Square celebration on VE day as news travelled across Manhattan that war in Europe was over, of going AWOL to visit loved ones in Brooklyn, the accolade of an ‘untouchable,’ and the story of an old lady forever mistaken for ‘Katherine Hepburn on a bike.’ Through these memories the commissioned work explores themes of migration, celebrity, tradition, the communal element of this city, and especially the city as a place of sanctuary.
So is the idea of discovery significant?
Art, I believe, should be reflective which is more than saying not all its meaning should be spelled out, or that space should be left for interpretation. As a reflective piece the installation, the stories (and even the process of finding them) will mean different things to different people, and that is my hope. I am sure that this work will mean things to people that I couldn’t have imagined, and as the artist, hearing these things, these interpretations, means a great deal.
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