sound, writing


Produced by Community Architexts Chicago/ Los Angeles

Read the script I wrote based on audio and written interviews in the collection of the State Historical Society of Iowa library. I also arranged and composed the score based on factory and manufacturing sounds.

Public artists Jane Gilmor and BJ Krivanek joined together to produce Work-Shift, a large-scale sequential site activation at the former Sinclair-Wilson-Farmstead meatpacking plant–in operation from 1871 to 1990–in the devastated industrial neighborhood of Oak Hill in Cedar Rapids.

Site and Objectives:
This community-based art program underscored the changing face of work in the post-industrial Midwest. It articulated the public voices of two groups in the community that are diametrically related, past and future. The content and thematic basis of the sitework evolved from outreach sessions with displaced factory workers-women–(gathering testimonies of their past work experiences) and students at nearby Metro High School–girls–(developing evidence of their future work aspirations and abilities).

The soundscape is a digital collage which is constructed of layers of archival machine sounds and workers’ voices, submerging and emerging from the noise. The performers have developed a palette of choreographed movements that are either synchronized (based upon actual workers’ repetitive task motions) or improvisational (the opposite of regimented work). Machines are omnipresent in this performance as desired objects, as sounds, as systems both repressive and expressive.

Words are deployed in three ways: 1) A voice-over narrative is a composite of many women’s stories of the workplace; 2) Projected inscriptions reclaim the site with taxonomies of job names, car names. etc; 3 ) Archival voices are subsumed into the digital soundscape—they are ghosts in the machine.

The videos projected on the site are either archival film footage of workers (like X-rays into the past of the buildings) or re-creations of actions remembered by former workers. Although we focused upon the work experiences of women, we also included men in outreach.