Wednesday, March 30, 2011

On Project Cabrini Green

Speaking of public art projects, a colleague of mine at Columbia College was involved in a really impressive work called Project Cabrini Green.

Cabrini Green is (soon to be was) a set of high rise buildings that were put up decades ago as part of Chicago's progressive public housing schemes. Eventually they fell prey to the widespread problems of urban blight and poverty, and Cabrini Green became a notorious byword for inner-city housing gone wrong. All but one of these 'projects', to use the American term, have come down, and the last one is being demolished starting today.
1230 N. Burling, scheduled for demolition, with LED installation
Of course, if you lived there, it was pretty tough to carry the stain of living in (gasp) "Cabrini Green". So artist Jan Tichy organised a huge project that worked with the remaining members of the Cabrini Green community to capture and record their own words, and translate the sounds of their voices into a series of LED displays that pulse according to the rhythms of their voices. These LED displays were installed inside the rooms of the final building, and they will go on blinking, clearly visible from the street, while the demolition continues, and until the last brick of Cabrini Green is gone forever. Video of what that looks like here. And a live feed on the project website, here. The live feed is also being fed to the foyer of Chicago's Museum of Contemporary Art.

My colleague, Bobby Biedrzycki, helped out in some of the workshops with the Cabrini Green residents. (Bobby gave me an unusual interview last year.) Congratulations to him and to all who were involved in this beautiful and rather melancholic project.

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