COMMUNITY ART IN THE POST-DISASTER LANDSCAPES OF TODAY

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Site #5: "Seed Church" Speakman/Underwood: Mt. Carmel Church, corner of Galvez and Forstall/Lower 9th Ward

Click on photos to enlarge.











I’ve been in the Lower 9 so much since Katrina: volunteering to gut houses, feeding animals who remain homeless, and to witness and digest the tragedy. I’ve always held a respectful reserve in terms of going into the properties uninvited and poking around and I never took a single photograph here until I started working for Art In Action. It felt exploitative until I actually built up a relationship with the place, as it is now, and had a reason to document the environment other than to have a photograph of the inconceivable (a car on a house!).

Over time and while exploring for locations, I have begun to feel a current and intimate connection with the landscape, the people, the place as it is now. And while contributing artist Christy Speakman (Bird/Puddle) was in town she and I spent a lot of time driving around looking for locations for work. We got out of the car a lot to just listen, walk around, breathe. And we found this church, Mt. Carmel, gutted and singing a very strange magnetic song. How eerie and metaphorical to find this shell of a church with empty plates and bowls stacked up out front with the “Invitation To Dine (with Jesus Christ)” plaque propped up behind them. It seemed appropriate to fill the dinnerware with bird seed.

For ages I’ve not seen one bird down here - only recently have I seen a few hawks and crows, so I had my doubts as to whether we’d be feeding anything but rats and mice. But last week while refilling the bowls hereI heard sparrows in the branches of the dead oaks out front. Their singing was delicate and bright and a clear reminder of the profound resiliency of life.

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