Hidden Houses

Demolition of 601 E Mulberry 11-25-89 (2)

Here’s a project I worked on earlier this year for URBAN-15’s Hidden Histories series, an outgrowth of community work I’ve been involved in for the past few years around urban land struggles and the right to the city. With Greg’s assistance, I filmed several video interviews with folks who grew up in San Antonio neighborhoods or communities later removed from the urban landscape by various policy mechanisms. I then drafted a script for the live production and was lucky enough to line up a couple of great guest commentators for the show, which was ultimately filmed live before a studio audience and streamed online via URBAN-15’s space-age livestreaming technology.

Overall I think the finished production came out pretty well. Visually it was stunning, thanks to considerable grassroots production chops of the URBAN-15 crew. If I’d had more time, I would have resisted harder my impulse to cram everything in there. I would have pared down the number of cases and also followed up with a community elder with vital connections to a potential interviewee who actually grew up in Baptist Settlement, a neighborhood removed almost a century ago.

At the same time, the constraints of live production basically prescribe a lesson in letting go of academic perfectionism and endless revision–you just gotta go with what you got and make it look magic on the fly. It was also pretty neat to learn basic video production and editing skills in the process. I’m used to thinking textually, interviewing people and developing arguments about those interviews in writing, without any concern for audio/visual quality of the recording. Who cares what it sounds like, much less looks like, as long as you have an accurate transcript to work with at the end of the process! Having to think visually–to worry not only about the content of the interview but also its form and whether it would look and sound good–was strange and difficult, like thinking in 3D instead of 2D, but it was also fun, and definitely gratifying to see it all come together in the live production.

Here it is, then, Hidden Houses: Neighborhood Histories of Removal and Resistance:

July Screenshot

Full interviews excerpted in the show (as well as some bonus trax not included in the show) are also archived on the Hidden Histories website. I especially like this one, which was a lot of fun to edit:

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Mary Jane Diaz’s interview–the story about her grandmother’s quick decline and death following removal orders under Urban Renewal–is also chilling to me and worth viewing in its entirety. The unseen, uncommented on, unquantified deaths of elders and other vulnerable people in the wake of relocation schemes are to me the real “hidden history” here of development decisions. How many other cases like this do we not know about, because no one ever tracks down those who are removed and asks what that experience was like?

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2 thoughts on “Hidden Houses

  1. Pingback: Killing My Darlings | M Cortez

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