GLADYS, ELINOR OR NETTIE, 2022 (20th-Century Stories)
In collaboration with Renzo Rospigliosi (b. 1997).
Medium: Video projection.
Duration of the video: 2:14 mins.
In the 1930 U.S. census, Gladys Morton, Elinor Wilson, and Nettie McCrae were three of the 38 Black residents in a census district that stretched from 7th St. to the Delaware River between Race St. and Chestnut St. There must have been people on these predominantly white streets who wished these Black residents would move down to the 7th ward, the center of Black life in Philadelphia.
Besides the 1930 census, there is not a concrete record of the lives of these Black families, but one tantalizing clue: a 1932 photograph from The Sunday Evening Bulletin. The photo shows most of the street, a couple of guys and children, and right across the street, sitting on the stoop of #136, is a Black woman on Elfreth's Alley. Could it be Gladys, Elinore, or Nettie? We don't know; perhaps she is a resident of a nearby building on 2nd Street.
In this projection, using generative coding, the Artificial Intelligence software was randomly fed with the available numbers of white and Black people on the official records and the 1932 picture of Elfreth's Alley. The unexpected abstraction of dots, lines, textures, and colors, reflects the visibility of those minority groups who have been ignored by the image-based archival records.
For more information, listen to the Alley Cast.
Episode 5: An Industrial Neighborhood.