Ruminating on Pitchtree, Peachtree, Nickel Bottom, too

Ruminating on Pitchtree, Peachtree, Nickel Bottom, too

Meredith Kooi

 

Lucy Lippard writes in her book The Lure of the Local: Senses of Place in a Multicentered Society, “Even in places we’ve never been before, human lives can eerily bubble up from beneath the ground and haunt us” (8). This sentence, which hangs near the entrance of my installation at {Poem 88}, has been a mantra for me throughout my time working on my project Pitchtree, Peachtree, Nickel Bottom, too. This project has made me question myself, my practice, and my approach. What am I doing and why? Where am I working and to what end? Who is my audience? What are the stories I am trying to tell? How do I fit into the work? What is my relationship to it?  

These images, videos, and sounds I share here are only beginnings. There is still much to do. The histories of the Muscogee and freed people of Nickel Bottom have yet to be fully uncovered and fleshed out. This is not for lack of trying. Most times in my research and communications, I came out empty-handed.

From July 9 - August 6, 2016, I transformed {Poem 88} into a studio/lab for my new project – Pitchtree, Peachtree, Nickel Bottom, too - that focuses on the area surrounding {Poem 88}, the Zonolite District and South Fork of Peachtree Creek in Atlanta.

Peachtree Creek has been a major element of Atlanta’s natural, social, cultural, and political histories and development. The Muscogee (Creek) had lived along Peachtree Creek with Standing Peachtree as a hub village. In the 1950s, the W.R. Grace Co began dumping their raw materials containing asbestos at their plant that was located in the Zonolite District, contaminating the soil and threatening the creek. After environmental remediation and stewardship of the South Fork Conservancy, there is now Zonolite Park. Currently, the Park is working to start a community garden they’ve named Nickel Bottom. Apparently this name comes from a community of freed people that are rumored to have lived there during Reconstruction.

For the duration of the exhibition, I produced visual, performance, and sound works in {Poem 88} using research-based and process-based methods. I invited the audience to collaborate and participate in the project. Every week, I led soundmapping creek walks, notating the sounds experienced on maps. During my artist talk, I hosted a potluck, encouraging the audience to share with each other.

I also asked artists from Atlanta and beyond to contribute their practices and voices to the project. Hope Hilton, who is Athens-based, led a silent dérive and plant drawing workshop, the drawings of which hang on the walls in the gallery. Atlanta-based Charmaine Minniefield gave an artist talk about her work on ancestral memory and place. One project in particular engages the community of the Beacon Hill community, a historically African American community in Decatur that has been and continues to be displaced. Sarah Louise, a musician based in Ashewille, NC added her compositions for solo guitar into the fold. At the closing reception were more layers of audio with performances by APHWK&K (Aww phooey with kim & kooi, the duo that is Alice Kim & me), Jon Ciliberto, and Steven L. Anderson.  Jon performed songs he wrote that are inspired by stories he gathered from area residents while going door-to-door while Steven performed his work A Clearing in the Forest that seeks to dismantle those forces that destroy the forest.

The poetry of place emerges from the creek bed and flows throughout this city, carrying in the swirling water the debris of history.

You can also view the project at http://pitchtreepeachtreenickelbottom.tumblr.com/

and http://www.meredithkooi.us/work/#/pitchtree-peachtree-nickel-bottom-too/.

 
 
 

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