ABIGAIL DEVILLE'S HARLEM STORIES
Director: Nick Ravich
United States, 2014, 7 min
Shooting Format:Super 8, HDSLR digital
Crew:Producers: Nick Ravich, Wesley Miller - Cinematographer: John Marton - Editor: Erin Casper -
Email:ian AT art21.org
How does an artist acknowledge forgotten people? In this ART21 production, artist Abigail DeVille stalks the streets of Harlem with a trash-laden push cart, creating temporary sculptural interventions along the way. Stopping at Lenox Avenue and 131st Street, Bronx-born DeVille tucks a smiling plaster cast of her face into an outdoor planter. It's the site of her grandfather's childhood home, a former brownstone converted into a conspicuous eyesore of an apartment building. DeVille explains that placing the sculpture there is an act of personal and historical reclamation, a way of acknowledging 'groups of people that occupied a space that no longer exists...but helped shape the space into what it is now.' Over Super 8mm film footage of contemporary Harlem, DeVille describes a landscape under the constant pressure of development and gentrification. 'It feels like the the earth is shifting,' she says, 'New groups of people are moving in and old groups of people are being pushed out. So it's almost like migratory patterns of birds.' Pushing her unwieldy cart to the East River no man's land at the base of the Willis Avenue Bridge, DeVille unloads heaps of distressed wood, rusty metal, mannequin heads, and trash bags. This unkempt and unceremonious site is the presumed location of a colonial-era African burial ground where free and enslaved families buried their dead when Dutch settlers farmed upper Manhattan, dating back to the seventeenth century.
About the director
Nick Ravich is currently the Director of Production at ART21, a Peabody-winning documentary production and contemporary arts organization. As a co-creator of ART21's Webby Award-nominated online series "New York Close Up," Nick has worked with over 25 collaborating subjects, directing and producing narratively diverse and visually stylish portraits of New York City-based artists.
This film was produced by ART21 for the "New York Close Up" series.