Sunday, May 22, 2011

Quite interesting

Thomas Dutel, whose place of business was displaced from the VA Hospital Footprint, is making furniture named after other displaced residents - like "The Wally Bed" named after Wally Thurman, formerly of S. Tonti Street.

One of his most recent creations is the "Wally Bed" for the Green Project’s Salvations 2011 competition held in April. Of all the entries, the Wally Bed was recognized as one of the top six designs in the show and was awarded "Best Traditional Design."

This really is a great token of the strong community spirit that flourished in a neighborhood that has been destroyed.


Anonymous said...

Although touted as traditional, the Wally Bed, with its gate elements, looks funerary and institutional. It is difficult to see how this honors an octogenarian veteran who had hoped to die in his own bed and was forbidden to take the family's heirloom chandelier with him when the VA project forced him to move.

Wally was not the only neighbor to be forbidden to keep anything from their family homes. He was one of the many people who made personal sacrifices to come back to a community which deemed them expendible and treated them as second-class citizens. Now, others are purchasing the neighborhood salvage to create conceptual art. There is something inherently wrong with this picture, even though Mr. Dutel and other artists may be well-intentioned.

Re-using elements from the neighborhood may salve social conscience but it also assures that these irreplacable architectural elements will never again serve their intended purpose or be used to appropriately repair our rapidly dwindling supply of vintage housing stock.

The derivative works created from Lower Mid-City salvage are not themselves examples of architectural or cultural preservation; they are found art using architectural elements. As such, they create a market for the more rapid depletion of an already endangered and finite resource, just as the pre-Katrina craze for religious and funerary art drove a thriving market in memorials looted from New Orleans cemeteries.

For those of us with multi-generational ties to the citizens and artisans who built and rebuilt this ravaged neighborhood, it is difficult to see as "art" items pulled from our family homes' carcasses. Artists exploiting our cultural memory in this manner should ask before putting ANY neighborhood name which is not their own on their creaqtions. For some of us with deep roots in this uprooted wasteland, such an "honor" is unwelcome.

AEB said...

I agree with the comments posted by Anonymous. Using the old veteran's house elements to create a bed strikes me the same as seeing an elephant;s foot repurposed as an umbrella stand: something about it is just not right. Many of us with ties to the now-destroyed properties in Lower MidCity were forcibly prevented from salvaging house elements ourselves. Now to see others making much of "preservationist" sensibilities of this kind and being celebrated for their work offends my sense of values. Perhaps it's ultimately inconsequential, this woodworker and his bed, not worth getting riled up about, but one thing it surely isn't is preservation.

Brad V said...

If the comments about "preservationist" sensibilities are directed at me, I would point out that my comments on this particular matter have nothing to do with preservation.

People cared about each other in a neighborhood. I saw that firsthand. And this is an expression of that reality.

So it's not perfect. It's part of a grand, flawed, terrible process. Perhaps some aspect of it offends you.

I'm offended by the real powers that set all of this in motion. Bickering over some tangential aspect like this is of little use.

Anonymous said...

Comments about the repurposing of items taken from the hospital fooptrints were not intended as a personal insult. Your work showing the world the humanity and architecture of the neighborhood is remarkable, and for that you have my undying gratitude. Unfortunately, some efforts others intend as memorials to the displaced community appear misguided, ghoulish and insensitive. But these are only material things and there are far bigger injustices and project-related questions to address.

For decades, land assembly for a planned biomedical district has been insidiously executed though cheap purchase of individual properties and lots. As the BioDistrict extends its reach into more affluent areas deeper in MidCity where recovery was NOT stymied by a city-imposed building permit ban, holdout property owners may prove considerably more difficult for developers to dislodge and displace, possibly leading the City and State to consider granting to other project-related entities the power to expropriate private property as LSU has done within the hospital footprint.