The Circulation of Knowledge, Part Six of Six – Dustin O’Hara

Exhibition and Display

By the time of the exhibition’s opening, the portion of the site focusing on the task force report had already been live for some time. But during the weeks leading up to the exhibition, we shifted into more of a post-production stage as opposed to the previous stage of field work. I assembled a team of 10 undergraduate film students to edit the interviews. They were directed towards editing short topical segments rather then a linear edit of the conversation. Thematic connections between the different portions of conversation were then linked together through the site. The curating of the material took place by prioritizing certain thematic points over others. Cat’s interview was central to how the interviews were curated.

From the surface level, all clips immediately available had an explicit relationship to Outreach services, but the more tangential portions of their interview are still available if the user is interested in any one individual or situation. For instance, Larry is a senior citizen and patron of the bookmobile, who is full of interesting stories about being a math teacher and actively organizing the desegregation of his school district. Currently with limited mobility issues, Larry’s relationship to the bookmobile articulated a very important dimension of Outreach services, but this is only a small percentage of his interview. So for the Outreach report, only that small section is available from the initial surface level, but if one wanted to dive into Larry’s stories and philosophy on life and death, one can easy find it. Rather then cutting this material out, we folded it into the background, allowing the immediate presentation to have more thematic focus while still making the tangential narratives available to users. Currently this is hardcoded into the site, meaning the thematic focus is static. However, one could easily imagine a more dynamic system that could re-organize annotated archival material to form narrative presentations for any number of thematic issues. Such a system would require much more involved annotation of archived interviews.

We then made the site available online, as well as installed it for the exhibition as part of a study room. For the reception of the exhibition, the bookmobile was there, but for the rest of show we tried to develop a strategy for installing that would reflect on the absence of the bookmobile in some way. The study room was located at the end of a long hallway, and along the wall of the hallway we installed a set of large canvas prints. The prints were taken directly from Cat’s personal photo album and the Outreach document archive. The original documents and photo album pages were 8.5” X 11” and scanned at high enough resolution to be printed as 36” X 50” canvas prints. During the years when Outreach didn’t have a bookmobile, or during its historic absence, Catherine would lay a blue tarp on the ground and spread the moving boxes full of books across the tarp for the children to look through.

We stretched and installed the canvas prints in the hallway, supported by a series of cardboard moving boxes. The canvases and moving boxes all rested on top of a folded blue tarp. The boxes and tarp, as a strategy for installing the prints, was made clear in one of the images that depicted Catherine visiting the farm labor camp Murphys Crossing.

Study room image.

Prints in hallway.

During the reception party of the exhibition, the bookmobile was parked directly in front of the main entrance. Eric, the current bookmobile driver, and Gale, the current outreach director, signed people up for library cards and checked books out to people. Inside the bookmobile we had monitors playing interviews with Catherine and Bob (the retired director of Outreach and retired bookmobile driver), intercut with other interviews playing on loop. The two video loops in the bookmobile focused on Outreach services to farm labor camps and the county jail.

Field Trip to Murphys Crossing. From top left t bottom right: Daniel Kagan, Blair McLaughlin, Ricardo Terrazas, & Catherine Steele. In the living room of Analilia de La Torre - development coordinator. Walking to look at neighboring farms and river.

Extending the focus of the prints on Murphys Crossing, we organized a series of field trips as part of the exhibition, most notably a field trip with Catherine to Murphys Crossing. In the world of farm labor camps Murphys Crossing is definitely a success story. During the mid to late 1980s, Murphys Crossing switched ownership a number of times; most of these owners were not in favor of public services coming to help the children and made it very difficult for Outreach by constantly requesting legal forms and letters releasing the owners from any liability issues.

At the time, like most labor camps, Murphys Crossing was rundown and extremely substandard. Much of the tension came to a head with the 1989 earthquake, which marked the region a national disaster and brought with it federal funds to rebuild. Now it is owned by a nonprofit housing organization, and it is a beautiful community made up still of mostly farm workers, with rose and vegetable gardens surrounding the small family homes. There is a playground for the children and sizable community room for meetings and gatherings.

In an email exchange following the reception of the exhibition, I asked Catherine how she felt about the show. She said,

I liked the use of the boxes as a graphic metaphor…
It was neat to see the two monitors in the bookmobile with Bob on one and me on the other. It was as if we were both right back there… The interviews with Veronica were great. She is very eloquent and to the point. Interweaving her stories through time as well as geographically brings great cohesiveness to the presentation. I think you managed to capture a few decades of personal, social, and community history in Santa Cruz… (Steele)

In the email, Catherine goes on to mention that showing the work at the farm labor camps could be interesting. So with the conclusion of the exhibition, we made arrangement with the community coordinator at Murphys Crossing to install the prints in the community room.

While in some ways over the course of the project the exhibition has operated as a kind of point of inevitable conclusion, in actuality it has been simply one of many points of contact.

Print installed in hallway: newspaper article about the farm labor camp Murphys Crossing

Inside the bookmobile monitors played interviews. Shown here: interview with Bob the retired bookmobile driver talking about the differences between the children in the rich and poor neighborhoods.

More photos here.
More project information here.


Note: For video of personal interviews visit:

Freire, Paulo. Pedagogy of the oppressed. NY: Continuum, 2000. Print
Havery, David. “Land Grabs | Ashley Dawson.” Ashley Dawson | Online
Archive of My Publications, Talks, Blogs, Etc. 13 Apr. 2011. Web. 17
May 2011. .
Holmes, Bob. interview, 2011
Jackson, Shannon. Social Works: Performing Art, Supporting Publics.
Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge, 2011. Print.
John, Dewey. Art as Experience. New York: Perigee Trade, 2005. Print.
John, Dewey. Democracy And Education. New York: Free, 1997. Print.
Kester, Grant H. Conversation Pieces Community and Communication in
Modern Art. NY: University of Cal, 2004. Print.
KSWB. News Report, 2011
Kunstler, James Howard. The Geography of Nowhere: the Rise and Decline
of America’s Man-made Landscape. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1997.
Lopez-Duran, Veronica. interview, 2011
Pirie, Ellen. Santa Cruz County Public Library Public Hearing, 2011
Rotkin, Mike. Santa Cruz County Public Library Public Hearing, 2011
Santa Cruz County Public Library, Monthly Reports, Santa Cruz CA, 1984
– 2011
Steele, Catherine. “some questions?” email to Dustin O’Hara, May 2011
Steele, Catherine. interview, 2011


One comment

  1. Pingback: / Circulation of Knowledge Archive « up the hill & through the woods

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