Saturday, March 19, 2011

Shaking the Family Tree

The truth is, I was never that into researching my family tree, discovering old ancestors, finding my roots, all that. But this project dictates that I be in hot pursuit of that Ur-Buchalter who connects my grandfather to Lepke. So this week, I opened an account on one of those online family tree sites (more details when they accept my sponsorship proposal - wink) and sat down to a task I wasn't really all that interested in.

Except that....I'M HOOKED! I haven't had so much fun since we were taught genetic charts in 9th grade Biology. [I loved those "will the baby have brown eyes or blue?" exercises so much that I even thought I wanted to be a geneticist for a while - well, until Chemistry 101 in college, truth be told.] Okay, so you put in your beloved ancestor's name, and up pops all these documents and snippets of proof of their existence at various moments in history. Which leads you to the next one down the line, and the next one, and the next one. This one moved from here to here, and has now taken in so-and-so. It's an incredible interactive puzzle - and I'm on to you, Ur-Buchalter! Oh, and if anyone knows of a great genealogist specializing in Russia, lemme know....

PS. It was an incredibly beautiful day here on Governors Island (Spring is in the air!). After a pot-luck lunch with fellow artists, we were treated to a tour of the island by a National Park Ranger. I recorded the whole thing, so ROOM/TONE #2 - my next in a series of sound collage documentaries - is officially on its way. I may even have found a spot to install it.....oooooooh yummy.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Organizing Crime

You may have noticed from previous photos that I initially set up the studio with my desk facing the wall. What was I thinking?! So today I did a little space re-org, opening up my vista onto the beautiful stretch of water between me and lower Manhattan, and opening up a whole new wall to hang stuff on (even better!) Set up my new computer, generously donated by my long-time supporter at Murphy Louise Enterprises, and got back into action.

:+) <--(me, now - despite the dreary yet ominous grey clouds over the big island)

I played the numbers game today - that is, I printed off numbers 1-13 (as in "ways of looking at a black sheep") and began assigning them to the various clusters of photos/articles/comics/post-its/etc I've been hanging on the walls. Beginning to identify various themes/stories/concepts that will slowly but surely become the thirteen vignettes of this film. (Hmm, it's so much clearer when you see it.....and mark your calendar for an Open Studio Event on Memorial Day weekend!)

On the way home, I went down the stairs at the subway station just as five police officers carrying automatic rifles and done up to the neck in bullet-proofing came barreling down the opposite stairs. For a split second, I honestly thought they were coming for me. Seriously, as in I sort of subconsciously and instantaneously assessed whether I had just been involved in something criminal. Like guilt by association - with the dead???! Can you surround yourself with criminals - even on paper - without it rubbing off? Guess I'll find out....

Friday, March 4, 2011

Lepke Executed!

I hustled to make the 8:15 ferry this morning - a bright start to the day, and I was excited to be early to the island. Fewer schoolkids on the ferry than last time, and the peculiarity and privilege of this experience hit me harder because of it. I am reminded of when I first got a bike in New York and began riding along the river-edge bike path - revealing a new perspective on the city, and making me feel that after so many years living here, it was actually new again. And so it is brand new again.

Worked diligently this morning hanging photos and family trees and comic book pages on the walls. Also found these fantastic decal sheets yesterday and made a little vertical window map of the most important of Lepke's haunts around the city. The panoramic view out my studio windows gives me a look-out over everything from his birthplace on the Lower East Side, to his stomping grounds in Brownsville, Brooklyn, to the site of Dutch Schulz's demise at the Palace Chop House in Newark, NJ.

The three-dimensionality of the space is amazing - I've had these materials in binders and boxes for a long time, but walking around among them makes me feel like part crack reporter (I've got to work on my wise-guy radio voice), part fugitive hunter (true-crime tv producing finally pays off!). I may have to wear a fedora while I'm in here....

PS - On this date in 1944, Lepke was executed at Sing-Sing!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

In the Beginning....

Today it officially begins - a documentary project that I have contemplated and kicked around for a good 15 years but never quite found my way into....until now. I'm sitting here in my new LMCC Swing Space studio on Governors Island, where I'll spend the next five months filling the walls (and my mind) with the architecture of a project about my grandfather's notorious cousin Lepke. It will be a journey, a process, a search. I'll keep you posted here on how it's where we begin....