Research Trip: Day 2

Today’s research largely fell into the realm of “site work”—engaging with an environment through movement in order to deepen understanding about a place and its relevance to history, community, or experience (among other things!)  As we dig deeper into this research, it is becoming clear that we are only beginning to get somewhere, but it certainly feels meaningful.  This first phase of the project (the last two days of work) has been primarily focused on history.  After processing the “facts” at Sloan Museum yesterday, today’s work was about experiencing the sites where many of the significant events in Flint’s history occurred.

We started at the former site of Fisher Body No. 2 (“Chevy in the Hole”), where the Sit Down Strike occurred in 1937.  We did some “Choreography Sprints,” which are a way of collecting traces of embodied experience in relation to an environment.  These led to the development of several “mini phrases” that we are looking forward to developing tomorrow.  We also collected footage of our movement material from yesterday at the site that we will translate into miniature dance films.  One of the things that struck us about this site was the vastness of the space, and also the greenness.

We went on to do a “driving tour” to the former site of the Delphi Automotive Systems plant (formerly AC Spark Plug / AC Rochester Division) at the intersection of Longway Blvd. and Davison Rd.  Again, we were taken with how huge the space was, and also the juxtaposition of green life that seems to be reclaiming this former industrial hub.  On our way to the next destination, we drove through part of the East side of Flint and saw evidence of the arsons from recent years.  This began a conversation about presence and absence, and how we were incredibly aware of what we did not see.  There is so much evidence of what was, but is no more.  Dot, in particular, had a strong reaction to the amount of empty space that clearly once held something— a house, a school, a business.

Our interest continued as we went to the birthplace of the auto industry, the Carriage Factory in Carriage Town.  We continued our site work here, doing another round of Choreography Sprints, and also some photo journaling.  We talked about how aware we were becoming of the idea of “borrowed time and space.”  The impermanence of industry and technology feels so prevalent in how we consider the role it has played in shaping the identity of this community.

It is becoming clear to us that while this historical research is important in providing context for understanding the fabric of this community, the most difficult parts of the research are ahead of us.  As we begin to transition into collecting personal stories, we know we will have to face uncomfortable questions about race and poverty and their significance in the identity of this community.