Michael Holland with the Blue Book and the Silver Book from the City Archives.
This exhibition “Blue Book / Silver Book” historically contextualizes both adoption of the city plan that saved the low-income housing in Skid Row (known as the Blue Book) and the defeat of a front running alternative “Silver Book” plan that proposed “massive development of the area.” In the wake of the clear-cutting of historic Bunker Hill in 1955, Skid Row was headed for a similar “redevelopment,” under a proposed general development plan known as the “Silver Book.” Community advocates from The Catholic Worker, The Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles and The Community Design Center, frustrated by the wholesale displacement of Bunker Hill residents, organized and presented an alternative plan, one that saved the single room occupancy hotels and committed resources to renovating and augmenting this housing and locating social services in the area.
This plan, known as “The Blue Book,” was adopted by the City Council, with a majority of votes, some concerned with providing housing and others simply concerned with keeping displaced Skid Row people from coming to their neighborhoods. The framers of the plan argued that it was cheaper to save and renovate Skid Row housing than to try to build it elsewhere, as new construction would be more costly and face local resistance. In order to garner the requisite majority vote in City Council, proponents argued that enhanced housing and services would keep Skid Row residents from straying to other neighborhoods and that it would “contain” poor people in one part of downtown. Thus, it passed City Council and became law –with a coalition of housing advocates and with additional votes of Council members who cynically only wanted to keep poor people out of their districts.
Significantly, the Blue Book plan prohibited market rate development within Skid Row. The Blue Book Plan saved the housing in Skid Row. So, while every other Skid Row in America was disappeared, in Los Angeles the area’s primary stakeholders remain its low-income residents, and their interests are increasingly prioritized as the community works to create a vibrant, viable neighborhood. This show utilizes the interplay of historical documents and non-linear, digitally reconfigured content–activated by each visitor–to unfold its story, thereby creating a mechanism for each visitor to experience the exhibition uniquely.
The exhibition consists of a minimal installation of physical objects: two books, one Blue one Silver, on a bare table. As visitors turn the pages of each, thematically linked photos, videos, audio and paper documents, pop up, projected on the gallery walls.
The show is curated by LAPD and designed by LAPD in collaboration with Robert M. Ochshorn. Ochshorn is a researcher at the Communications Design Group (San Francisco, USA), where he designs media interfaces for extending human perceptive and expressive capabilities. He holds a BA in Computer Science from Cornell University and worked as a Research Assistant in the Interrogative Design Group at MIT and Harvard. In 2012, he was a researcher at the Jan van Eyck Academie (Maastricht, NL), where he developed the open-source InterLace software that was used in collaboration to create the web-based documentary Montage Interdit (presented at the Berlin Documentary Forum 2, June 2012, Berlin, Germany), and he has recently completed a residency at Akademie Schloss Solitude (Stuttgart, Germany). He has performed, lectured, and exhibited internationally.