Black Echoes, 2021-2022 Collaborative Installation and Research Project, Kate Alexandrite and Brittany Green





Black Echoes, Brick Ripples is a collaborative work in progress, proposed as an interactive multimedia installation that engages past, present, and future histories––real and imagined––of an urban bamboo forest located in Durham, North Carolina’s West End neighborhood. Unnamed on the map, we refer to this space as the former Fitzgerald property. The videos above demonstrate potential samples for the collage of audio and visual field recordings that would be spatialize interactively from collected based informed by archival material from the former Fitzgerald property, currently the site of the Duke Arts Annex combined with field recordings and original electronic music that responds to these materials.

The proposed installation, through amplitude tracking monitoring participant spatialization and amplitude, would be composed of sixteen nonlinear passages mixed in real time in response to audience members movement throughout the gallery. Each passage will be an imagined snapshot of the former Fitzgerald property, informed by archival history, our understanding of the present (through interviews and site visits), and its imagined futures. As one would navigate the space, the lines between memory, reality, and the present are overlapped, disavowing linearity in favor of a pan-cyclic narrative.

The former Fitzgerald property, now owned by Duke University, was once owned by Richard Fitzgerald, great-grandfather to civil rights activist Pauli Murray and prominent Black businessman and community leader in Durham at theturn of the 20th century. The land, affectionately called “The Maples” by the Fitzgerald family, was once a site of Fitzgerald’s successful brick business and his family mansion. After the Fitzgerald family sold the property, the family home was sold for materials, and the land was subsequently sold to Duke University in the mid 1900s.

There is no visual or written acknowledgement of this important site of Black history and the impact of the Fitzgerald family on the Durham community. Black Echoes, Brick Ripples grapples with questions of what was lost, who has been erased, and how that has impacted this land and our relationship to it. Pulling from field recordings and archival material, the installation implores participants to contend with the erasure of Blackness from the history of this land and Durham at large, the positioning of this land as an institutionally owned space in the center of a Black neighborhood, the role this land has served in the current gentrification of West End, and Duke University’s complicity in these events.