Vanishing Discotecas (2013 – 2015) Photography, video, community panel
“Vanishing Discotecas,” is a video-photography-community project exploring gentrification. By its completion, the concept had been explored through various access points from conducting research and interviews, taking photographs and video, organizing and facilitating community groups, and presenting information in formal and informal venues.
In 2013, I bought a house in a newly gentrified area in East Downtown Houston. Properties consisted primarily of newly constructed townhouses and run-down historical homes. Disparate and conflicting architectural elements – like cyclone fencing and modernist design – sat uncomfortably next to each other. There was an abrupt visual disparity between clashing economies, politics, and cultures. To me, this was seen most stunningly in the numerous discotecas (dance clubs) that littered the area. Brightly painted pink, orange, and green bars were found up and down a major thoroughfare and on adjoining residential streets. What would happen to these places as developers bought up properties and new public transportation stops moved residents from East End to Downtown Houston?
Not only were the discotecas an aesthetic celebration of Houston’s Hispanic cultural heritage, but I had a personal attachment to them, as well. Fifteen years earlier, I began studying Latin American social dance. I taught classes for bands at nightclubs and served as a dance teacher at University of North Texas. The discotecas presented an economic, political, and personal paradox for me. How do existing and new communities come together? How do we embrace uniqueness and forge solidarity? These questions became the focus of “Vanishing Discotecas.”
The project used daytime and nighttime images to contrast conflicting perceptions of the clubs, either as eyesores to be bought up by real estate developers or as evening hot spots for locals.
“Vanishing Discotecas” was exhibited as a solo show at Lawndale Art Center in Houston. The installation included large format photography, video from inside one of the clubs, neon signs, door locks, and flyers from the local community. The installation was included in Lawndale’s exhibition for FotoFest. Coinciding with the show was a community panel discussion with representatives from the Houston East Management District, METRO (Houston’s public transit authority), and East End Foundation. The speakers discussed gentrification issues like crime, economic growth, and cultural/historical heritage. Throughout the project, I researched East Houston history, economic development trends, and crime statistics including Houston Police Department databases, with a particular emphasis on rape and human trafficking.
One of the photos was initially included in Miami Photo Salon, and, I gave an artist’s talk on the project at the University of Cambridge (UK), ART / MONEY / CRISIS symposium hosted by the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities..
Showings / Presentations:
- ART / MONEY / CRISIS, Centre for Research in Arts and Social Sciences, University of Cambridge (April 2016) Cambridge, United Kingdom
- Miami Photo Salon, Art Basel | Miami Beach week (December 2014) Miami, Florida
- Lawndale Art Center, FotoFest 2016 (11 March – 16 April 2016) Houston, Texas
- Lawndale Art Center, Community Panel Discussion (16 March 2016) Houston, Texas