Tuesday, May 06, 2008

some postcards from the archives...

dr. boyd postcards girard college, PA

dr. boyd postcard girard college, PA

dr. boyd postcard girard college, PA

dr. boyd postcard girard college, PA

steve roden installation may 2008

the past few days i've been working on an installation and performance for founder's hall at girard college for orphans in philadelphia. part of the installation and performance will be in three large empty domed rooms using sounds from the space, while a smaller single speaker installation will be in the archive. the archive is a giant mass of the history of the college in the form of piles and boxes of paper. there are things here from the school's earliest days in the mid 1800's up to the the 1960's.

many of the boxes and papers are covered in dust, dead bugs, lead paint chips, etc.; but much of it is in good shape, and i didn't see a single silverfish. while thumbing through a small pile of paper sitting on a box, i discovered was a small stack of about 200 postcards written by former students circa 1899 - 1917 and sent to john boyd, who worked the school. the letters are fascinating, mostly asking for money or help finding jobs, generally simply stated with handwriting and language moving from the awkward to the formal. many are asking for money to buy coal, some for tickets to a stephen girard birthday celebration, and one about recently getting a job as a "box maker and crusher".

they reveal much about what it was like to get out of school at the turn of the century; and almost every one of them begins with "dear sir". i ended up recording my own voice reading all of the cards to generate a small installation. i layered the recordings to create a bit of a field, but it is the first time i've simply used unprocessed recordings of words to make a piece.

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