It’s been a bumpy ride, but the winding road down #RedLineDC is nearly over. And what a ride it has been! Today we had the pleasure of being featured in The Express, a Washington Post publication that’s often read on the very Red line ride we’ve been focusing our energy on all these years. Director/producer Saaret Yoseph shared her behind-these-scenes experiences, motivations for creating the project as well as the major themes addressed in the documentary. It’s an honor for Red Line D.C. to be featured in the paper and we’re proud to consider ourselves a part of the many visual and communal elements of your commute! If you missed the write-up in print, you can find it online, right here. Take a look!
From Theory to Practice
We’re back with another sampling from the #RedLineDC video vault. This time with an excerpt from last year’s interview with art historian and culture theorist Martin Irvine, the founding professor of Georgetown University’s Communication, Culture & Technology program.
We asked Professor Irvine about the academic concepts evident in graffiti subculture. What’s the big idea behind the writings on the wall? Why has the tradition of graffiti returned to the Red line, again and again? Irvine weighs in on the lure of metro graffiti and explains why we need to give these everyday aesthetics a closer look. See for yourself and share your thoughts in the comments section below.
All editing and no play makes Red Line D. C. a dull project, so luckily there’s a silver lining up ahead. Next month we’ll be screening new footage and discussing the final phase of our efforts at two upcoming events. The first, on Saturday, October 13th, (7pm) will be hosted by neighborhood initiative DeanwoodxDesign. The second, a collaboration between human resource-hub Knowledge Commons and BloomBars, a community arts space in Columbia Heights, will be held the following week on Saturday, October 20th (12-2pm).
Respectively, these three awesome organizations are breathing new offline life to Red Line D.C. We’ll be showing unseen footage from the two-part film and both events will feature live discussion with Saaret Yoseph, the documentary’s director and producer. Yoseph will talk about post-production progress and plans for release, as well as the stakes behind Red Line D. C. and the 3-year process that led to this point in the project.
Oh, and in case you missed it last week, Yoseph did a guest spot on WAMU‘s The Kojo Nnamdi Show. She was included in an episode about public art and graffiti alongside a couple Red Line D. C. interviewees, including art director Cory Stowers and Nancee Lyons from the Department of Public Works. The lively chat should hold you over if you’re in need of a little Red line action until we see you next month.
But in the meantime, check back for more event details and project updates.
Reviving the Red Line
For weeks now, we’ve been hiding out in an edit studio trying to piece together the two-part documentary series that will encompass all the underlying issues of Red Line D.C. With a rough cut of part one already under our belt, the bulk of our attention has been focused on building part two, a story that will address the Metro-Branch Trail’s development; how changes in access to the Red line have in turn affected aesthetics and the value of wall space. This process has been slow, but steady. And sadly, because of our tunnel vision video-making, the online presence of #redlinedc has dwindled. For this, we sincerely apologize.
Hopefully, our absence has only made your heart fonder of the film’s potential. But in case it hasn’t, here’s some bonus footage to rekindle your interest. In this video excerpt, Prof. Zachary Schrag, author of The Great Society Subway, reminds us why Washington metro matters are so important to understanding the District.
While you patiently await our film’s final cuts, we’ll do our best to post more video clips like this one to hold you over. So until then, bear with us folks, documentary work in progress …
So, How Was Your Weekend?
This past Friday was a great success for Red Line D.C. The people were present, the music was thumping and #RasPunch was being poured in abundance. Our end-of-the-week happy hour offered, yet, another opportunity to generate interest in the project. As sneak peek footage from the documentary played in the background, filmmaker Saaret Yoseph mingled with the crowd and appealed to attendees to support the efforts they saw on-screen.
We raised nearly $600 that one night, thanks to small contributions and sales from our first batch of Red Line D.C. T-shirts. Check out the photos from the evening. And, in case you missed all the action at Ras, be sure to join us this Thursday night at our closeout party at Blackbyrd (6-9 p.m., 2005 14th St, NW). No doubt, this next event will be just as fun & fruitful as the last.
A Cure for the Mondays
Nothing starts the week off right like good news. And ours offers something to look forward to this Friday: A sneak peek of Red Line D.C. On June 15th, from 6-9 p.m., director and producer Saaret Yoseph will be screening footage, photos and snippets from the documentary at Ras Restaurant & Lounge. Join us for happy hour drinks and discussion. Find us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter for event updates and information.
Hope to see you then!
Main Event(s): Show Up & Show Love
Remember those promises we made about Red Line D.C. and summer fun? Well, summer is upon us, people, so set your sights–and synchronize your calendars–for all the fun in-store for you. In preparation for upcoming events, we just launched a seven-week long fundraising campaign to promote the project and pay for the costs & labor needed to make Red Line D.C. come to life. Please check out our campaign page and contribute what you can.
In the meantime, show some love at one (or ALL) of the events we have planned for June. Bring yourself, a few friends and a lot of enthusiasm. We’ll be expecting you …
UPCOMING RED LINE D.C. EVENTS:
Red Line D.C. Happy Hour & Sneak Peek Screening
Friday, June 15th
4809 Georgia Ave, NW
(btw. Decatur St. & Delafield Pl.)
Red Line D.C. Closeout Party
Thursday, June 21st
2005 14th St, NW
(btw. V & U st)
Hello, My Name is SMK
It’s been way too long since we’ve had a guest blogger. And, as we begin to reach the end of Red Line D.C.‘s journey, it seems only fitting to hear from someone who’s experience with “the Line” goes back decades. Writer SMK is allegedly one of the first to get up on the Red line. Yet, despite his OG status, he’s been kind enough to collaborate with us on the Red Line D.C. Mixtape, a playlist of transit-inspired songs and sounds. SMK will be curating for your FREE listening pleasure to help promote events and fundraising this month. Stay tuned for more on that …
But until then, here’s a word or two from the man, himself, as well as a few metro graffiti flicks from his personal collection:
I do not philosophize about what I do. I just want to get my shit off. (paint) with the least amount of attention, until the graffiti is visible the next day.
I am a Graffiti writer not a graffiti artist, nothing artsy about me, nor do I really care to express my feelings, emotions, to the public. Everything I have to say is on whatever media I paint on.
As 1st order of the Free Agents
The Red Line’s Nerdy Side
It isn’t easy explaining all the moving parts of Red Line D.C., but director and producer Saaret Yoseph did her best last week. Presenting in front of faculty at Georgetown University, she defended the research and remixing done for the project over the past two years. Saaret discussed the transient elements of graffiti and transit as well as her motivations for exploring the everyday aesthetics of our Red line commute. The event was a marker of Red Line D.C. ‘s progress and a milestone in her graduate career in the Communication, Culture & Technology program at Georgetown. If you’re looking for insight on what makes this whole interactive, multimedia project work, get into geek-mode and take a look at this snippet from the presentation:
PHOTOS: Metro Flashback
If you think you’ve seen all there is to see of the Red line, think again! We got our hands on some amazing black and white photos from the Washingtoniana section of the Martin Luther King Library and revisited the Red line metro of decades past. Walk down memory lane with these historic photos of metro construction, early ridership and the Red line before graffiti.
Great Minds Blog Alike
Finally, someone as obsessed with trainspotting as we are! In our constant search for all things metro, we came across the very visual and like-minded blog DC Metro People. The blog creator and fellow transit enthusiast Ryan Reed has amassed hundreds of self-captured snapshots of metro riders with nothing but his iPhone at the ready. His growing photo collection and the video montage below take a poetic approach to portraying the metro experience as well as the captivating strangers we all encounter on-board.
According to his Q&A with TBD’s “On Foot” blog, Reed’s inspiration for the site was sparked by his own transit encounters and, like us, he sees the space as fertile ground for discussion. Cheers to his effort and others, like Red Line DC, that look to re-engage city-dwellers with their everyday space. We love finding kindred creative spirit …
The Graffiti-Fueled Field Trip
It was a typical Sunday with extraordinary ambition. A small group of strangers convened at Metro Center this past weekend with only their curiosity in common. After a quick exchange of names and pleasantries, they boarded a train toward Glenmont and gave little thought to the destination. This was an afternoon commute that was all about the journey; an art-filled event steeped in the metro experience. And of course, Red Line D.C. was along for the ride.
The event, hosted by Knowledge Commons DC, was a part of the metro poetry series, Slam the Rails. In last weekend’s session, Joseph Ross shared poetry inspired by the work of graffiti writer Cool Disco Dan. As the the last car of the train ascended out of the tunnel and above ground, Ross began his reading. Attendees (and unsuspecting riders) took in the names and sights of the red line–some even for the first time! After a couple of unexpected stops along the way, the ride ended at Takoma station, where participants were invited to reflect on the ride and its surrounding graffiti.
Check out the flicks from our graffiti-fueled field trip!
In honor of the new spring forward, here’s another remix via Red Line D.C. This time, we left the film techniques behind to record our first-ever podcast with red line writer (and willing guinea pig) Nepal. As a featured participant in the video See Something, Say Something, Nepal was invited to share his feedback and feelings regarding part one of the documentary with its director and producer Saaret Yoseph. In an informal conversation between filmmaker and subject, the two talk about filmmaking ethics, the outdated “outlaw experience” and the red line ‘s future with D.C. Check out the chatter below …
* Podcast music composed by Timothy Morrison.
Waxing Poetic, Metro-Style
Imagine combining your public transit experience with poetry. Try describing the feeling while underground or when emerging from a tunnel to face graffiti outside your window. Picture adding word and rhyme to the rhythm of shuffling feet, to the sight of bodies in motion, rocking along with the train. That’s exactly the goal of poet Joseph Ross and the folks at Knowledge Commons DC, whose Slam the Rails series looks to inject ”spoken word in a context often defined by silence.” Ross will be in our neck of the woods on March 18th, reading poems on the red line (toward Glenmont). Riders are invited to hop the last car and hear him read, to take in his poetry along with the miles-long view of spray-painted murals and names.
Like us, Ross has been fascinated by the “ever changing graffiti landscape of the metro.” His poetry explores the work of local graffiti legend Cool Disco Dan and the significance of graffiti as a public name-writing practice. Here, he explains more about his curiosity with metro graffiti …
I am really interested in two areas of graffiti art. First, for me, is the “naming” element. I think it’s so interesting to explore what it means for someone to come out in the middle of the night and paint their name is 5 foot letters. I wonder how “unseen” that person might feel? I wonder about what kind of self-proclamation it is. It seems to be a way of saying “I’m here” to a world that does not see this person. It seems like a baptism, of a sort. Second, I am interested in the “memorializing” element of graffiti art. Often you see the name of someone from a neighborhood who has been killed– showing up in a memorial of some kind. Some are of famous people but some are from folks whose names the rest of us would never know. There is also something very transient about graffiti art– like a Buddhist sand painting where it’s created, it’s beautiful, but everyone knows it will blow away. That impermanence fascinates me too.I’ve often thought of the Red Line from Union Station to Silver Spring as a kind of constantly changing graffiti art museum. You never know what you’ll see. A name can be there one day and gone the next.
Red-Eye: Up Against the Wall
A visit to the red line does much for visual wonders and recently, our red line research took us up-close and against a wall of colorful evidence. With red line writers Fame & Grave as our tour guides, we found ourselves somewhere in between Ft. Totten and Brookland — or was it Ft. Totten and Takoma? All we know for sure was there was graffiti high, low and in abundance. See for yourself …
PHOTOS: OG’s and New Additions
Last week was all about meet-and-greets for Red Line D.C. On the other side of the MBT fences, we were invited into one of the little-known properties lining the red line; this one by Rhode Island Ave metro station. The man waiting for us, opening his doors for an upcoming interview, was Arondo Holmes, owner of Hondo Coffee. Mr. Holmes’ coffee roasting warehouse, directly on the MBT, is one of the properties with a legal mural. His business has been in Edgewood for about 3 years, but he lived and work in the neighborhood 20 years back. He will, no doubt, have some great insights to offer our project. And now, that we’ve done the introduction, we can hardly wait for the interview …
Another newcomer to our project, but OG of the red line, is graffiti writer, CERT, who we interviewed along with writers Some, Fame and Grave. If the name CERT isn’t familiar to you, his work probably is: CERT’s responsible for the oft-photographed and frequently referenced “Sean Taylor” piece at Brookland Ave. metro station as well as, a ton of other productions along the Line. You can even watch commuters call to mind the “Sean Taylor” mural for us when interviewed on the metro. Among the graffiti community, CERT is seen by many as a local legend and, like Mr. Holmes, his personal history with the red line spans about two decades.
We’re happy to have these knowledgeable new additions to Red Line D.C. But until you catch them all on video, check out the slide show of last week’s adventures.
Take a Ride with Red Line D.C.!
My, my, my … how time flies. It was this time last year that we applied for a small/planning grant with the Humanities Council of Washington, DC and as we take stock of our work, so far, we thought we’d share a portion of our submitted project narrative:
The main idea of The Red Line D.C. project is to integrate the typically disparate players associated with illegal public art – those creating it, those consuming it and those covering it up. In a communal environment like the D.C. metro a mosaic of opinions exist about the images and messages populating the ride. Some view metro graffiti as blight, while others support it a means for free expression. Similarly, as the space around the red line metro begins to change, questions about valuation and gentrification begin to arise. The Red Line D.C. project intends to address the many interrelated issues associated with illegal public art by inquiring what one space means to many.
The mention of “disparate players” and singular space reinforces our red line goals. The red line has and continues to have different functions for the many different people who use it. Thus, we’re constantly on the grind to collect more voices, more stories, more experiences on the metro. Though, we’ve filmed and interviewed a good amount of graffiti writers, commuters and property owners have been, surprisingly, reluctant to bite. Currently, we’re on the hunt for one (or more!) metro rider(s) who might be willing to let us film their day’s commute on the red line. If you’re down for commuter cause and interested in being involved with our documentary, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. If not, please pass on the word to someone who might be. We and our cameras are super ready to roll … but don’t worry, we’ll be gentle.
Open to the Public, Open for Discussion
Just when we thought we were alone, out here on the interweb, TBD’s On Foot echoes our efforts for public participation. Check out the pedestrian blog’s latest post with updates on our progress and read what blogger John Hendel had to say about the rough cut of part one in the Red Line D.C. series, See Something, Say Something. We’re so happy to have our words and visuals shared with new audiences. Let’s see what new conversations come of it …
From Graffiti-Watching to People-Watching
It’s obvious from our last post that there are other things, besides graffiti, to hold your attention on public transit. People-watching is, perhaps, the most commonly enjoyed sport. Who among us hasn’t stopped to ogle or even capture a picture of a fellow rider while en route? (We sure have: See Photo.) Which brings us to “nyc subways and the people on them.” This commuter-made Tumblr blog is a collection of snapshots taken of unsuspecting subway riders, from eccentric seniors to sneaker-clad teens to unabashed fashionistas, all on their way to who-knows-where. The compilation of everyday images reminds us a lot of the “The Subway Pictures” by Peter Peter. With the same covert eye aimed at the NYC subway, Peter Peter’s photo book captures the communal experience of public transit by highlighting its ever-changing cast of ordinary (and extraordinary) characters. Take a look at the pictures and feel free to share your own!
First Post Since …
The new year has made us nostalgic. Looking back on old footage from the first days of Red Line D.C., we came across an excerpt-worthy interview that had to be shared. Robin Marcus, a writing professor at George Washington University, sat down with us in the summer of 2010 to sift through Flickr photos of red line graffiti and riff on its significance. It was an experiment of sorts. One of many we’ve conducted by taking the topic of graffiti beyond the red line and in new directions. This time, a mild-mannered academic was asked to eyeball the work of red line writer JU from the convenience of her computer screen. Since the project’s onset, our goal has always been to spark a larger dialogue about shared city aesthetics; to inspire metro riders with a renewed sense of attachment to their city, its public spaces and all that they see. In this video, Professor Marcus does well to remind us of that. Taking an open-minded look at JU’s “Big Booty” piece, she emphasizes the ability of artistic expression to connect us and our disparate ideas to a broader human consciousness. See what Professor Marcus had to say, then go back to our excerpt of JU’s interview to hear what he had to say for himself.
Work in Progress …
With 2012 approaching, we’re preparing for a new release from Red Line D.C. Editing is currently underway for See Something, Say Something (working title), a short film about the indirect relationship between graffiti writers who get up on the red line and the commuters who ride it everyday. In the weeks past we’ve been reviewing interviews, and archiving photos from “the Line” which a handful of writers have been kind enough to share. Here are a few snapshots that graffiti writer Nepal sent our way to give you a sense of what’s to come.
Looking Back at Our Red Line Ride
This past weekend, five brave souls set their sights on the red line to talk about the metro and art. It was an experiment in filmmaking and community dialogue. We took the risk of approaching strangers and asking them to take a new look at their environment. We asked commuters about their red line histories, experiences riding and interest–if any–in the graffiti that greets them each day. The responses were varied and the results of our little adventure were surprising to all involved. In the days since our all-day shoot, here’s what the small and energetic crew behind Red Line D.C.‘s commuter interviews has had to say about the whole weekend excursion:
I think it was interesting how we were worried about approaching folks, but some people reacted really warmly. It’s an important reminder that filmmaking is a two-way street. We’re not just taking, but there is an exchange …
– Julie Espinosa, videography
I was pleasantly surprised by how open and receptive most people were about talking to us and being filmed; the friendliness of red liners! And, people gave really thoughtful answers, not just yes or no.
– Jada Smith, interviewing
In general, I was surprised at people’s willingness to talk in such an open space. I only spoke with a couple people, but I was also surprised at how overwhelmingly negative their attitudes towards graffiti were. I mean, I guess my own opinions aren’t a good barometer, but … it seems like people were just forming their opinions [about graffiti on the metro] without discussing at all … They just may not have all the sides to the story.
– Mebrahtu Grmai, videography
The few people I was able to interact with, actually had a lot more to say than I expected. It almost felt like people are quiet, but when given a chance to express themselves, they really open [up]. [In] my experience with the metro people are quiet, looking down, minding their own business (as much as possible), but that day, the 2-3 people I got to see or talk to, opinions just started flowing out.
– Philippe Bissohong, interviewing
I enjoyed soaking up the metro experience in a group. It attracted a lot of attention, but in ways that allowed us to spark conversations with curious commuters. Announcing to a packed train that you are doing a metro graffiti documentary is probably the biggest ice breaker I can think of … Once the initial “we’re-transit-strangers-so-we-shouldn’t-speak” awkwardness passed, I was surprised by how many people we’re willing to share their points of view.
– Saaret Yoseph, directing
(Wo)Man on the Street: Talking to Commuters on the Red Line
Today, we’re hopping the train and hitting the red line all day for impromptu interviews with commuters. We’ll be canvassing from Union Station metro all the way to Silver Spring, talking to riders along the way about their metro experience and the open space art along their route. Since weekend service on the D.C. metro usually means a longer wait time, passengers may be more willing to kill time by talking to us. Man on the street interviews tend to be a tricky trade-off in the documentary game, but we know the commuter perspective is an important part of capturing the red line’s story. Not just today, but throughout the course of this project.
Commuter Serena McClain offers a great example of the sort of public participation we’re looking for. Here’s what she had to say on her blog about her red line experience and the public art she’s encountered along the ride:
I find myself on the red line once every few weeks, usually commuting from DC to a meeting in Silver Spring, and despite all of the drama surrounding red line delays, I always look forward to the trip. Instead of burying my head in a book, I’m always treated to an ever-changing art show along the tracks … Despite the fact that I sit on the fence about whether “approved” graffiti takes something away from the people, you can’t deny that these murals are beautiful. You also can’t deny that talented artists deserve a platform from which to be seen.
We appreciate Serena’s input on red line aesthetics. (Check out her supporting slide show here.) We also hope others feel compelled to share with us. If we catch you on the red line today, be sure to greet us with a smile and an open mind. We’re aching to hear from you, if not out there on the line then online is the next best thing. Email us your thoughts at email@example.com .