Aperture at Hurricane Katrina Fifth Anniversary Weekend in New Orleans
Andrea Smith, Director of Communications, Aperture represented us in New Orleans during the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina last weekend. She attended on the occasion of the publication of Destroy This Memory, photographs by Richard Misrach, and One Block: A New Orleans Neighborhood Rebuilds, photographs by Dave Anderson, books from Aperture that document and reflect on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans’ road to recovery. See images above from the artist’s exhibitions: Anderson’s opening at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, and Misrach’s opening at the New Orleans Museum of Art, as well as the Block Party on One Block. Read below Andrea’s account of a truly memorable experience.
It was a weekend I will never forget. I met amazing people, heard incredible stories, and made new friends. I will return to N.O. again soon. As a New Yorker, I felt a kinship with the people. We are both proud, resilient, and have a fierce love for our city. Following are a few highlights:
Thursday, October 26
Anderson’s exhibition, One Block: A New Orleans Neighborhood Rebuilds, opened at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art. The opening garnered a great crowd, and attendees included residents from the block depicted in Anderson’s photographs, along with their family and friends. David Houston, the Ogden’s Chief Curator/Co-Director, introduced Anderson, who shared stories about his project to an enthusiastic audience.
Friday, October 27
Went shopping at Walmart for supplies for the block party to take place on the 500 block on Caffin Avenue in the Lower 9 the next day. Caffin is one of the streets binding the block where Anderson made his photographs, and the party was to celebrate Anderson’s book, and the resilience of this block and community. The house of Lisa Perilloux and Markus Wittmann at 500 was “command central” for the party. They are incredible people who worked very hard to make this party possible.
Saturday, October 28
Morning: Hightailed it uptown to Octavia Books, one of New Orleans’ best independent bookstores, to meet up with Richard Misrach, who graciously stopped by to sign copies of Destroy This Memory, just hours before a members-only reception at the New Orleans Museum of Art for his accompanying exhibition: UNTITLED [New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, 2005]. All of Richard’s royalties for the book are going to the Make It Right Foundation that is helping to rebuild the Lower Ninth Ward.
Afternoon: The block party kicked off and the rain came down hard. Nevertheless, people showed up, huddled under the tents to stay dry, and chowed down on jambalaya, collard greens, dirty rice, corn bread, and po’boy sandwiches. Octavia Books was on hand to sell copies of One Block. We started to worry that we would get rained out, but suddenly the rain stopped, a rainbow appeared, and the music began. Little Freddie King played first, followed by Rebirth Brass Band. The music was awesome, and people were dancing and having a grand old time.
Also on Caffin during the block party: A traveling street exhibition in a truck by Aperture photographer Stanley Greene and Kadir van Lohouzen titled those who fell through the cracks featuring images of Katrina’s devastation and the aftermath. An exhibition featuring portraits and stories of New Orleans’ displaced residents by New Orleans photographers and One Block residents Keith Calhoun and Chandra McCormick. Some of the photographs in this exhibit are published in the 200th issue of Aperture magazine, which is just hitting newsstands this week.
Sunday, August 29
On this solemn and moving day of remembrance, Richard Misrach hosted a public lecture on his exhibition at the New Orleans Museum of Art. The turnout was fantastic and the show curator, Diego Cortez, made an eloquent introduction to Misrach’s talk and work. Following is an excerpt:
“We are all a bit exhausted, witnessing again and again, the media’s human-interest stories and documentation of our city’s Hurricane Katrina and post-Katrina tragedies. We might fare better if we focus instead on the artistic oracles from countless photographers, filmmakers and writers, who transformed our collective misery into ART instead of the ad nauseam images and copy imposed upon an anxious world audience, in a perpetual news cycle. Let us focus on the achievements of the great poet-journalists of our time, who dropped what they were working on to rush to our destroyed city to make incredible bodies of enlightened documentary work –– artists like Spike Lee, Robert Polidori, Ned Sublette, Mitch Epstein and today’s guest, Richard Misrach ….Misrach’s message is light, clear and intense. I know that sounds a bit like Edward Albee’s description of a painting in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf …’a certain noisy, relaxed quiet intensity.’ In Richard Misrach’s work, this pictorial irony alludes to the anxieties of our time and culture.”
Misrach’s talk was captivating, moving, and filled with grace. After introducing the work, he showed the photographs and you could have heard a pin drop in the room. He ended the talk by reading an email that was forwarded by the Houston Chronicle art critic, from a woman who had read about the book and is the sister of the resident of the house on the cover of Destroy This Memory. The story of this family and how the flood separated them is amazing and tragic. You could hear a woman in the audience crying at the conclusion of Misarch’s reading of the email. Misrach’s lecture was followed by a spirited question and answer session, and then a book signing in the museum bookstore. I saw the exhibition before going to the lecture, and what I found most moving was watching the people of New Orleans reacting to the photographs.
Thank you to the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, The New Orleans Museum of Art, Dave Anderson, Richard Misrach, Octavia Books, The Preservation Resource Center, The Oxford American, and to everyone who helped make Aperture’s weekend in New Orleans so special and memorable.
All Block Party images courtesy: Thomas Hudson
All NOMA images courtesy Roman Alokhin