CMU Stories reinterprets who we commemorate and how through the stories of Avrey, Leon, Latasha, Tiana, and Nikola, five incredible night-shift custodial staff at Carnegie Mellon University.
This piece aims to give image and voice to those that contribute to CMU in ways we often overlook by overlaying existing narratives of commemoration with the stories of night-shift custodial staff. I approached this piece thinking about the medium, augmented reality, and how that would translate into project. The seen vs. unseen relationship and the ability to give life to a scene or story gave way to thinking about who in my life is rarely seen, yet very present. Those that work the night shift, often 11pm to 6am, as custodial workers fit into this relationship, as they are often unseen, though incredibly important. In my project, I was interested in learning more from night-shift custodial workers, and not just about their jobs, but who they are. I was interested in stories. Thus, over the course of three days, ranging from 9:30pm to 2am, I circled CMU’s campus meeting and speaking with any working staff I came across. The five videos in this application reflect a small fraction of the more than thirty meetings I had. The hours I spent interacting with people are just as important, if not more important, than the final product. While I was doing this work, I was thinking about where these videos would exist within the framework of augmented reality. I decided on using existing memorializing plaques as images targets and then overlaying the videos of Avrey, Leon, Latasha, Tiana, and Nikola as a way of reinterpreting commemoration. The memorials and images of gratitude that are visible often honor money and power. Yet we don’t take time to honor, not even thank, the individuals that sustain our campus on a daily basis. I hope this app respects the night-shift custodial staff I worked with, and serves as a small piece of gratitude for the work that they do. By extracting the videos form their original contexts, I attempt to begin a conversation about who we should be thanking around our school.
First and foremost, thank you Avrey, Leon, Latasha, Tiana, and Nikola for being collaborators on this piece. It belongs to you, I was merely an organizer. Additionally, thank you to all the night-shift custodial staff that took time to speak with me over the course of this project. Of course, thank you Golan Levin and Claire Hentschker for guidance, and a wonderful course. Thank you to all my classmates, especially my “buddy” Tyvan, who supported me, not just on this project, but throughout the semester!