Artist Troy Ramos grew up in the small city if Battle Creek, where he watched the Cereal Titans of the world move from being the beloved stronghold of the people to becoming the untrusted source of economic hardships.
”BC is still overshadowed by the cereal companies. But for a long time it seemed like it pretty much ruled everything,” said artist Troy Ramos. “But then in the late 1990s Kellogg’s dropped a bombshell on the city and cut thousands of people out of a job by moving their cereal production to Mexico. That’s not something a small city recovers from quickly, if ever.”
Ramos said it felt like everyone had at least a portion of their family’s economic reality invested in the cereal company job market.
”My dad worked at Post and retired from there, too. It seemed like everyone had someone in their family who worked at Kellogg’s, Post or Ralston’s. It was a part of the city in a deep, historical and financial way.”
When Ramos started working on his video and sound installation for ArtWalk in downtown BC, he said he was inspired to create a work which was based on the distinct differences he saw between the city and its relationship with each of the two big cereal companies there: Kellogg’s and Post.
”In short, it seemed like one company abandoned the city’s workers and one company didn’t. That’s my understanding. And so I wanted to explore these experiences through sounds and images. What I did was I created video of several different abandoned Kellogg’s spots, an old plant parking lot, an old factory site, etc. And then I superimposed audio over that video which consisted of field recorded sounds of the still operational Post factory, just across the street basically, sounds which became sound art or musical works. So, Essentially, you’re experiencing two different histories through two different artistic mediums, simultaneously.”
At the opening night, Ramos said that he experienced something with visitors that he hadn’t really expected.
“It was a great turnout and lots of people came and experienced the work. There were, however, a handful of people who had strong emotional reactions to the work that I wasn’t expecting. In particular, there was one couple who had retired from Kellogg’s and worked at the main plant I had featured in my video. In one shot, I did a time-lapse video of the abandoned parking lot which showed a very unique bit of writing on the parking lot, writing which had “99 Dock” written in big letters. The couple told me that they had seen that (and other) marker(s) every day they worked at that site, for decades, They were very emotional about it. They watched the entire work several times in a row. The whole thing was pretty powerful to observe.”
This work is still available to watch on the artist’s Vimeo page, as well as on this blog post. Below is the artist statement which accompanied the work on opening night.
American, b. 1975
Somewhere Between Hope and Fear (2015)
Video and Sound
Running Time: 8’33
You know what the difference is between history and memory? History is knowing what happened in the past. Memory is asking yourself: what does that which happened in the past have to do with who I am today?
There are memories for an individual, and ones that we share collectively. We can know the history of our community. But how do our memories of our local history affect who we are today? Do you think about these things or have you moved on? If we look back in time and try to take the best things that have happened, and also try to move past (i.e. forget about) the bad things that have happened, aren’t we risking absorbing both? Is it even possible to take one and not the other? And how do we begin to talk about these things? Through art? How do these memories relate to art? Maybe they shouldn't relate to it. Maybe they should. Are you reading this looking for answers? Are we asking too many questions? If not these questions, which ones?
Somewhere Between Hope and Fear (2015) puts two potentially collective and individual memories in front of us: video of the abandoned-looking site of the formerly bustling Kellogg’s plant; and also various sounds recorded from outside the nearby Post plant (sounds which were then turned into a musical work). And after being put together, this work at once then becomes a harmony of memories. And because it combines two identities, identities which have very different histories and a very different relationship with the community, this piece also becomes a harmony of identities.
This artwork is really only concerned with the aesthetic quality of the images and sounds and how they function together. Beyond that, as mentioned, this work also happens to be inspired by thinking about the memories we have of events in our past, collectively and individually, thinking about them through potentially recognizable and/or symbolic images and sounds which may or may not trigger those memories, and how remembering a point in the past affects our thinking today as we experience them in a present setting and in an artistic context.
Somewhere Between Hope and Fear (2015)
©2015 Troy Ramos