Matthew Slaats is not a fellow who is ever wanting for a way to fill his down time. He concluded the Hyde Park Visual History Project last October with a long awaited interactive projection at the Hyde Park Drive In and now he's fully involved in the Midddle Main Revitalization effort, working to leverage artistic activity to invigorate the cultural and economic life in a stretch of Poughkeepsie's Main St.
Matthew's work is interactive and participatory. His impulse is toward community building and he engenders that in activities which are engineered to pool the knowledge, experience and creativity of a given community.
His latest project is an online and real world project called Freespace. The website of Freespace seeks to generate a network of sites of of significance - of personally held significance as opposed to significance on an institutional or national scale. The nature of the project is open ended and will ultimately be determined by the aggregated character of submissions by the public, and the site will map those locations and experiences and individual's experiences tied to that location. As stated in the website's About section, the impetus for the project arose out of a visit to the Vanderbilt Mansion in Hyde Park as a way to spur a sort of National Park System that reflects the American experience of the common individual. The project is a cataloging of the relationships built between people and place.
When Matthew sent the link and an invitation to participate I was reading James Fallows' article How America Can Rise Again in The January 2010 issue of The Atlantic and the pairing felt particularly synchronous.
In the article, Fallows questions several individuals on the state of the nation's well being and tracks the attitude that's been ingrained in the American psyche since its infancy that the society's high point has passed and the downhill slide is underway. Fallows' inquiry takes stock our current state and indexing the values of today's society against the real and perceived visions of our history. Freespace is a similar activity, codifying the involuntary habit we all have of staking claims on our surroundings based on our experiences and emotions. Freespace charts this new territory in land we all already to navigate it with new insight;
it's just one particular approach on remaking the concept of the commons. Stake a claim, then open it up for your neighbors to enjoy and share.