FERO-CITY is a photo series/installation dealing with the resurgence of anti-LGBT hate crimes in North America, particularly in NYC. The title plays on the meanings of fero as iron, and the latin verb to suffer / endure, to bear / carry, to report. Through scouring past media reports and community alerts from the Anti-Violence Project, Stephen has mapped the locations of those incidents. Still there are substantial gaps in coverage when comparing the list Stephen compiled to the 54 incidents in 2012 and 68 reported anti-gay incidents handled by the police this year as of August (41 of which are assaults and six of which are felonies, some of the attacks even took place on the subway.). This still pales in comparison to the approximately 450 cases the Anti-Violence Project handled in 2012 alone.
The project seeks to address the fragmented and ephemeral nature of media coverage to visualize the larger context of LGBT hate crime in the past year despite recent advances made in LGBT rights. Stephen visits each of the mapped locations and documents them with a Russian-made camera, drawing parallels between the spate of NYC hate crimes and increasingly homophobic situation in Russia with Putin’s ruling. This dynamic is also metaphorically encapsulated in the working process by using the latest American-made film in a post-war Russian camera. In addition, the negatives are hand-developed using German photochemistry formulated during the war, to parallel the linkage of the present to past (see GEBROCHENGEL). Reframing the situation as a problematic of process and place (both physical and of belonging), Stephen’s purposefully prosaic photographs illustrate how these hate crimes can happen anywhere in ordinary settings, and the need to rebuild communities and reclaim spaces instead of living in fear.
For the installation, the resulting photographs will be printed lithographically onto fabric using an iron-based (vs. conventional silver-based) process and suspended on rebar in 2 sets of 1, and a set each of 2, 3, 5, 8, and 13 images which are spatially arranged to reflect the location of the incidents. These surround a central undeveloped piece (where video pans of the locations are projected), making a total of 34 pieces in the installation; 34 also being part of the Fibonacci series that the groupings are based on. This number series, which is derived by adding the current number with the previous number in the series, is an apt metaphor of the propagation and escalation of intolerance.
Conceived & Photography by: STEPHEN CHEN | COMPLETED: 11/13
After 10 hours each day travelling and walking to the locations, the neighbourhoods started to blur together; there was nothing distinguishing about each place, hate can happen just about anywhere to anyone. While there are times when I felt afraid setting up the shot (particularly outside police stations), there was something empowering about the process – not to forget nor to dwell on what had happened; but to acknowledge it and reclaim it through our actions.
Contact-prints of negatives using the same iron-based cyanotype process on watercolor paper.
A video loop/installation version for Anti-Violence Project’s 2014 Community Heroes Awards @ HBO. Each image is paired with a lyric in the last stanza of “Somewhere” from West Side Story by Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim. A song about violence, and of place in New York.