Failure to Materialize_Allison Corbett

Failure to Materialize:
An Oral History of Puente de Fierro, A Memorial that Never Was

By Allison Corbett, 2013
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Memoria Presente (the documentary process shaping “Failure to Materialize”) explores the links between truth, memory, and justice. As part of a multimedia oral history project, this film profiles San Lorenzo, a community on the outskirts of the city of La Plata, Argentina, and el Puente de Fierro, the bridge that dominates its landscape. The community is mobilizing to recover silenced memories of the dictatorship. The bridge was the site of crimes against humanity during the dictatorship, but little is known about it. The community of San Lorenzo is concerned not only with the human rights violations of the past, that took place at the bridge, but also with the poverty and marginalization that characterizes the daily life of its residents in the present. The fates of the bridge and the community are bound up together.

Allison CorbettAllison Corbett is a Spanish interpreter, oral historian, and documentarian based in New York City. In her work she seeks to be a bridge – across language, culture, and difference. Her goal is to gather and share stories through film, radio, and interactive media, that nourish the development of strong, multilingual communities engaged in the work of self-determination and societal transformation. As an interpreter, she facilitates oral communication between Spanish-speakers and non-Spanish-speaking English-speakers with the goal of creating more inclusive and equality-minded communities.

Prior to coming to OHMA, she spent eight years in working in Latinx communities in the U.S. and Latin America as an interpreter, educator, and in various non-profit roles. During her time at OHMA, she partnered with a project documenting gentrification and displacement in Crown Heights, and conducted her fieldwork in Argentina, building on previous experiences studying the politics of memory in La Plata, Buenos Aires. Her master’s thesis and subsequent film short (premiering at the 2015 Oral History Association Annual Meeting) explores the way that spaces of ruin and trauma associated with Argentina’s last dictatorship reflect and interact with political memory work on the outskirts of La Plata.

Following her graduation from OHMA, Allison began working as an interpreter at Mt. Sinai, St. Luke’s, and Roosevelt Hospitals and has embarked on a number of projects supporting collectives, organizers, and artists in documenting community stories in upper Manhattan. She is an enthusiastic member of the collective-run bookstore Word Up in Washington Heights, and is a founding member of the Oral History Collective, a group of OHMA-trained oral historians interested in nurturing collaborative creative processes as well as sustainable self-employment within the field. She also coordinates the Oral History Exchange, a bi-monthly book/media discussion club, as a Board member of the Columbia Oral History Alumni Association. 

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