untitled folk engineering documentary
(imagining the unbuilt environment)
Summer/Fall 2021 production.
Fifteen years ago an aquaintance gave me a sheaf of large Xerox copies of some hand-drawn maps and schematics by an eccentric retired engineer who had concocted a plan to redesign the downtown core of my hometown of Bakersfield, California. The mysterious, long lost engineer, Joe McCaffery, had been my friend’s neighbor briefly. The portfolio facsimilie, buried in my files for years and recently rediscovered, consists of eight large detailed panels, combining a labyrinthine system of indexing, maps, and breathlessly utopian text.
The project is dated 1991 and titled “PORTFOLIO OF [Joe’s] CENTRIFICAL DEVOTION: A Prologue to Miniverse Services in accentuation of Downtown Bakersfield” : these primary documents are subtitled “DETERMINATIONS TO FREE DOWNTOWN OF ITS THRALLDOM” - they combine mysticism, speculative technology, aspirational touristic narrative, in a vivid and imaginative reordering of urban space. Vacuum tube transports, swooping photovoltaic canopies, gravity defying swingsets, impossible fountains. Bordering on folk art, full of fanciful drawings and text, the mystery of the origin of this set of blueprints is compelling. The project will involve a well-documented narrative of the research process in searching out more information, beginning with a recorded conversation with the individual who originally gave these maps to me, which may form the audio track for the documentary.
A combination of this audio, other interviews and sound research, historical photos and hand-drawn and 3D animation will attempt to tell this story of creative purpose and the power of imagination when one cares deeply about the place in which they find themselves.