“Manufactured Diversity” is a blunt interrogation of outdoor advertising in the Columbia Heights neighborhood of DC in early 2007, in the midst of a complete redevelopment of the intersection of 14th NW & Irving NW. The racial makeup of the neighborhood is changing rapidly, with very real (but often ignored) socioeconomic consequences for all residents. Nonetheless, much of the advertising in the area uses “diversity” as a selling point, with little regard for the complexity of the changes in the area.
The film treats the urban landscape as a text, to be read and interpreted, and attempts to force the viewer to cycle through the various reader positions described by Stuart Hall: dominant-hegemonic, negotiated, and oppositional. A series of advertisements are interpreted both from a very literal perspective (the dominant-hegemonic reading) and from a skeptical, sarcastic perspective (the negotiated reading), and then juxtaposed against gloomier images of homelessness and graffiti (the oppositional reading).
The developments featured in this piece were all completed by the end of 2008, and several additional major development projects continue in the area.
The soundtrack is “Mouths To Feed”, by the Epochs.