Buffalo(ve) is a multimedia collaborative installation. The lightbox is equipped with an unnamed map of the neighborhood around the Crane Branch Library in Buffalo, New York, which library patrons are invited to contribute their own names to. During the course of the installation, a new clear layer on top of the map is added every few days to give more people the opportunity to share and contribute, as well as create a literally layered archaeology of names that local people give to the landscape around them.
Naming is essentially a social practice, and inscribes values and ideas about a place onto the literal physical landscape. A function of conquest, discovery, and historicization, naming places is usually left up to the strongest, history’s “winners.” However, many places hold secret caches of names — whether they’re what the indigenous people used to call a nearby river, or the name your daughter first gave the grocery store, or a made-up language all your own. Many of these names get lost as people age, die, or move away. Buffalo(ve) is an attempt to preserve some of the hidden, personal, or inscrutable names that we give to our city.
The name Buffalo(ve) comes from a piece of graffiti in a local bathroom, but it also is a nod at the apocryphal origins of the name of the city itself. Supposedly, when French explorers first laid eyes on the Niagara River, they called it “beau fleuve,” or beautiful river. Other legends suggesting the origins of Buffalo’s name exist. While the truth may be unknowable, these conflicting accounts can coexist, just as many layers of personal names may coexist on the Buffalo(ve) map.
Thanks to Buffalo ReUse, Sugar City Arts Collaborative, Aimee Buyea, Jodi Pfister, Katrina Boemig, Matt Kantar, Chris Siano, Crane Branch Library, Beth Lewitzky, Peter Lisker, and Alicia Paolucci for their indispensable help with this project.