Two years ago I was approached by the Figge Museum to envision a project in which members of the area could be integrated into the museum. This new project ventures into social practice as I work with a conservative community to open a conversation about identity politics in Iowa. Taking a page from Augusto Boal's Theatre of the Oppressed, I'm providing a venue for the community to see itself. Starting with installations that are inspired by gatekeepers in the community, I dive into a deep dialogue that culminate with a combination of performances at the museum in Davenport, Iowa.
Along with three performances that included members of the community, I recorded conversations with people from the Quad Cities. Night Train is an audio piece that combines these encounters. An excerpt can be listened to below:
The first performance, Token, featured a conservative white midwestern artist that exercises his right as an artist to sculpt from black models. The subject matter is, not too different from recent conversations about race at the Whitney, but is more complex than anyone could ever have imagined.
The second performance, Joe's Barbershop, features Joe McLemore, a 73 year-old Iowa barber, cutting hair in the museum as he discusses his unique views on race relations for blacks in the Quad Cities (QC). His frank monologue revealed a sober dose of self-determination in the face of racism.
The final performance titled, Soule Bowl, features arts organizer Gaye Burnett. This local gatekeeper reminisces about her experience at the infamous 1972 Rock Island High School race riot after the Soule Bowle football match. Her perspective as a black woman in an integrated local High School reveals the cross-section between race and gender as violence erupts at a neighboring High School.
The symbol of the Ghost Light references the theatrical superstition in which the darkened stage is illuminated by a light, often a single electric bulb mounted to a stand, intended to ward off the theater’s ghosts. In the absence of a performance, the Ghost Light becomes representative of all of the lives and narratives that have inhabited that space.