November 2020 was the first time that I was able to fully realize one of my installation works with all of its components. “ Where Do Monuments Go To Die?” is an immersive, interactive piece that reflects on the power of collective action, collective memory and collective trauma. The work consists of a large format video installation ( My first ever video work! I scored it, shot it, edited it, and my hands are the protagonist in it). The video shows the life cycle of a noose. In my hands are projected to be large enough to easily hold a person. These larger than life hands of mine transform a piece of twine into a noose and then pull the slip knot out to transform it back into a piece of twine. Because of the size of the projection the twine appears to be the same size as the ½ inch ropes that are hanging in the space where the video is projected. The floor of the projection space is covered in black compost, the walls of the space are black.
Generally when a noose shows up it is an open threat to a Black person who has in some way transgressed the boundaries of what is deemed acceptable for Black folks to do or be as defined by white supremacy ( in recent memory:Jena 6, Bubba Wallace, so many more). That noose always shows up fully formed. It is never publicly tied or untied. We know it is a knot but it never occurs to us to untie it or even that it can be untied. This is true for many systems and symbols of oppression. They are presented to us in a way that makes them seem to be more than they are. That makes them appear to be impossible to tear down or take apart. They loom large in our social psyche haunting us even when they are not physically present. With this work I wanted to challenge that narrative. I wanted to empower folks with the knowledge that we can and will dismantle these systems. I wanted to provide us with an opportunity to practice. I wanted us to experience in our bodies what it feels like to take it into our hands and tear it all down. There is a saying in the Black church “ you might have got it by the book, but I got if first hand.” Roughly translated: it’s one thing to read about and theoretically understand something. It is an entirely different thing to know it in your bones, your body, your spirit. There is no substitute for the latter.
Across from the video projection there is a 4 foot x 8 foot US flag made from over 7200 miniature nooses. There is one noose and one staple on this piece for each prison, jail, detention center, youth detention center, immigrant detention center, psych jail , youth jail, youth detention center and other carceral facility in the United States.
Above the flag white vinyl letters spell out “ What’s to stop us from pulling it all down?” Below the flag in the same lettering the words : “ nothing” / “ touch it, try it” / take it into your own hands”
People are invited to literally tear down this flag-- and what it symbolizes-- by untying the nooses one by one. Person by person. Here is where the collective action and collective power comes in. The idea that small actions repeated and accumulated over and over by individual people can and will create monumental change.
People who have untied the nooses report feeling a release, feeling empowered. For me that means that the work has been successful.
Image description: the above video provides a narrated tour of the installation. I will work on getting captions for that. The following images are still images from the installation described in this post. One image is a still image from the video. It shows my large brown skinned hand holding a noose with my index finger and thumb so that the yoke of the noose hangs in the o created by the two touching fingers. The other shows an image of the Noose Nap Flag on a black wall with the white vinyl words above and below it.