Alex Callender: Plantation owners cut rations to starve those enslaved, forcing them to steal food from the white servant class. This planation policy, developed in the 1600s, was a way of destroying the joint rebellions and separating oppressed peoples based on constructed racial characteristics, creating racial biases and eradicating poor people’s solidarity. In decolonizing French’s statues, The Four Continents, I revisit these representations of women who adorned the US customs house (now the National Museum of the American Indian), not as bodies of economic speculation, but as the powerful Hydra. The Many-Headed Hydra was a colonial graphic envisioned by the European ruling class, which represented all the peoples that they would need to violently subdue to carry out their colonial economic project.
Ayasha Guerin: Inspired by the relationship between those who fled southern plantations and the migrating birds they followed north to freedom, Flying North memorializes Black underground resistance to Slavery from 17th-19th century New York. A hanging mobile depicting birds in flight, the V-formation of birds points in the northward direction. Flying North reminds viewers of the ways that black liberation histories have been entangled with non-human species in supportive ecological relationships. Eventually, I envision a series of these mobiles to hang from the ceilings of various New York spaces believed to have served important stations of the Underground Railroad. Their dangling presence would mark sites of Black liberation.
Chip Thomas (Jetsonorama): This photographic mural uses a narrative/counter narrative format to challenge a prevailing paradigm. Runaway slave ads have been likened to present day tweets between members of the privileged class in efforts to recover human property. These ads reflect the creative use of language to justify abhorrent behavior.
Damien Davis: It Was All A Dream (2019) takes its title from a lyric by the late rapper Biggie Smalls, harkening back to the artist's childhood in the 90s—the decade in which Biggie lived and died in the public view. Made of interlocking milled wooden “plates” that take the shape of a nebulous puddle, at once evoking a blood splatter, a reflecting pool, and a portal or hole.
The mystery of Biggie Smalls’ heavily publicized death is now firmly fixed into the collective consciousness as inseparable from both New York City and the violence that surrounded both his and the late Tupac Shakur's careers. Likening their rivalry to other historic black men lost to gun violence (Martin Luther King Jr, Malcolm X, etc) and the often tenuous relationships between black peoples, police, and gun violence, this work hopes to interrogate the narratives traditionally placed on black male bodies.
DARNstudio (David Anthone + Ron Norsworthy): The pieces exhibited here re-focus our attention onto silenced victims, centering them and allowing the inter-related facts of their stories to lead a corrective narrative.
What would Sandra Bland say if she had been so fortunate to have lived, and to have been afforded the opportunity to tell her side of the story? Would she say: "I wish things could've been done differently"? Would she say: "…I don't know what happened but something did…"? Would she say: "I will light you up"?
Emmaline Payette: In 2016 the Ramapough Lunaape Nation built the Split Rock Sweet Water Camp on tribal land in Mahwah, NJ to stand in solidarity with the Standing Rock Water Protectors, to protest the Pilgrim Pipeline, and to hold prayer ceremonies. The Ramapough Nation is currently facing legal battles and thousands of dollars in fines after the Township issued summonses against the tribe for zoning and permit violations. Indigenous Resistance continues to be confronted by colonialism, suppression and racism while fighting to protect the water, land, and life of Turtle Island against Big Oil.
Jennifer Mack Watkins: These prints are a visual memoir of the life before and after the 1863 New York Draft Riots that burned down The Colored Orphan Asylum. I chose The Colored Orphan Asylum, later named The Riverdale Children’s Association, because of my interest in the care and nurturing of African American orphans during the early-mid 1800’s. As a mother, I feel deeply connected because of the fulfillment of caring for my own daughter. By conducting hours of research, I found out more about the lack of protection of childhood innocence due to race and class in America. The memory of the New York Colored Asylum is important to New York history because it was one of the only orphanages in New York that took African-American children in who had lost a parent, been abandoned, or were in need of temporary housing in the early 1840's. Today, it is important to remember that through community efforts we can all provide the equal care needed for all children.
Kamau Ware: Since 2010, I have shared compelling narratives of the African Diaspora’s impact on New York City with no monuments to support this retelling. One of these stories is the Black rebellion of April 6,1712 against the British slave system at Broadway and Maiden Lane. By memorializing this moment, we elevate stories of the human spirit that resisted tyranny of the soul before there were rebellions over taxation. The redaction of the Black rebellion of April 6, 1712 creates the contours of a lie that Black people and Black women were not forerunners to the American Revolution - sacrificing one’s life to fight the British over tyranny.
Kimberly M. Becoat: Building safe spaces and dwellings, building Black, economic wealth and also creating political power through land ownership is also what Seneca Village represents to me. Had it been able to grow and develop - how might that rewrite the historical landscape of Black people in New York City? On a more emotional level - where have the descendants of the citizens of Seneca Village gone? - Where have they navigated and aligned their positions and Black bodies? My intent is to make "free environments" within my work and to create atmospheres that subconsciously give room to notions and connections of safety.
Lyra Monteiro/Museum on Site: George Washington is the focus of this project because of the way that his name and statues are invoked, time and time again, to defend monuments to Confederate leaders. When President Trump himself tweeted out this “slippery slope” argument after Charlottesville, The Museum on Site responded by making clear that there is very good cause for Washington to be the next American hero whose veneration in our public spaces is called into question.
Maureen Connor/Institute for Wishful Thinking: “If gynecology is premised on such practices as Sims, might the entire specialty be reconsidered in this light? If it were, we would surely find that the racism and misogyny underlying Sim’s practices still flourish in contemporary medicine and its applications, particularly with regard to women and their reproductive organs. The decisions made in the mid 19th century continue to influence the lives of women today. This does not mean that practitioners have studied Sims or are aware of his historic importance. Rather the medical apparatus continues to accommodate and even reward such racism and misogyny.”
Terri Kapsalis, Public Privates: Performing Gynecology from Both Ends of the Speculum, 1997
Maureen McNeil: This story of Luz Minerva Muniz's solitary confinement at the New York State Training School for Girls, is told here for the first time in fifty-five years, releasing the secret shame, guilt, and anger that destroyed her life as an innocent teenager. Only by representing all the stories of all the people can we as a society communicate our true history, make reparations, and end racism.
Rose Desiano: For years, my photographic practice has been devoted to seeking out and recording moments when archetypes appear in real life. My work is largely concerned with the photographic collective consciousness, the sociological ramifications of image manipulation, and the long, tangled history of the photograph as both a record keeper and myth maker.
Sal Munoz “Queers Don’t Deny it, Stonewall was a Riot” is a response to “Gay Liberation”, the existing monument in Christopher Park, that highlights the history it erases through omission. Featuring queer, trans, and gender non-conforming people color engaged in the act of rioting, the response re-centers these communities and the monumental role they played in shaping the LGBT movement. Contrary to popular belief, monuments do not commemorate history. Rather, monuments actively shape history by what they choose to commemorate and how.
Zaq Landsberg: The Spanish Crown removed Christopher Columbus removed from power in the West Indies because of his brutality, extreme even by the standards of the time. There is a persuasive case to be made to remove any veneration of Columbus because of the atrocities he inflicted on the Native peoples he encountered.
In the late nineteenth century, Italian immigrants faced vicious nativist sentiment and discrimination. They championed Columbus, who was somewhat obscure at the time, but gave them an Italian link to the founding of America. There is a persuasive case that can be made to keep the Columbus statue in place, as there is a deep tie between it, and the history of New York City minority communities. My piece is an object that leaves the image of Columbus intact but speeds up its decay, representing the conflicting viewpoints.