Revolution#124, March 23,2008
CHECK IT OUT
Dread Scott: “Welcome to America”
The art exhibition “Dread Scott: Welcome to America” opened on February 28 at MoCADA (the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Art) in Brooklyn, New York. The opening was packed and electric with discussion of the work and what is going on in America. The day after it opened, the show was vilified in the New York Daily News and the police union called for the city and state to de-fund the museum because of one of the works—“The Blue Wall of Violence.”
This is one of the first art pieces you see when you enter the show. You hear it before you even see it: Loud penetrating thuds shatter the gallery calm. Three mechanical police batons strike in succession a plain wood coffin. Behind the coffin are six FBI target range silhouettes with haunting protruding arms, each holding an object such as a wallet, candy bar, or toy gun—things held by people who were shot by the NYPD.
On March 13, over 150 people attended a talk by Dread Scott, sponsored by MoCADA. Joanne Mickens, whose son Corey Mickens was murdered by the NYPD, was in the audience and gave a wrenching appeal for justice. This was the first anniversary of her son’s death and she has still never received the medical examiner’s report.
Dread Scott’s “Welcome to America” takes you on a searing journey. A large aquarium sitting in the middle of the room has a trumpet submerged on the bottom, while a Black baby doll floats face down in the water... echoing another piece that is a simulated construction wall of colorful posters of Katrina victims. As you walk through, you encounter compelling voices and gripping portraits of prisoners in a piece called “Lockdown.” In the last room of the exhibit, you confront a space crowded with a row of dirt graves of Afghanistanis killed by U.S. bombs. On each grave is a newspaper clipping that brings viewers the names Muzlifa, Farigha, Wilayat Khan… and details of how the U.S. killed them. In front of the graves, candles recall the memorials that engulfed NYC after 9/11, but here reminding of the vengeful carnage for U.S. empire.
Graphic and visceral, Dread Scott’s work provokes a consideration of the connection between police brutality, immigrant round ups, Katrina, and the U.S. war for empire. Dread Scott’s powerful art concentrates in a few rooms the brutal oppression that the U.S. rains down on the people here and around the world.
In the middle gallery of the show, Dread has a large silkscreen painting of a map of the world without North America, with the words: “Imagine A World Without America” boldly stenciled across it.
“Dread Scott: Welcome to America” will be at MoCADA, 80 Hanson Place, Brooklyn, New York, through June 1, 2008. For more information see mocada.org or dreadscott.net.
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