I believe that all lives won't matter until Black Lives Matter. To reaffirm my commitment to the value of African American lives, I am repositioning the documentation of this installation, Suburban Comfort from 1994 to the front page of my website during this profound time after the death of George Floyd. It is sad how little has changed in the past 26 years. May this time be different.
Suburban Comfort began as a collaboration with Carl Upchurch. He is the speaker in the monitor on the sculpture stand. I have to admit that I was very hesitant to make this project, wondering if it was possible to speak with integrity, but Carl believed it was possible. He wanted us to make a project together even though (and perhaps because) our life experiences were so different. I traveled to the National Gang Summit that he organized in Kansas City, interviewed participants and spent many days talking with Carl. I decided to juxtapose our difference, to acknowledge my privilege and let participants experience their own relationship to Carl and his message. In this piece, the suburban person can control what they hear by turning on and off the voice of the urban person. They also sit in a throne-like Adirondack chair, far away from their urban counterpart who resides in a glass vitrine. Carl knew that his soliloquy would be seen in this glass box and therefore he keeps referring to the metaphorical and literal box in his full speech (link below). By asking the participant to make the decision to control Carl's strong and clear voice, the experience of inequality we were seeking to question was made more visceral. Of course these issues are not simply urban and rural, but we chose to focus on these elements, using them as a broader symbol for racial, economic or educational inequality.
Carl was an accomplished speaker, organizer and author as well as a loving husband and parent. His book Convicted in the Womb went on to become the motion picture Conviction. His passing in 2003 was such a loss for the world.
Carl was a brilliant force in my life.
Carl's full 80 min presentation here