We are hard at work on our upcoming multimedia, interactive performance installation and art exhibition “Not Even Past” (yes, that’s right, another appropriation of the famous Faulkner quotation), which will be presented at Arts of the Albemarle in Elizabeth City, NC, during September and October 2024.
We received a 2023 North Carolina Artist Support Grant (our second for collaborative work) to help with the costs of making the work.
We’ll keep you posted as specific dates and events shape up.
What’s the show about?
Not Even Past is an artistic reckoning with history’s persistence in the present, and with the ways each of us, and all of us collectively, must find, assemble, and bear witness to a “past” that is not and never will be truly past because we incorporate it into our way of life in the present.
We’ve all witnessed how angry people become when their story of “America” is unsettled. Such public history projects as the New York Times’ 1619 Project, Ken Burns’ documentary series The US and the Holocaust, Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz’s An Indigenous People’s History of the United States, and even the recent reframing of the 85-year-old “Lost Colony” historical drama shake things up by asking us to consider parts of the story that have been overlooked in our school texts and civic celebrations. The stakes are high for all involved: our ideas of what the past is and means are at the core of our personal and collective identities.
What’s art got to do with it?
But what does contemporary art have to do with history? First, we want our project to provoke curiosity rather that polarization. We will tell several stories in our work, not to define a new version of the past but to show how complex it is to tell stories of the past. We want to help people ask themselves such questions as, “How do I know if this information is factual?” and “If this information is factual, what do I do with it?” and “How did I not know this?” and “What does all of this mean in the context of my own personal and family history?”
We come to this work as seekers, not as people with “the” answers.
Building “Communities of Memory”
As a way out of the angry confrontations over whose past is “the” past, we’d like our work to help build what sociologist Robert Bellah called “communities of memory.”
Communities of memory are groups of people who view the past as an intricate web of ideas and moments, too complex for a single, simple story to encompass it all. Instead, communities of memory embrace a communal practice of research, truth-telling, and inclusiveness, in which every strand of the web that is American history can be followed and viewed in relation to every other. By sharing their individual stories and listening to the stories of others, members of communities of memory understand and honor the complexity of the past that is not past, and they become the embodiment of future-oriented meaning and justice.
In pursuit of this goal through Not Even Past, both of us are creating independent bodies of work that tell stories and that complement, expand upon, and challenge each other. We will also invite community engagement and response through an experiential, interactive performance installation.