Dread Scott Makes Revolutionary Art to Propel History Forward | Below The Fold 04

An interview with the artist Dread Scott.

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WHAT IS THE PROPER WAY TO DISPLAY A US FLAG? // Dread Scott // 1988; Silver gelatin print, US flag, book, pen, shelf, audience; 80 x 28 x 60 inches

It is not every artist whose examination of the past speaks so urgently to the present moment of now; Dread Scott’s work does.

It is not every artist whose work provokes the United States Congress to pass legislation in response to it; Dread Scott’s work did that before he finished art school.

It is not every artist who demands so much of his audience and yet Scott is an artist uniquely interested in audience participation and reaction.

In a wide-ranging conversation, Dennis Trainor, Jr and Dread Scott discuss the Proper Way to Display the US flag, burning money on wall street – literally, white supremacy racism the Impossibility of Freedom in a Country Founded on Slavery and Genocide and a tangential conversation about Hamilton the musical and whether that work is functioning on reform or revolutionary plane.

Documentation of Dread Scott: Decision, a perfomance by Dread Scott.   Dread Scott: Decision is a performance that reflects on a country whose democracy is rooted in slavery.  These roots are woven into the fabric of the country and its founding documents.  During the performance:1)I read from the text of 1857 Supreme Court Dred Scott decision.2) A group of 4 nude Black men was guarded and controlled two live German Shepherd dogs.  The dogs barked continually.3)The audience was part of the work. They had to pass through the men to go into a “voting booth” one at a time and respond to a moral question. The three elements happened simultaneously. The performance premiered at BAM Fisher October 2012.
Documentation of Dread Scott: Decision, a perfomance by Dread Scott.
Dread Scott: Decision is a performance that reflects on a country whose democracy is rooted in slavery. These roots are woven into the fabric of the country and its founding documents. During the performance:1) I read from the text of 1857 Supreme Court Dred Scott decision.2) A group of 4 nude Black men was guarded and controlled two live German Shepherd dogs. The dogs barked continually.3) The audience was part of the work. They had to pass through the men to go into a “voting booth” one at a time and respond to a moral question. The three elements happened simultaneously. The performance premiered at BAM Fisher October 2012.

Artist bio
Dread Scott makes revolutionary art to propel history forward. He first received national attention in 1989 when his art became the center of controversy over its use of the American flag. President G. H.W. Bush declared his artwork What is the Proper Way to Display a U.S. Flag? “disgraceful” and the entire US Senate denounced this work and outlawed it when they passed legislation to “protect the flag.” To oppose this law and other efforts which would effectively make patriotism compulsory, he, along with three other protesters, burned flags on the steps of the US Capitol. This resulted in a Supreme Court case and a landmark First Amendment decision.

His art has been exhibited at the MoMA PS1, the Contemporary Art Museum Houston, The Walker Art Center and at the Pori Art Museum in Pori, Finlandas well as on view in America is Hard to See, the Whitney Museum’s inaugural exhibition in their new building. In 2012, BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music) presented his performance Dread Scott: Decision as part of their 30th Anniversary Next Wave Festival. In 2008, the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts presented Dread Scott: Welcome to America. Winkleman Gallery and Cristin Tierney in New York have exhibited recent work and his public sculptures have been installed at Logan Square in Philadelphia and Franconia Sculpture Park in Minnesota. His work is in the collection of the Whitney Museum of American Art, the New Museum of Contemporary Art (NY) and the Akron Art Museum (OH).

Documentation of Dread Scott: Decision, a perfomance by Dread Scott.   Dread Scott: Decision is a performance that reflects on a country whose democracy is rooted in slavery.  These roots are woven into the fabric of the country and its founding documents.  During the performance:1)I read from the text of 1857 Supreme Court Dred Scott decision.2) A group of 4 nude Black men was guarded and controlled two live German Shepherd dogs.  The dogs barked continually.3)The audience was part of the work. They had to pass through the men to go into a “voting booth” one at a time and respond to a moral question. The three elements happened simultaneously. The performance premiered at BAM Fisher October 2012.
Documentation of Dread Scott: Decision, a perfomance by Dread Scott.
Dread Scott: Decision is a performance that reflects on a country whose democracy is rooted in slavery. These roots are woven into the fabric of the country and its founding documents. During the performance:1) I read from the text of 1857 Supreme Court Dred Scott decision.2) A group of 4 nude Black men was guarded and controlled two live German Shepherd dogs. The dogs barked continually.3) The audience was part of the work. They had to pass through the men to go into a “voting booth” one at a time and respond to a moral question. The three elements happened simultaneously. The performance premiered at BAM Fisher October 2012.

He is a recipient of a Creative Capital Foundation grant, a Pollock Krasner Foundation grant, Fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts, and was a resident at Art Omi International Artists Residency and the Workspace Residency at the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council.

He has been written about in The New York Times, Art In America, Sculpture Magazine, ArtNews, ArtForum, Art21 Magazine, Time, The London Guardian and several other newspapers, magazines and books. He has appeared on numerous local and national TV and radio shows including Oprah, The Today Show, and CBS This Morning speaking about his work and the controversy surrounding it.

His work has been integrated into academic curricula and What is the Proper Way... is discussed in many art history classes and is featured in Henry Sayer’s “foundations” text A World of Art.

Dread works in a range of media including performance, photography, screen printing, video, installation and painting. His works can be hard-edged and poignant. He plays with fire—metaphorically and sometimes literally—as when he burned $171 on Wall Street and encouraged those with money to burn to add theirs to the pyre. The breadth of media he explores is unified by the themes he addresses and how he handles them. His art illuminates the misery that this society creates for so many and it often encourages the viewer to envision how the world could be.

Watch – MONEY TO BURN

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