January 28 – May 1, 2016
Question Bridge: Black Males
January 28 – May 1, 2016
Opening Reception: January 27, 5 – 7 p.m.
The UMCA is pleased to present Question Bridge: Black Males , a five-channel video installation that aims to represent and redefine black male identity in America, and powerfully exposes the incredible diversity of thought, character, and identity within the black American male demographic, disrupting traditional generalizations.
This project, created by Chris Johnson, Hank Willis Thomas, Bayeté Ross Smith, and Kamal Sinclair, explores challenging issues within the black male community by instigating a transmedia conversation across the geographic, economic, generational, educational, and social divisions of American society. These artists collected more than 1,600 question and answer videos from over 150 men across the country from 2008 to 2011. The conversation that is created brings about healing and understanding among group members, but when it’s shared publicly, understanding happens on a broader scale: non-black viewers are exposed to complex and authentic images of black males rarely seen in American media. The hope is that this exposure will help break down the many negative perceptions people have about black men. Johnson, Thomas, Ross Smith, and Sinclair shaped the content into an insightful, provocative, and entertaining five-channel video installation that has been exhibited at over 30 museums, festivals, and institutions.
From the beginning, the goal of the project has been to represent and redefine black male identity by getting large numbers of black men to participate in the effort. Question Bridge has embarked on a campaign of getting 200,000 black males to add their voices through the Question Bridge website and mobile app by summer 2016.
Following on the heels of Du Bois in Our Time, the UMCA’s 2013 landmark exhibition project, we will create an interactive platform for our audiences in order to expand the dialogue sparked by Question Bridge, and to make participation more accessible. Using a computer or smart phone, new participants will be able to contribute questions and answers, creating a living archive of black male voices in our region. We will seek community engagement from a wide spectrum of our local population and communities by hosting a day-long session (date tba) where anyone can come to sign up on the Question Bridge app so that voices from our various communities can become a part of the national dialogue.
The UMCA is pleased to collaborate with Deerfield Academy’s von Auersperg Gallery in the Hess Center for the Arts, where Question Bridge: Black Males can be seen from January 10 to March 10, 2016 (Opening Reception: January 10, 2016, 4 to 6 p.m.). Related educational programs will be organized: https://deerfield.edu/departments/administrative-departments/von-auersperg-art-gallery/
This is a critical period in history for the African American community. In recent years, many have been able to transcend racial, cultural and economic boundaries while others have found themselves increasingly confined to the margins of society. African American men are particularly challenged by this paradox. A black man is the President of the United States, yet black men are still severely overrepresented in incarceration and high school dropout rates, and suffer disproportionately from various preventable health risks and as victims of homicide.
The representation and depiction of black males in popular culture has long been governed by prevailing stereotyped attitudes about race and sexuality. Far too little is known about the range of internal values and dynamics of this group. Scientists, social scientists, theorists, historians, politicians and activists have investigated the plight of the African American male on various levels and from diverse perspectives, yet not enough has been done to represent a multi-faceted and self-determined representation of this demographic. Ultimately Black males’ greatest challenges are with themselves. The question is, “why?”
Question Bridge: Black Males opens a window onto the complex and often unspoken dialogue among African American men, creating an intimate and essentially genuine experience for viewers and subjects and providing new opportunities for understanding and healing. This project brings the full spectrum of what it means to be “black” and “male” in America to the forefront. “Blackness” ceases to be a simple, monochromatic concept.
The University Museum of Contemporary Art gratefully acknowledges the support of The Art Angels of Western Massachusetts.