Starting in June, expect to see the windows of the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art filled with letters from Madison leaders identifying the pieces of themselves that are holding back equity.
The project titled “Letters to the World Toward the Eradication of Racism,” is the first phase of a summer-long installation by nationally known artists Nick Cave and Bob Faust. The interactive exhibit known as Amends will be on display June 19 through Oct. 24 at MMoCA.
The goal of the three-part project is to eradicate racism — starting with self, the artist’s facilitychicago.org website states.
The exhibit has been set up for a year in the Chicago location known as Facility, and has had over 1,000 responses. Madison will be the second showing for the project.
“It asks individuals to dig deep into themselves to acknowledge and take responsibility for their personal roles in the proliferation of racism through publicly shared confessions and apologies,” Faust and Cave wrote.
During the first phase, Mel Becker Solomon, who is curator of the Collection at MMoCA, told Madison365 that 25 leaders in Madison have agreed to write “letters to the world” on five of the museum’s windows.
Those people include former mayor Paul Soglin; State Rep. Francesca Hong, President of the Madison Community Foundation Bob Sorge, interim Deputy Vice Chancellor for Diversity and Inclusion and Chief Diversity Officer Dr. Cheryl Gittens and Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway.
Madison365 was not able to contact the artists directly, but Becker Solomon who has been working with the artists to get the installation ready said that although the majority of the work falls on white people, the confessions are open to everyone.
“For Nick, this project was open to everybody in his life,” she said. “He reached out to Naomi Backwith, who is a Black curator at the Guggenheim, and she responded saying, ‘I was too silent. I didn’t speak up enough when I should have and I need to do better if I expect change.’”
Simultaneously, with Phase 1 which is signed letters, the Phase 2 of the project will open up the letters to anyone in the community. They can write anonymous letters on a yellow ribbon and tie it to a community closeline.
Becker Solomon said the closeline is expected to travel to different places around Madison during the summer so people get an opportunity to contribute.
The exhibit will be the first public exhibit at MMoCA’s new “The Shop” which was transformed from the gift shop to an educational community space for artists to interact with the community, and the community to interact with the art.
“This act of writing really helps people mean it and feel it, and putting it out there for everybody to read,” she said. “While it’s a very private act – transcribing and writing down your emotions and your feelings surrounding racism and taking responsibility for it – it also opens it up to take that next step. So it’s a scary thing to do that – for most people to acknowledge what they’ve done wrong – people don’t like being wrong.
“But really stopping and writing it down and taking that first tiny, scary step of admitting it. It opens you up to taking further action, taking further steps and being braver in fighting racism and trying to eradicate it from our society and from our communities,” she added.
The third phase of the exhibit is a call to action, Becker Solomon said. MMoCA is setting up performances of artists that center around Black voices and who want to respond to the yellow ribbons. The specific artists and times are still being determined.
For information, visit mmoca.org