Bayeté Ross Smith (c) 2010
Sit-In (One, Two, and Three) was a performance action that revealed many things about myself, the communities that I am a part of, the mainstream social-historical-cultural context, the logistics of participatory performance, and how these, and other elements, interact.
- I learned that, in this country, black people (particularly Americans) have a different view of leisure time, and more importantly, the security of their space in the workplace (in comparison to white people).
- I realized that black members of post-civil rights generation are the first with ‘something to lose’ and that this affects the way we combat racism. In addition, black people are the only group, that in taking action against racism, are expected to address ALL forms of oppression, especially those related to gender, age, class, and disability. I ran into some folks from the Public Art Fund, quite randomly on Friday, and after mentioning the premise of Sit-In, was immediately questioned about why ageism wasn’t included in my conceptual framework. I doubt that a feminist would be asked about sexism (against men) in the prison-industrial complex, if they were planning a similar action that focused on gender equality. Perhaps this inclusion of all discriminatory practices in conversations of this type is a positive thing and might be applied to every group striving to create change…
- White people have an access to resources that is completely removed from my experience. (Note: “For every dollar of wealth owned by a white family, a black or Latino family owns just 16 cents, according to a recent Federal Reserve study.”) This was a made a tangible reality when a white colleague gave me 1000 dollars cash to create a large format print of Sit-In (3). I could not do something like that even when I was working full time. What is striking is that it’s not only a question of access, but also a mentality, that is clearly reflected in this action.
- Racism is a cornerstone of this country, to deny that absolutely means that we forfeit the possibility of actual change. The relationship between black people and white people is a precedent for all types of discrimination. So, to act as agents of reparation would mean a positive shift in issues of immigration, sexual discrimination, gender inequality, etc. This action proved to me that for lasting change two things must take place: People of color must assert their humanity and white people must finds ways of relinquishing privilege.
- I learned the difficultly of mobilizing people in New York City, without the incentive of money. New York provides this amazing space to attract attention but is also problematic due to the sheer volume of distractions. I want to continue mobilizing people of color by creating strategies to do this successfully.
- Ultimately though, the dialogue must be diverse to be true. White people, black people, Asian people, indigenous people, Spanish-speaking people, Allah-believing people… we all need to speak honestly with each other. We must break the habit of gossiping about ‘the other’ and use positive confrontation to connect directly, truthfully.
- Finally, despite marketing to the contrary, it is WE who own MoMA and other institutions of its ilk. All of us contribute to the collective consciousness of humanity, and that’s the same “stuff” that inspires every artist. It is for that reason that representation needs to be diverse. Marina Abramović once said that many people are interested in Art as a space for beauty, but that she was interested in Art as a space for truth. Sit-In was a reminder of this as an important facet of what I will continue to reveal and question in my own work.
Marina, Tokumbo, Aisha, Latasha, Zachary, Simone, Duma, Joel, Shani, Paul, Rebecca, Deana, Bayete, Firelei, Adjua, Donald, Yeji, Evan, Bose, Becca, Brian, Elia, Michael Paul, Nyeema, Mike, Kristine, Felicia, Chiara, Andrea, Melissa, Sean, Kevin, Devin, Judia, Kyle, Kanene, Dalicia, Caktuz, Jodie, Alissa, Rashaad, Robert, Socorro, Rosamond, Rashida, Tasha, Naomi, Kara, Derrick et. al