Performed to George Michael's Freedom '90
Made in collaboration with E.G. Crichton's curatorial project Out/Look the birth of the Queer, Freedom '17 playfully reflects on how much has changed in the U.S. since 1990 (the year that my inspirational issue of OUT/LOOK was published). My project playfully opens up critical refection on issues both within and outside of LGBTQ+ communities including gender, whiteness, performativity and how they intersect with issues around patriotism, and nationalism particularly during our current political climate. For more about the exhibition see: http://www.glbthistory.org/museum/
In perusing the winter 1990 issue of OUT/LOOK: National Lesbian & Gay Quarterly I was struck by how much has changed within the LGBTQ+ community over the past decades. For example several of the works in issue 7 express anxiety about ascribing to, and performing within narrowly defined sexual identities. Today LGBTQ+ culture is engaged in making space for non-binary genders and we understand sexuality and gender as independent from one another, and ultimately self-defined. While outside of LGBTQ+ communities nationalism, patriotism, racism, homophobia and transphobia seem to be continually enmeshed and invested in policing identities.
Demos: Wapato Correctional Facility probes the many concerns that the vacant jail suggests: breakdowns in democracy, prevailing power structures and others. The project's title takes its meaning from various interpretations of the word "demos". The Greek word "demos" (pronounced "day-moss"), refers to the "village" or "people." In English, "demo", is used as a shorthand for "demonstration", as a reference to the "demo mix-tape", or as the vernacular for "demolition". ERNEST thus uses "demos" to refer to its interest in keeping their methods experimental and provisional, while creating opportunities for local participatory engagement.
SURVEILLING EMPTINESS AT WAPATO JAIL ACE LEHNER
Unlike most empty prisons, Wapato Correctional Facility’s 525 beds are not haunted by ghosts, instead of pristine pillows rest atop heinously cheap and hideously green mattresses that have never been slept in and do not hold indentations made by the weight of past trauma. There are no stains, no hairs, no traces of human suffering. Completed in 2004 the Multnomah County jail has stood empty till today and while it has often been described by locals as an albatross, it might more fittingly be considered a physical manifestation of Jeremy Bentham’s conception of the Panopticon. For, like Bentham’s Panopticon -a conceptual structure that, never actually housed any prisoners- Wapato Jail’s surveillance cameras perpetually watch over constant emptiness.
ERNEST is a working-group comprised of a flexible roster. Shifting the focus away from the individual identities of the artists, ERNEST provides a democratic means for artists to make work that challenges dominant ideas about site, body, and power. Learn more at iamernest.us.