Vesna Krstich wrote a great essay about the piece for the July/August issue of Art Papers. Krstich writes that "the project aims to fill the alleged 'information gap' between the American public, its grasp of the Iraq War, and the understanding of the customs and traditions of Iraqi citizens." Krstich then goes on to describe installations that include cozy cushioned chairs and hand-stitched banners in which people were "a little too intrigued by the aesthetic properties of the car: the rusted patina and the sculptural nature of the twisted metal."
It sounds to me like the project that Krstich saw was almost on a different planet from the one that I saw--a few gruff men with a folding table and little tent next to a trailer in a parking lot, and makes me wonder if there isn't a great deal of truth to the idea that the most complex and interesting conversations did in fact happen in the parking lot of First Congo as unsuspecting bike-riding dudes paused to find out what this scene was all about. How would the Memphis experience of this project have been different if it had been hosted at a venerable institution like the Brooks or the Dixon? What if the conversation shared on YouTube had been with one of the professorial types who were also in the mix or with the children they met at the Civil Rights Museum or with the sophisticates at the dinner party later that night?
I love the questions that are asked in this article: "How does one document or judge these types of collaborative, research-based or dialogical practices? How do we assess them if we did not participate in the discussions? . . . How will this conversations be framed once they are exhibited in another format? What of the other, off-camera conversations?"
I love the idea that this work is described as "research-based." Of course this is research, but to what end? I look forward to seeing the results.