Can a Sculpture Feel Pain?/Columbus Confessionals
"Fashion a pure heart for me, O God;/create in me a steadfast spirit." ~ Psalm 51
"O, let America be America again--/The land that never has been yet--/And yet must be—" ~ Langston Hughes
at Recess Arts
46 Washington Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11205
A Poets Choir Conducted by Edwin Torres
with special musical guest Iva Bittovà
with Ama Birch, LaTasha N. Nevada Diggs, Bob Holman, E.J. McAdams.
"Can a Sculpture Feel Pain?/Columbus Confessionals" was conceived as a public acknowledgement of the possibility of a reparative function for monuments that no longer serve their ideological purpose.
Re-imagining Columbus as a figure in need of penance, “Columbus Confessionals” asks whether America can learn to say “sorry” again, just as it had when it paid reparations to the families of 11 Italian-Americans lynched in 1891, events that ushered the first proclamation of what is known today as Columbus Day.
"Columbus Confessionals" culminated with "Columbusing Columbus", a participatory performance including a Poets Choir conducted by Edwin Torres and the virtuosic voice of Iva Bittovà vocalized a collective liturgy written as the culmination of visitors’ responses accumulated during the course of "Columbus Confessionals." In a guided recitation with musical accompaniment, visitors are invited to join in a "laying of hands" in a procession-like ritual from which a repentant figure of Columbus will be recast using participants' hands molded for this purpose.
It may seem that the most obvious and appropriate thing to do with unwanted or potentially obsolete public sculptures is to simply tuck them away out of sight.
Can a Sculpture Feel Pain?/Columbus Confessionals, however, proposes that there is greater potential in actively and publicly engaging discomforting histories by recruiting the very objects that represent ideologies inconsistent with an equitable, tolerant and empathetic society.
Can a Sculpture Feel Pain?/Columbus Confessionals, invites the public to collectively peel back the layers of mythological identities that dominant historical narratives have had to rely upon to tell their stories (and justifications) for Nationhood, Independence, Citizenship, Patriotism and Righteous Rebellion.
“Can a sculpture feel pain?” but also, “Can a sculpture feel others’ pain?”
"Without art, there is no empathy; without empathy, there is no justice." ~ Darren Walker
At Recess Arts, on view during Drop-in hours, a life-size replica of a recently vandalized Columbus monument will be housed in one side of a confessional booth where the sculpture will remain partially exposed to visitors who may enter the other chamber and engage in a private dialogue with the sculpture.
Visitors are asked to explore their own connection to the various layers of meaning that have been ascribed to Columbus throughout American history. On an adjacent wall, large prints of Columbus's outline invite viewers to write down their responses to the questions “What did Columbus say in the past?”, “What should Columbus say in the present?”, and “What might Columbus say in the future?”
In this manner, Columbus Confessionals not only asks “Can a sculpture feel pain?” but also, “Can a sculpture feel others’ pain?”