Civil Rights and Civil Wrongs: South Africa and US is the third project in the Sites of Passage series. In tandem from 2016-2018, artists from South Africa (Johannesburg/Cape Town) and the United States (Pittsburgh), have probed the concept of Civil Rights and Civil Wrongs through social practice and community interaction, focusing on symbols, culture and repetitions in the human condition.
In conjunction with the Mattress Factory, previous exchanges have taken place between Egypt and the US (revolving around the Egyptian Revolution and the Occupy Movement); Israel, Palestine and the US (revolving around the ideas of Borders, Walls and Citizenship); and now South Africa and the US (revolving around ideas of cultural and economic apartheid). These collaborative crossings include voices from a variety of artistic practices.
Platforms are built around controversial current affair issues.
The idea is to take the conversation away from the politicians and the media, who often have their own agenda. Civil Rights and Civil Wrongs gives the conversation to the people – the artists – to chew on. From that conversation and time on the ground with the artists, in both places, exhibition/performance is built.
As the US moved past its 50th year of the Civil/Voters Rights Act and South Africa moved past its 20th year of post-apartheid democracy, the project reflects on what we can learn from one another. What is the difference between legal apartheid and economically driven apartheid? What have we done wrong and what have we done right? What has changed? How do our governments, communities and societies discern and apply our past to our present? Are environmental rights the same as human rights? What language do we use to talk about these issues?
Why These Artists?
All the artists confront racial politics via different mediums:
Pittsburgh brings a sound artist who archives the world around him to build perception; a filmmaker who is known for addressing gentrification and now undertakes ritual and rights; and a multimedia artist who brings together myth and futurism to build a new present.
South Africa brings a choreographer who considers himself a community developer; a printmaker/painter who captures mining towns, people and the power of uprisings; a former gang member turned art teacher – a superhero and role model to the children in the township around him; and an outsider-architect who engineers castles from forgotten debris.
None of these projects could have taken place without the humble perspective and innovative ensemble that is the Mattress Factory. Thank you.
-Tavia La Follette, Curator
Generous support for Civil Rights and Civil Wrongs: South Africa and US is provided by Advancing Black Arts in Pittsburgh, Allegheny Regional Asset District, an Anonymous Donor, the Benter Foundation, The Heinz Endowments, The Heinz Small Arts Initiative, National Endowment for the Arts, Opportunity Fund, Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, The Pittsburgh Foundation, the Roy A. Hunt Foundation, and the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. With special thanks to the Mattress Factory Board of Directors and museum members.