This is Your Land, 2011
I was invited by the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program to incorporate a group of 3rd & 4th grade students into my work. I got the students to make their own flags and imagine want they'd want on a perfect plot of land. As their artist, I made what they requested on that land. We took their flags, along with the land, and ran around a field. We invented games, made videos and posed for photographs.
I wanted to work specifically with this age group because of the lack of agency/voice/power and concurrent ability to play/imagine/invent they experience daily. This is your land was a visual exploration into claiming space and marking territory. As their artist, I built what they told me they wanted. They expressed their desire and we played that desire out on the field as we ran around and took photographs. In the end I produced a series of documents that addressed desire on a different scale though, specifically in terms of non-profit community arts organizations like Mural Arts, and my role as an artist within that.
Desire is a complicated thing. It can so often be a terrible collision of hope, love and all the impenetrable, solipsistic structures of power we live our daily lives negotiating, often without even knowing we are doing so. With community arts projects, specifically those involving youth, it is hard to not appropriate or exploit the authenticity of the participants’ voices. As a facilitator or viewer, we have an enmeshed and inseparable influence. This inevitable manipulation of voice actually becomes a reflection of our own desire for a simple and utopian answer to the world in which we live. It is the underbelly of this process that interests me. While the statement ‘this is your land’ can sound like a gift, it is also an implicating statement.