Gallows will be staged on campus soil. But instead of a literal neck on the noose, a set of ideologies attached to a flag, which will be strangled until the colors bleed out.
The Confederate flag and its ideals are sentenced to a public execution that will take place in the Scripps Amphitheater behind Scripps Hall. The “Confederate Flag: A Public Hanging” is a performance that will be enacted by the Detroit-based artist John Sims. The noose is set to tighten at noon on Thursday.
“The idea is that the confederate flag as a representative of the confederacy hasn’t been brought to justice,” Sims said. “The hanging is a symbolic gesture toward that direction.”
The “Public Hanging” is part of a three-day series of events that will be held across campus. The day before the performance, Sims will deliver a lecture titled, “Transformation Proclamation: Flags, Fire and Freedom” at 7 p.m. Wednesday in Schoonover Hall 145. On Friday, following the execution, the Multicultural Center and Department of African American Studies are sponsoring “Beyond the Flag: Art, Activism, and White Supremacy,” a public panel discussion on the interplay of activism and art. The event is scheduled to be hosted at 12 p.m. in Walter Rotunda.
Sims’ performance is part of an exhibition curated by Erica Spilger, a senior studying art history. The exhibition bore out of the motivations of the roused art history student and her quest for a research topic. Spilger, as a part of her assignment, decided to curate and explore censorship of art in America in convergence with social issues plaguing the nation. The exhibition, titled “Expression and Repression: Contemporary Art Censorship in America,” presents the work of four contemporary artists who have been censored within the last thirty years, including Sims, Sue Coe, Kara Walker and David Wojnarowicz.
It will conclude the artist’s 16-year project, “Recoloration Proclamation.” Sims will be executing the Confederate flag from a 13-foot gallows. Through the performance, the artist said he aims to deliver a symbolic statement of “judgment against the Confederate history of white supremacy, Jim Crow segregation and contemporary terrorism associated with this flag.”
The performance will be followed by a potluck picnic that the artist hopes will give the audience a chance to interact and discuss the raging social issues the flag symbolizes.
“I hope it makes an impact,” Sims said. “I hope some real conversations come out of this about the icons and the lingering history of the confederacy.”
Sims’ “Recoloration Proclamation” project consists of a series of art installations and pieces that include recolored Confederate flags, public performances, a documentary film and a music project. Sims has also recently instated an annual “Burn and Bury Confederate Flag Memorial Funeral.”
The noosed flag will join its previously censored comrades in the white halls of Kennedy Museum of Art on Thursday and will remain displayed until Dec. 22. Spilger said it will give the people a chance to experience Sims’ performance at their convenience.
The medium of the performance and the exhibition rests on symbolism, which Spilger believes will allow people from different walks of life to relate with the art.
“The symbolism is important because it shows how powerful it can be, and the fact that it has been censored shows how powerful it has been,” Spilger said. “It has an influence on people. People recognize symbols, it shows how fluid symbols can be and how differently it can be perceived by different people.”