This weekend, community members will have an opportunity to be a part of this story at the None of the Above exhibition and performance on Saturday, October 5.
The exhibition examines the intersection of race, poverty, education and incarceration present in the “school-to-prison pipeline” within North Carolina. However, the aim of the project is not merely to portray the research outcomes, but to change the language of discussion to personal experiences. The multimedia exhibition not only features artistic interpretations of facts and figures, but also showcases personal narratives from students to educators to juvenile justice officials.
“We started out with a classroom aesthetic,” said Lynden Harris, founder and director of Hidden Voices. “We did workshops with students and teachers around the state in order have their perspective integrated into the exhibit in order to retain the personal element.”
The exhibit has many different features, such as interactive classroom furniture, photography of students and teachers imitating each other, critical mapping of North Carolina, informational elementary school-style diagrams and a performance which will be staged as a live radio broadcast before the audience.
“There are phone calls coming in from people, people speaking from the audience and a big panel of folks also contributing,” said Harris. “All of those folks are sharing their own stories and not the stories of other people—they are all stakeholders in both the problem of the pipeline and the solution.”
The performance will feature individuals who are involved in some capacity in the school-to-prison pipeline and give them the opportunity to voice their perspective before the community. The performance showcases these narratives and provides an avenue of connection between the audience and stage members who share in the same community.
“Reading an informational paper about this situation is one thing, but performance can influence people to think about situations and ideas they otherwise might not have, and change the way they think about a given subject, “ said Imani Ifedi, Trinity '15. “The emotionality actors can bring to their characters can distinguish the performance from just the statistical and objective approach, thus prompting viewers toward action. This is especially true for this kind of performance that features many different perspectives.”
The collaborative element of the project already demands conversation. Photographers must work with students and teachers alike to figure out the best way to demonstrate their relationship. Researchers and artists must come together to figure out not only how to portray the school-to-prison pipeline, but also how to galvanize a meaningful conversation. However, the most pivotal collaboration is between those who create this exhibit and those who witness it. Familiar desks, a map of North Carolina and performed narratives evoke a call-to-action from those who attend.
“Empowering people to take action, small or large, is what we all have to do now in our public and private lives,” said Harris. “We do have the power to make change, and we actually have substantial opportunity to move towards a more compassionate and progressive agenda.”
Accordingly, None of the Above will feature a section called “Do One Thing,” which will have a list of actions that any visitor can do during or after their time in the exhibition. The list includes many items that take no longer than one minute, like signing a petition or tweeting a statistic or story from the exhibition. Other items demand more time, like writing a letter to the editor, running for school board or tutoring and empowering a student.
“This show is important for people of all backgrounds, but especially for those who, for the most part, cannot relate to what is being discussed.” said Ifedi. “For me, it has solidified the definition of ‘privilege’ and has reinforced the moral obligation I feel to use whatever privilege I have for the betterment of others who deserve just as much as I have been given.”
“I think people should be horrified and energized,” said Harris. “I want people to understand that there are real alternatives; there are districts around the country who very effectively dismantled their own school to prison pipeline, and we can too.”
None of the Above will be in the Jameson Gallery in the Friedl Building on October 5. The exhibition will finish with a performance at White Lecture Hall at 8 p.m. For more information, visit http://www.http://hiddenvoices.org/.