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Upside Down Pastoral Scene

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Upside Down Pastoral Scene came out of a need to engage the issue of race in American history and culture. Race is a barely repressed issue in southern rock music and became unavoidable as I researched and completed Proposal for Monument in Friendship Park, Jacksonville, FLA in 1999. Working in a somewhat similar way to Friendship Park I constructed a large field of elements with a sound track, in this case a field of inverted tree stumps. The upside down trees are a direct reference to an earlier interest of mine- the work and ideas of Robert Smithson. However, in Upside Down Pastoral Scene the tree reference is steered toward symbolic, historic and cultural meanings. The Billie Holiday song Strange Fruit forms the central axis for the soundtrack and positions the tree as a site of unspeakable violence, the site of lynching. Further symbolic concepts and interconnections are brought out by particular musical choices. For instance the Sister Sledge song We Are Family introduces the theme of family and the idea of the family tree to the work with a nod to its producer Nile Rodgers, a former member of the Black Panther Party. Ranging across genres and historical moments, blues, gospel, hip hop, jazz, classical and funk compositions are montaged together to form a polyvalent and multi-axial narrative of U.S. history. The twelve inverted tree stumps are constructed using Hollywood prop making techniques. Each tree contains a loud speaker and is placed on a square mirror. The sound track is digitally controlled, sending music to particular trees and constructing sonic landscapes as it unfolds. Ideas of the family tree, the tree of knowledge, the symbolic significance of the parts of a tree; roots, the trunk and branches are re-oriented as various compositions play out in the tree field. Upside Down: Pastoral Scene implies that African American creativity produced and continues to produce American culture, in spite the long history of overwhelming forces deployed against it.” – Sam Durant

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