Digital Media Art Collection.
About Protest Song (Changsha)
In the dark times
Will there also be singing?
Yes, there will also be singing
About the dark times.
- Bertolt Brecht, 1939 (motto to the Svenborg Poems, aka The Exile Poems)
One election does not change who we are as a people. The America I know is clear-eyed and
big-hearted―full of courage and ingenuity. Although politics can significantly affect our lives, our success has always been rooted in the willingness of our people to look out for one another and help each other through tough times. More than my Presidency, or any Presidency, it is the optimism and hard work of people like you that have changed our country for the better and that will continue to give us the strength we need to persevere.
- Barak Obama, January 9, 2017 (letter to Adam Farcus)
In December 2016, Adam Farcus wrote a letter to President Obama about fears surrounding the hatred and discrimination that was coming from Donald Trump, his campaign, and his followers. The letter ended with, “In writing to you I hoping to find guidance, meaning, or structure to aid in my ability to handle what is happening – and to turn it into something productive. Where should I start? How do I make sense of this? What can I do?”
Obama’s hopeful, human, and apparent form letter reply asks us to trust in people and persevere. This letter sets the tone for Protest Song. In this exhibition, visitors are invited to enact the score, Protest Song, and create protest songs with language generated through automatic writing by Adam Farcus while they were watching and listening to Donald Trump’s inauguration speech. Automatic writing is a Surrealist technique where the movement of the hand is separated from what the eyes see and the mind thinks, with the goal of tapping into subconscious thoughts and feelings.
The final automatic text is gibberish, which leads to songs that are as humorous and playful as they are critical and parodies of Trump’s own language. These are powerful tools that we can use to bring people together and disarm power. Participants use the prompt of Protest Song as a way to “help each other through tough times” by creating songs of parody, darkness, perseverance, and resistance.
The songs in Protest Song (Changsha) come from the Protest Song project and the video was filmed in an unfinished theater in Changasha, China, while Farcus was an artist in residence at the + Artist In Residence International Exchange Program.
Artist: Adam Farcus
Title: Protest Song (Changsha)
Medium: Video, color, sound, 8:06 min., 16:9.
Credit: Gift of the artist
Accession Number: 001.2019
Copyright: © Adam Farcus
"Protest Song", 2018
written by Ed Woodham scored and performed by Mica Smith
"Su Zimo", 2017
written by Derick Chappell scored by Adam Farcus
陈小龙, 舒鑫, 王静月, 饶紫依, 朱韩明, 索倩, 刘慧霞, 陶笑寒, 卢莎, 聂露 , 马斌, 谭帅, 易湘, 任旲弘, 胡淡竹, 李馨霓
The artist thanks: A+ Artist in Residence International Exchange Program, Advance Art Museum, Beiai Liu, Eric Scott Nelson, Jie Zhang, Li Zhongmin, Mao Wei, Sun Qin Filmed at Xihu Park, Changsha, China
Adam Farcus is currently a Huntsville, Texas, based activist, artist, curator, feminist, and teacher. They were born and raised in the rural town of Coal City, Illinois. Adam received their M.F.A. from the University of Illinois at Chicago, B.F.A. from Illinois State University, and A.A. from Joliet Junior College. Their work has been exhibited at numerous venues, including Box 13, Houston; Vox Populi, Philadelphia; the American University Museum, and Advance Art Museum, Changsha, China. They have lectured on their work at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the Performance Studies International 16 conference, among many others. From 2012 through 2015 they were also a co-curator, with Allison Yasukawa, for the Baltimore-based residential art space, Lease Agreement. Lease Agreement now exists as a alternative and nomadic curatorial project, based in Huntsville, Texas. Adam is a professor of art at Sam Houston State University.