My Electric Genealogy Winter Tour + More

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I’m so thrilled to present the performance-lecture “My Electric Genealogy” no less than eight times in February – and in some of the Midwest locales closest to my heart. All shows are free and first-come, first-served.

Alt: Light skinned, female-presenting figure in a men's suit, glasses, and a red tie stands beside in a dark space beside a wooden chair, both hands raised in an animated expression.
Performer delivers monologue during “My Electric Genealogy.”

February 1 | 4:00 PM
Macalaster College
Interdisciplinary Media Lab
St. Paul, MN

February 2 | 12:00 PM
University of Minnesota
InFlux Space
Minneapolis, MN

February 4 | 7:00 PM
Art of the Rural
119 E. Third St.
Winona, MN

February 7 | 6:00 PM
Northwestern University
Mussetter-Struble Theater
Evanston, IL

February 11 | 4:00 PM
Watershed Art and Ecology
1821 S. Racine
Chicago, IL

February 13 | 6:30 PM
University of Iowa
240 Art Building West
Iowa City, IA

February 14 | 5:30 PM
University of Illinois
331 Art and Design Building
Champaign, IL

February 15 | 6:30 PM
Southern Illinois University
Parkinson 124 | Browne Auditorium
Carbondale, IL

Screenshot of review of "My Electric Genealogy" at 2220 Arts + Archives by George Melrod. Not intended for screen reading.
Screenshot of review of “My Electric Genealogy” in Artillery Magazine.

I am so grateful for a favorable review by George Melrod in the print edition of Los Angeles’s Artillery Magazine. Arts journalism is a tough gig, and coverage of ephemeral works with limited runs can be really hard to justify. So I really appreciate the labor and the attentive viewing evident in the full review.

On the Reception of “The Embrace”

Boston has been name-checked more than than usual since Hank Willis Thomas and MASS Design Group’s new monument to Martin Luther and Coretta Scott King was dedicated on January 13. Entitled “The Embrace,” the monument – which also celebrates the 1965 Freedom rally and a multiracial group of Boston’s local civil rights leaders – seemed to signal an ongoing correction of the city’s famous and reprehensible racism. Programming around the dedication included exhibitions and discussions with Hank Willis Thomas and local artists and culture-bearers, and there was an almost euphoric sense of new beginnings for a city where it’s not often easy to be an artist at all—let alone an artist of color.

Monumental bronze hands (one with a wedding ring) clasp against a stormy winter sky.
Closeup of hands clasping in Hank Willis Thomas’s bronze Monument, “The Embrace” (2023)
Names of education justice activist Jean McGuire and national community action and anti-poverty leader Robert M. Coard are cast in brown in the stone plaza surrounding the MLK monument.
Names of education justice activist Jean McGuire and national community action and anti-poverty leader Robert M. Coard are cast in brownze in the stone plaza surrounding the MLK monument.

The ways that “The Embrace” celebrates not just the Kings but also an entire generation of lesser-known local Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and Asian activists goes unmentioned in Karen Attiah’s generally perceptive critique of the monument’s alignment with the whitewashing of MLK’s legacy into a deracialized and de-politicized message of love. The curdling of the broader national reception of “The Embrace” into outrage or ridicule over the suggestive nature of particular photos circulating on the internet further severs the monument discursively from both the experience of actually looking at it and conditions in the city where it was commissioned and installed.

A few people in a snow-dotted plaza view a monumental bronze sculpture in a knotted embrace under a cloudy winter sky.
Visitors at Hank Willis Thomas’s “The Embrace” on Tuesday, January 24.

There’s a lot to be written about the desire for agape and eros to stay in separate lanes (and why it’s hilarious when they don’t), but I found myself wondering how, if at all, the memes, the TikToks, and the Daily Show jokes had shaped how people view the monument. So, I went to the Common yesterday afternoon. Despite it being a cold and windy weekday, there was a steady stream of visitors who seemed mostly reverent. Their attention and cameras were directed at the giant, intertwined bronze arms, and no one seemed to be trying to recreate the visual double entendres they’d probably seen online. At the same time, I didn’t see anyone reading the names embedded in the plaza. Sadly, such is the script for viewing bronze monuments: even when they question the traditional framing of the heroic individual (as “The Embrace” certainly tries), the audience may still approach them, whether with rapture or ridicule, as the materialization of a lone individual’s legacy. The furor over the monument will eventually cool, and Boston’s artists of color will remain, nurturing the beloved (creative) community that was experienced more broadly, if briefly, just two weekends ago.