Feb 2, 2011

Anna Campbell - The Seeding Trilogy: Sowing Dissent

To live apart from a major metropolitan area is to exist in a cultural ecology that is
more susceptible to anti‐queer conservatism. However, because of its smaller scale,
that kind of ecology can sometimes be more immediately impacted by strong queer
voices. My recent project, The Seeding Trilogy, was an attempt to reframe the hubris
in West Michigan surrounding Artprize, “the world’s largest art prize,” a competition
launched and funded by members of the ultra‐conservative DeVos family. Seeding
was motivated by the sense of dis‐ease I felt in the potential for a family known to
support anti‐gay causes to whitewash its political agenda via an art competition.
The work, itself entered into Artprize, was sited in a gay bar, and employed
vernacular media to help seed a conversation among the people most adversely
affected by that family. The difficulty I had in finding a bar willing to host my project,
and the tone of subsequent communication with superiors at my university, both
reflected a fear of what the project might trigger.

The Seeding Trilogy consisted of three elements: a video projection, a scrolling led
sign, and a series of coasters. The projection Your Lifestyle, or Queer as a Six Billion
Dollar Bill mined Amway recruiting videos for maps of world domination and
pyramid scheme diagrams. A hand holding a brush scrubbed the footage
throughout, referencing the cleaning supplies that are the staples of the Amway
inventory, while also attempting to “clean up” the contents of the video. The
scrolling led sign, Brand New Ticker, nested between keno monitors, enlisted those
whose voices were not represented by massive fortunes, to provide quotes that
could comment ‐ positively or negatively ‐ on the confluence of politics and
philanthropy present within the competition. Finally, I worked with bartenders and
servers to distribute a custom series of coasters to bar patrons. Favors describes
Richard DeVos’s influence in blocking domestic partner benefits at Grand Valley
State University where I teach, Chipping In details the amount of money given by the
DeVos family to support anti‐gay marriage amendments in three separate states,
and Focus on the Family outlines the political impact and aspirations of the extended
DeVos family. The tangibility of the coaster series became particularly effective in
initiating dialog, and many patrons were sufficiently appreciative of the coasters
that the supply was quickly depleted. The continued use of those coasters in
people’s homes helps the project continue to resonate.

West Michigan is among the many locations in the queer diaspora where the
conservatism of the cultural climate makes creative work that engages queerness
not only more imperative than in larger metropolitan centers, but also more
effective. Engaging the long‐standing queer strategy of mixing pleasure with
politics, The Seeding Trilogy used the utter ubiquity of Artprize to activate a bar that
is more generally considered a site for generating pleasure than political debate. In
instances where the project met resistance, opportunities emerged for people to
consciously prioritize the relevance of queer voices over conservative assimilation.

To see more visit Anna's website, www.annacampbell.net

1 comment:

  1. Amway is a scam: http://texsquixtarblog.blogspot.com/