Andrew Uroskie – Group 2
We have made a video response to Andrew Uroskie’s talk by creating a version of ‘Selma Last Year’ for the recent protests in Ferguson, Missouri. ‘Selma Last Year’ was a multimedia installation created by Ken Dewey, Bruce Davidson, and Terry Riley, which juxtaposed projected images, audio collage, small photographic prints and16mm documentary film, with a delayed video feedback loop. The intention was to create a series of intentionally disjunctive environments for the audience.
‘Selma Last Year’ opened at the First Unitarian Church of Chicago on the first anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery march. The work was a commemoration of the events in Selma in 1965, where a march was organised to protest the shooting of Jimmy Lee Jackson on a protest march by a state trooper. The march was met by state troopers who fired tear gas, beat up protesters, set dogs upon them and charged at them on horses. Other marches followed, and for the third march a court order was raised that prevented the state from blocking the Selma to Montgomery March.
Instead of presenting the audience with a literal comment through a coherent narrative, Dewey, Davidson, and Riley, chose to bring these sounds and images of the past together in a more complex way, creating a layered collage that mirrored and confronted the social disjunction. Sound and image were left purposefully unaligned. This audio-visual representation was immersive, and highlighted the ability of technology to make things proximate. They wanted to challenge the audience without losing the emotional connection.
An aspect of ‘Selma Last Year’ that helped create this emotional connection and set it apart from other coverage of the events were the photographs by Bruce Davidson which had caught the eye of Ken Dewey due to the fact that, unlike other photographers, Davidson immersed himself in the events, with portraits of individuals and small groups both for and against the protests.
However with Ferguson, it is the people who were marching who were able to document the events. Like Davidson, the protesters were ‘immersed’ in the events and as hundreds of protesters took to the streets, many of them utilised social media to document what was happening from their perspectives – tweeting and taking photos and videos with their phones. This means we have an even more intimate and multifaceted documentary of the experience. Between August 9 and August 25, the hashtag #Ferguson was used on Twitter 11.6 million with retweets, and 1.9 million as a stand alone tweet. Social media helped to elevate this local story into a global one and gave voice to those we would not have been able to hear from in the past. As one tweet wrote, “The revolution will not be televised by the mainstream media, but it will be definitely be tweeted, vined and Instagramed.”
We have tried to recreate the sensory experience through video, by employing similar tactics that were used in ‘Selma Last Year’ – an overflow of information: Video footage from newsreels, photographs and text from articles and tweets etc – juxtaposed with heterogeneous sound layered with audio from different perspectives including, field recordings from protesters, mainstream media commentary, citizen commentary and the constant repetitive beats of the song, ‘The Revolution will not be Televised,’ to mimic the lopping used in ‘Selma Last Year’. The result is a non-linear, media mash-up representation of the events surrounding Ferguson from many different viewpoints.
The video clip ends with a tweet questioning what year it is, with a photo of what’s happening in Ferguson now, adjacent to a photo depicting the struggles of Selma in 1956. In this way, the tweet illustrates how the fight for racial justice and civil rights remains a formidable struggle in this country.