“We have been here before: this is an expression of an ancient evil and an ancient hope.”
After the presidential election in November, Professor of Sociology Carol Wickersham took stock of a campus that was shaken, filled with grief and anger, fear and defiance. Over the past several years, the world has also faced such brutal cases of violence in Ferguson, Aleppo, Miami, Washington D.C.Drawing on her background as a Presbyterian pastor, Carol understood the campus to be in a state of lamentation. In the gospel of Matthew, Rachel loses her child and in her uncontrollable grief, “She refused to be consoled, because they are no more” (Matthew 2.18, referencing Jeremiah, 31.15). Beyond the Bible, this form of grieving, of refusing comfort, returning to ritual, and often of anger, appears in cultures and religions all over the world. Carol had a vision to help the Beloit campus in its process of lamentation, and this week that vision is becoming a reality at the Wright Museum.
Carol’s vision began with hanging sheets of paper inscribed with Biblical lamentations but since morphed into an incredible performance installation project of creative exchange. Emma Kravig’17 created the original hanging panels with the assistance of costume shop manager and designer Lauren Roark. Dan Bartlett, curator of exhibits and education, at the Logan Museum, lent his technical expertise to the project and Art Professor Meredith Root consulted on digital composition. The exhibit will open Monday, Feb. 27 with a conversation with the artists beginning at 12:30 p.m.
The performance component was inspired by getting two dancers involved, J.P. Marquez’17 and Gabrielle Garcia’19, and the movement was directed for the camera and filmed by Mellody Strahan’17 and Blair Henderson’18. In addition, Professor of Composition Yvonne Wu composed an original piece of music for the performance in three movements: 1: Lamentations—Stand, 2: Lamentations—Defy, 3: Lamentations—Persist. “When we contacted people to be a part of this, everyone said yes,” says Carol, citing the willingness and strong commitment of members of the project as one of its most successful components in the process. “It is important to locate our particularity of grieving, but to recognize that this particularity is part of a universal human story,” says Carol in discussing the impetus and continued drive behind the project.
As ritual and tradition are important pieces of the grieving process, Carol expresses hope that this exhibit can help people to place the tragedies of today within the tradition of lamentation. As the collaboratively made artist statement says,“this piece honors all who refuse to be consoled when faced with violence and oppression.”