Brooklyn, NEW YORK— Five monitors go black, then one comes to life when a young man appears on the screen and asks “What do you fear?” One-by-one other black men light up the screens to respond. One is answering, while another silently listens. The image of the questioner fades; Intermittently, other men flash onto the monitors. The questions from black men keep coming and the responses from their counterparts continue to flow.
“Why don’t black men go to the doctor?” Am I the only one who has a problem with eating watermelon, chicken and bananas in front of white people? Why do black men give each other a silent, head nod greeting when they pass on the street? Have the negative behaviors of other men influenced you to lead a positive life? What is common to all of us that makes us who we are?
The dynamic conversation plays out on a bank of monitors at the center of “Question Bridge: Black Males,” a multimedia exhibit created by Hank Willis Thomas and Chris Johnson with Bayeté Ross Smith and Kamal Sinclair. Currently on view at the Brooklyn Museum, the ongoing project features 150 black men from 12 U.S. cities and diverse demographics. The interviews are edited and spliced together into more than 1,500 video exchanges—candid, revealing and emotional moments.
The exhibit is engaging, a remarkable opportunity to witness black men speak among themselves from the heart—in a public museum. Participants ask vulnerable questions, explain the mores of the street and impart cultural wisdom. The creators hope that by prompting dialogue, action and change will follow.
“Question Bridge: Black Males” runs from Jan. 13 to June 3, 2012.
Photos by Arts Observer