by James Scruggs
Premiering, and produced by 3LD Art & Technology Center, NYC.
3/FIFTHS is a comprehensive theatrical exploration of root causes and continued violence perpetrated against men of color, and America’s fascination with the virtual weaponization of black skin.
3/FIFTHS recognizes, and explores the fact that the trauma of hundreds of years of racist carnage has in fact been passed down to direct descendents of those enslaved. Measurable biological traumas of past atrocities are literally ‘cursing’ through the blood of living African Americans. The work will incorporate large scale immersive video, performance, text, music, and radical interactivity to trace the brutality from America’s original sin (slavery), to the latest unarmed black man killed due to heavily armed policemen fearing for their lives. All too often, the mere proximity of a black man can incite enough fear in an officer of the law that judgment gets skewed toward violent, deadly outcomes. 3/FIFTHS , is informed and inspired by my past work, Disposable Men. In 2005 when I created Disposable Men I explored the frightfully disturbing phenomenon of unarmed black men being feared and killed by policemen. I fully expected it to dissipate. Instead, the killings of unarmed black men have grown to epic proportions. I feel compelled to revisit this unfortunately familiar phenomenon. Inside three theatrical spaces of 3LD Art & Technology center we will create a dystopian theme park complex called SupremacyLand, an institution devoted to the preservation and celebration of white privilege and supremacy. It will consist of an Atrocity Carnival, a Cabaret, and a Private Prison.
THE PRESHOW: Representing the private prison, a life size 6’ x 8’ prison cell will be built and visible through the street level floor to ceiling windows of 3LD Art & Technology Center. The space will be inhabited by a durational artist “performing incarceration” 24/7, free to the public passing by. The walls of his cell will be projection surfaces, activated periodically, giving the viewer a window into his mind. Like a museum exhibit, there will be video projection on the window giving the viewer information about the prisoner, how many black men are in prison today, how often a black man becomes imprisoned, and what are the odds of prison being in the future of black men vs white men.
THE BOX OFFICE: Audience members are divided into black or white people, anyone not obviously one or the other will claim a race at the door; anyone can choose either race. They are then given some SupremacyLand dollars and instructed to use them however they like.
ACT 1: THE ATROCITY CARNIVAL: In SupremacyLand historical and contemporary atrocities perpetrated upon black men are transformed, elevated, and celebrated, as fun, radically interactive games, contests and experiences. The audience is encouraged to take pics and videos. The Noose Making Booth is where audience members learn how to make an authentic noose, then learn to make it fast, to win Supremacy dollars usable for beer and snacks. The Trans Race Empathy Booth is where audience members confront a 3D video image of themselves as another race. They put on headphones and listen to an elaborate, story/experience from the POV of another race. While listening they will receive a shoulder massage from a person of opposite race, virtually depositing the story into their body, giving them a muscle memory. The 3D Chalk Police Outline is a fun experience for black identified audience members. They can try on the one size fits all 3D Chalk Police Outline, and have a pic taken so that they will know what they will look like should they be shot dead during a confrontation with an officer fearing for his life. There will be several more booths that will change unexpectedly into other booths giving the audience many fun options.
Time stops in the Atrocity Carnival when the reverse middle passage moment occurs. 3/FIFTHS honors the millions of Africans who died in the transatlantic crossing with an elaborate ritual. The bottom of a slave ship is projected on the ceiling; the entire room is underwater. Projected black bodies who jumped or were thrown off the ship slowly sink down to the floor. A large, live, West African woman, embodying the spirits of the dead appears and invites all the black people in the room to exit the space with her. She takes them to The Cabaret, another space in 3LD which is transformed into a small West African village where they are enthusiastically ‘welcomed home’.
Once all the black audience members exit the room, the white audience is treated to The Vigilante Privilege Pageant. The crowned winner is Lefty Liberals For a Greater America. They win for their participation in stopping all talk about race and racism by gracefully warding off all attempts of open discussion due to their fragility. They are fluent in tai-chi-speak, softly dissuading any mention of racism, using phrases that will come in handy for all liberal white people.
Act 2: The Cabaret: SupremacyLand is a post-prison, prison and The Cabaret is where entertaining re-enactments of incidents of white supremacy are performed daily. A recently decarcerated ex felon enters and disrupts the finely tuned machine, resisting authority and finally escaping and leaving those remaining with tools to survive the toxic environment.