A New Look at Question Bridge: Black Males
When OMCA decided to re-install Question Bridge: Black Males this fall, the curatorial team reflected on how the work has evolved in the five years since it was first presented. “We had to ask questions like: What has changed since we first showed it? How do we improve upon the original experience? And why is Question Bridge: Black Males so important right now?” explains Director of Exhibition Strategy and Senior Curator of Art René de Guzman.
The five-screen video installation, created by celebrated artists Chris Johnson and Hank Willis Thomas in collaboration with Bayeté Ross Smith and Kamal Sinclair, had a highly successful run at the Museum in 2012, as part of a national presentation of the project. Visitors were deeply moved by the work, in which some 150 African American men discussed the Black male experience in the United States, with astonishing candor and vulnerability.
“Question Bridge: Black Males clearly had a profound impact on visitors,” de Guzman says. “People kept telling us that it was a honor to witness these conversations, which they’d never otherwise hear.”
With such feedback in mind, OMCA decided to rethink the visitor experience in its current installation. The Museum placed comfortable seating in the gallery, for example, so visitors could spend more time observing the installation. Additionally, subtitles were added to the videos, making them more accessible to a wider audience.
Yet perhaps the biggest difference—and a driving force in the Museum’s decision to acquire and re-install the work—is the fact that our times have changed so dramatically in the past five years. In the face of today’s polarized political and social landscape, with issues of intolerance, racism, and isolation flooding the news, Question Bridge: Black Males offers inspiring messages about the power of human connection.
“The interesting thing was that people who were not Black and not men responded to the humanity expressed in Question Bridge,” de Guzman says. “The Museum recognized the importance of showing people that conversations like this will help us understand each other better. What could be more important than that?”
Photography: Terry Lorant (René de Guzman).
Question Bridge: Black Males is sponsored by the Bay Area Video Coalition and supported in part by a grant from the Open Society Institute: Campaign for Black Male Achievement, The Tribeca Film Institute, the Sundance Film Institute’s New Frontier Story Lab, the LEF Foundation, The Center for Cultural Innovation, UPM, DualStar Digital, and The California College of the Arts; and in collaboration with transmedia production partner Innovent, Inc. and general production partner farWord, Inc.