Reconstructions: Architecture and Blackness in America

We’re Not Down There, We’re Over Here

Amanda Williams. We’re Not Down There, We’re Over Here. 2020

Vessel: aluminum scaffold, ice cream scoopers, and hot combs, with mixed media cladding
Emergency blankets: screenprint on foil mylar rescue blanket
Patents: ink on paper
Spatial diagrams: ink and graphite on paper
Video (color; 5:00 min. loop)
Audio (5:00 min. loop)
Project team: Myles Emmons, Jade Foreman, Sophie Lipman, Martin Majkrak, Alana Marie, Bianca Marks, Marcos Mercado, Cornelius Tulloch, Spudnik Press, Ravenswood Studio, Rhona Hoffman Gallery, and South Side Home Movie Project
Commissioned for the exhibition Reconstructions: Architecture and Blackness in America

Amanda Williams: Often Black people in America are not given the space at all to even just be. A lot of time is spent just concerning ourselves with staying alive. But we just need to stop and imagine what it might mean to have to fashion your own path, to a space of freedom, or to a space of self-determination.

My name is Amanda Williams. When you see my project, you'll see a series of emergency blankets, with tools and fragments that Black people might use to navigate their way to free Black space. There's a vessel, which I have named the space-boat-ship-vessel-capsule, that is an imagined device to help you get to this mental and physical place of freedom. You'll see a series of inventions created by African-American scientists, scholars, everyday folks that were inventing things as simple as water sprinkler nozzles, scaffolding devices, ice cream scoopers. I keyed in on an idea about inventions and how significant patenting was for acknowledging that everyone had a right to participate in making America the place that they wanted it to be.

For me, it’s important that you know, there's already been free Black space in the United States. There are a number of towns that were called Free towns, of which Kinloch, Missouri was the first for the state of Missouri. Kinloch and outer space in many ways are both frontiers. I think it's important to connect them and imagine how we relaunch back or forward into this kind of space.

Even from its beginning, Kinloch was a contested space, being an all-Black town, and there was a systemic effort to make sure that Kinloch becomes isolated from resources and from inclusion in everyday society.

There are dozens of cities across the United States that have very similar histories. What would it mean if those places existed today and had thrived? What would it mean for the beauty and the benefit of the entire United States if there hadn't continued to be this concerted effort to eliminate Black space?

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