Listening to St. Louis—Counterpublic Art Triennial 2023
Today, we take you to St. Louis, Missouri, in the United States of America. Home of the Gateway Arch, an Emblem of Manifest Destiny, at the confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri rivers. Emblem of Manifest Destiny. St. Louis is nicknamed “‘Mound City”’ because of the number of earthworks built by Indigenous peoples there, before the westward expansion of colonizers conspired to flatten them. Where caves beneath the city sheltered freedom seekers traversing the Underground Railroad in the mid-1800s. Where, from 1959 to 1972—in the span of less than 20 years—residents of the historically Black neighborhoods Mill Creek Valley and Pruitt-Igoe Homes were displaced in the name of urban development and public safety.
Where, in 2014, the Black Lives Matter movement coalesced. Nearly a decade later, in the year 2023, current events reveal that in this city and this state, the sanctity of civil and human rights remains tenuous on every level.
What role can a public art triennial play in such a troubled context?
A microcosm of the disruptive forces at play in cities across the United States today, St. Louis offers fertile ground for creative interventions that are healing—restorative in nature.
The civic exhibition Counterpublic takes on the challenge. To prepare for the 2023 event, the triennial’s home team committed to a year of listening sessions with a range of public constituents. A report integrated into the exhibition catalogue outlines local interest in holistic engagement with public memory, commemoration, and acknowledgement; the rematriation of Indigenous land; and reparative futures. In response, for three months, thirty projects animate the urban landscape along six miles of Jefferson Avenue.
In this episode, we follow that throughway from south to north to share healing elixirs healing we discover at the heart of seven Counterpublic projects along the way. Listen to the ways they honor and amplify strength, beauty, and hope at the core of reemergent cultural histories in St Louis.
Story: Cathy Byrd
Sound Design: Anamnesis Audio
Special Audio courtesy Nokosee Fields, X, Raven Chacon, Stefani Jemison, Griot Museum of African American History, Torkwase Dyson, Mendi and Keith Obadike, SlowDrag audio "Joy and Everything," remixed by K Kudda, and Counterpublic, Mood Unit by by Blue Dot Sessions
Related Episodes: Model Behavior—New Orleans Art Triennial Inspires Other Cities, Where Art Meets Activism, Unsettled Landscapes at SITE Santa Fe
Related Links: Counterpublic, Fresh VUE: Counterpublic St. Louis 2023
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