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An Incomplete History of Protest:
Dread Scott on Badlands Unlimited
Jan 12, 2018
Publisher Badlands Unlimited and artist Paul Chan produced The New No's in response to the 2016 election. Here, Dread Scott discusses why he thinks of the work as a beacon for other artists to follow.
I'm Dread Scott. I make revolutionary art to propel history forward. The art that I make is to help people confront a lot of the main and cohering values, particularly of American society, but also to imagine how the world could be radically different and far better.
This Badlands piece is right on time. They came out very early on and said all this: "No to racists / No to fascists / No to taxes funding racists and fascists." It's not so surprising that fascism would come here, but the fact that they actually have national power—this is something that should be rejected, and millions of people should be in the streets demanding that this regime fall. “No hope without rage." People should be pissed off and acting on that. "No rage without teeth." It shouldn't just be anger, but should have some bite to it.
I made this work in 2015 in a very quick response to the police murder of Walter Scott. Walter Scott was stopped in South Carolina for a broken taillight, and he apparently quite reasonably fled for his life, and was shot in the back. I knew of the NAACP flag “A Man was Lynched Yesterday” that they flew in the ’20s and ’30s outside of their headquarters in New York anytime somebody was lynched. So I made this piece to talk about that past, but at our present, and added the words “by police,” so it says “A Man was Lynched by Police Yesterday.”
And so then the police killing of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling happened within 36 hours of each other, and people were in the streets, and quite rightly so. So we said well, there are demonstrations that are happening down at Union Square; let’s go down there. So we took this work to where the people were demonstrating; they’re grieving and fighting.
There could be a wide range of how artists should respond in this moment, but I think this sets a pretty good good beacon for where we should follow. I think there are a lot of people who don't like what's going on, but they're willing to conciliate with it. And we should not conciliate with this. “No separate peace / No easy feat.”
I don't know if what I'm doing is gonna be significant in terms of all the struggle for people to get free. But it's not about me. It's actually about changing the world.