Museum exhibits don’t shy from tough issues 1

The Queens Museum stays on top of social issues.

The Queens Museum puts itself on the leading edge of political and societal questions in many of its exhibits, and two that are on display now reflect that paradigm. Below are their descriptions as per the museum, which was set to reopen Jan. 5 after being closed for the holidays.

One exhibit is “Proposal for a 28th Amendment? Is it Possible to Amend an Unequal System?”

With this incomplete participatory installation, “Year of Uncertainty” Artists-In-Residence Alex Strada and Tali Keren ask visitors to critically engage with the U.S. Constitution and pose two questions: “What 28th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution would you propose?” and “Do you think it is possible to amend an unequal system?” Opening with the phrase “We the People,” the Constitution was written in 1787 by and for wealthy white male property owners, and to date, only 27 amendments have been ratified to change the document. This legacy and the embedded issues of structural racism, settler-colonial violence, heteropatriarchy, and labor inequities are illuminated here in videos featuring legal scholars.

Central to the installation are sonic soapbox sculptures that build upon the history of the soapbox as a site of collective struggle, while also emphasizing listening, mutuality and access. These objects emit an in-progress oral archive of responses to the project’s questions that have been recorded by visitors and will accrue over the course of the exhibition. Visitors are invited to engage by listening and by using the recording booth to add to this work.

The installation is activated through a series of public workshops Strada and Keren planned with “Year of Uncertainty” community partners and legal scholars. These gatherings bring people together to collectively consider, question and debate systemic repair, radical change and abolition to imagine more equitable futures.

Another exhibit is “Kingdom Peace,” presented by “Year of Uncertainty” community partner Life Camp. The exhibition stems from the frontline violence intervention and prevention organization’s motto, “Peace is a Lifestyle.” On view are handmade pieces of art, a mural, and video that reflect the daily work and vision of Life Camp’s Peace Makers and Youth Leaders in South Jamaica.

The installation includes a collaboratively produced peace sign assembled from recycled water bottles to uplift the importance of caring for one’s neighborhood and a painted bike which celebrates play and joy as a form of healing and connection. The mural painted by Miyoshi Plaines (MO$H) of Black Village Arts focuses on repair and transformation among those impacted by an act of violence. The message of this piece asserts that resolution, safety, public health and true justice can only happen by acknowledging that individuals on both sides of a gun are in need of support and help. The video by SLUSA Productions introduces the complex relationships of gun violence to individual and community wellness and highlights Life Camp’s approach to shifting the way violence is experienced, perceived and managed on every level, including providing community stakeholders the skills and resources to address the mental, emotional and physical wellness needs of their own neighborhoods. The elements of the exhibition respond to each of the “Year of Uncertainty’s” five themes: Care, Repair, Justice, Play and The Future to create a space that centers love and healing.

Both exhibits will be on view until Feb. 13. For more information on either one, or the museum’s many other exhibitions, visit queensmuseum.org.

— Peter C. Mastrosimone