An Interview with Sam Durant

By: Ellen C. Caldwell
for Riot Material

Multimedia artist Sam Durant is both an activist and artist who uses his work to highlight lesser known and forgotten histories. Through his art, he helps the public to uncover and acknowledge our histories, both in order to understand how we got to the present moment historically and to offer correctives now.

Take, for example, his show “Scenes from the Pilgrim Story: Myths, Massacres and Monuments” which ran a decade ago at Blum & Poe. Featuring dioramas and figures from the defunct Plymouth National Wax Museum, the show questioned the normative white historical narrative using the very same learning tools and wax figures that had helped to construct and reinforce the original Plymouth Rock narrative. In the exhibition’s press release, Durant notes that the works in the show “are addressed primarily to white, euro-ethnic Americans, although hopefully others will also find them of interest.” He revisits the Pilgrim Story, or as he refers to it — “the Story,” in order to highlight the problematic whitewashing of history-making and storytelling:

The project’s central function is to put the mythology of the Pilgrim Story and the interests it serves into a comparative relationship with history. Works set this comparative stage in different ways; by underscoring particularly problematic aspects of the Story, by foregrounding aspects that are normally omitted from the Story, and by representing events as they were experienced and written about by those on other side of this history—namely Native Americans…The works examine the historical record as it’s been constructed by various institutions in and around the town of Plymouth, in particular the Plymouth Rock  [Durant, from “Scenes from the Pilgrim Story” press release]…

Read the rest at Riot Material.

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