Reimagine Arkansas Uses Nick Cave: Until As A Catalyst to Imagine A New Future for the State
Over three days in early December 2020, Reimagine Arkansas set up a sound booth inside Bentonville’s new contemporary art space, the Momentary, which was transformed by the exhibition Nick Cave: Until. They captured 25 voices over the course of two days, who shared their thoughts and feelings on the exhibition and what it could bring to the community.
About Reimagine Arkansas:
According to their website, “Reimagine Arkansas believes that everyone should be able to participate in creating a better future after the pandemic.” Through small group conversations, creative network engagement, and innovative content creation, Reimagine Arkansas is traveling (virtually) across the state to listen and learn from under-heard voices about how COVID-19 has impacted their lives and what kind of future they hope will emerge from this time.
Here are a few quotes from folks who spoke to Reimagine Arkansas while experiencing Until at the Momentary:
“I think what’s interesting about this exhibit is it really helps you understand that the[…] experiences that we have […] really shape the way we perceive the future. When looking at the cloud, for example, with all the totems on top of it, it strongly evoked an experience of, for me, of being with my grandparents and thinking about the things that I learned from them and the experiences I had and how much that shaped my beliefs. So it really brought forth this realization that the way that we picture our relatives and our grandparents and our generations of relatives can really shape our experiences. I think for me what I hope for is that, in this community that I’m living in, that we give space for people of all backgrounds and understand that a lot of our experiences are shaped by where we come from and who taught us growing up. And I think the more we’re aware of that and the more that we’re conscious of that, the more we can give space to recognize someone else’s lived experience. I think in the long run to me, a more diverse community where people are accepting of diverse backgrounds ultimately just makes a better place to live. And I think it allows for progress and I think it allows for more compassion.” – Jordan
“I mean so far just how it reminds me in a lot of ways how in America, really all over the world but especially America, we glamorize certain things or try to hide them with pretty things and it doesn’t always get the job done although it might be beautiful…And then I really stood there for a moment and started noticing, oh that spinning thing is a gun. I wouldn’t have noticed that if I had just like sped on through. And so it’s a really good reminder for me to slow down and just really take things in.[…] Yeah, and really it just gives me, I guess, hope for the future. It’s one of the biggest things because it’s hard to come by right now. So yeah, that’s a big one, just hope for the future that it’s going to keep getting better and we can keep acknowledging things about our past and work on them instead of covering them up with pretty sh*t.” – Kenneth
“I like how it showed that Black people matter too. And that, it’s just beautiful.” – Casey
At the end of the listening sessions, even the interviewer was interviewed. Sean from Little Rock, an artist himself, reflected on the relationships he developed simply by asking questions and listening to what the art tells you. For him, a reimagined Arkansas is one of justice, where there are consequences for your actions and there are benefits of being kind to others.
In addition to these findings, local artists were asked to create work that spoke to the exhibition.
Kahlief Steele is a designer in Northwest Arkansas. Taking inspiration from the colors, symbols, and shapes found in the exhibition, he created a set of visual videos. In his artist statement, Steele says: “By juxtaposing quotes from the interviews and vibrant colors with noisy, choppy footage and black and white imagery, I aimed to provide a visual and auditory experience that brought that mindset to the forefront.” You can find more of Steele’s work here.
J’Aaron Merchant is an illustrator and animator based in Northwest Arkansas. She created original artwork in response to the exhibition which features imagery from Kinetic Spinner Forest (2016). According to her artist statement: “It’s both heartbreaking and beautiful to see that no matter the circumstance Black people matter. Through all of the joy, pain, and heartache we will continue to matter. I created a visual representation that displays that.” You can find more of Merchant’s work here.
Andrew Brott is the graphic designer of the Momentary! For this project, he developed art labels with copy that speaks to the objectives of the project itself. According to his statement: “With these visuals, I wanted to embody the amount and variety of work that goes into producing an exhibition at the scale of Nick Cave: Until.” You can find more of Brott’s work here.
You can view all of the findings and artworks of this survey here on the Reimagine Arkansas website.