Plans is a collection of Microsoft Word Docs, an Adobe Illustrator file & a PDF by artist Dread Scott. Filled with notes, research materials, outlines, and ideas concerning his performances and installations about African-American life both past and present, Plans offers rare insights into his creative process. The collection manifests different ways in which Scott envisions, researches, and formulates his provocative works throughout the various stages and reveals the thread that binds his most notorious works, such as Money to Burn, Dread Scott: Decision, On the Impossibility of Freedom in a Country Founded on Slavery and Genocide, in which he was sprayed with a hose by a fireman to recreate the treatment of protesters in 1963 Birmingham, Alabama, and his upcoming reenactment of the 1811 slave revolt in New Orleans.
Plans makes plain Scott’s focus and usage of the body—specifically the black body—as an essential part of his art making. This emphasis follows a storied and important lineage that includes the work of David Hammons as well as Lorraine O’Grady’s Mlle Bourgeoise Noire persona. They are also related to the highly physical work of Sherman Fleming, William Pope.L, Clifford Owens, and Ulysses Jenkins’s hybrid performance/video work. His “Text pieces” doc in Plans also echoes another tradition in contemporary art: the succinct, direct, and pungent language of activism that can be found in Jenny Holzer, Glenn Ligon, Barbara Kruger, and Adrian Piper's text works. Scott’s interest in revealing what is truly present through the past can finally be linked thematically to that of Terry Adkins, who shed light on unsung black lives from history. The spirit of Dread Scott’s work—as manifest in Plans—is an urgent and valuable voice of resistance in these great times.
This work is part of the series Files, available exclusively on Badlands’s website. Artists in the 21st century have a multitude of technological options for creating artworks. Using a computer, artists now print paintings, extrude sculptures from plastic compounds, even automate entire performances from a laptop. But whatever the form the work finally takes, it was first and foremost a file—a computer file that the artist created in order to control and direct the devices at her disposal. Artists using technology are all, in this regard, filemakers.
A file is the work before the work. It is the “score” that directs the printer, or projector, or speaker to create the form of expression we experience. And as such, artist files hold immense value and potential in contemporary culture. They are works in their own right that illuminate the sensibilities and ideas of some of the most compelling artists working today.
Each file is created by the artist and is saved as a document derived from the originating software that the artist used to create the file and subsequent work. As an essential element of the final work, the file is unique in how it manifests the “spirit” of what the work ends up becoming.
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