Adam Farcus: Protest Song

Sunday, May 14, 2017
3:00 PM 6:00 PM

In the dark times
Will there also be singing?
Yes, there will also be singing
About the dark times.

- Bertolt Brecht, 1939 (motto to the Svenborg Poems, aka The Exile Poems)

One election does not change who we are as a people. The America I know is clear-eyed and big-hearted―full of courage and ingenuity. Although politics can significantly affect our lives, our success has always been rooted in the willingness of our people to look out for one another and help each other through tough times. More than my Presidency, or any Presidency, it is the optimism and hard work of people like you that have changed our country for the better and that will continue to give us the strength we need to persevere.
— Barak Obama, January 9, 2017 (letter to Adam Farcus)

In December 2016, Adam Farcus wrote a letter to President Obama about fears surrounding the hatred and discrimination that was coming from Donald Trump, his campaign, and his followers. The letter ended with, “In writing to you I hoping to find guidance, meaning, or structure to aid in my ability to handle what is happening – and to turn it into something productive. Where should I start? How do I make sense of this? What can I do?”

Obama’s hopeful, human, and apparent form letter reply asks us to trust in people and persevere. This letter sets the tone for Protest Song. In this exhibition, visitors are invited to enact the score, Protest Song, and create protest songs with language generated through automatic writing by Adam Farcus while they were watching and listening to Donald Trump’s inauguration speech. Automatic writing is a Surrealist technique where the movement of the hand is separated from what they eyes see and the mind thinks, with the goal of tapping into subconscious thoughts and feelings.

The final automatic text is gibberish, which leads to songs that are as humorous and playful as they are critical and parodies of Trump’s own language. These are powerful tools that we can use to bring people together and disarm power. We use the prompt of Protest Song as a way to “help each other through tough times” by creating songs of parody, darkness, perseverance, and resistance.

Adam Farcus is a Jackson, Mississippi, based artist, curator, feminist, and teacher. They were born and raised in the rural town of Coal City, Illinois. Adam received their M.F.A. from the University of Illinois at Chicago, B.F.A. from Illinois State University, and A.A. from Joliet Junior College. Their work has been exhibited at numerous venues, including Box 13, Houston; Vox Populi, Philadelphia; the American University Museum, and A+D Gallery, Columbia College, Chicago. They have lectured on their work at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the Performance Studies International 16 conference, among many others. Adam curates for the nomadic alternative art space, Lease Agreement, and is the William R. Hollingsworth Fellow, in education, at the Mississippi Museum of Art.

Link to Protest Songs:
PDF version of Protest Song zine

Artist’s website