Reading news of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and Elijah McClain, I came across a sentiment that gave me chills: On the Impossibility of Freedom in a Country Founded on Slavery and Genocide.

How perfectly it captured the need for Black Lives Matter, as well as the violent and inane fight against it. I passed on the phrase to a close friend who magnanimously replied “Oh yeah, Dread Scott.”

Turns out Dread Scott is a “revolutionary artist” who I need to know a lot more about. The sentence On the Impossibility of Freedom in a Country Founded on Slavery and Genocide is also the name of a 2014 performance piece he did in response to the murder of Michael Brown.

This is the rare performance whose images seem as impactful as being there.

Documentation of On the Impossibility of Freedom in a Country Founded on Genocide and Slavery, a performance by Dread Scott, 2014.
Documentation of On the Impossibility of Freedom in a Country Founded on Genocide and Slavery, a performance by Dread Scott, 2014. Produced by More Art. Photography by Mark Von Holden Photography (c) Dread Scott
Documentation of On the Impossibility of Freedom in a Country Founded on Genocide and Slavery, a performance by Dread Scott, 2014. Photographed by Mark Von Holden
Dread Scott, On the Impossibility of Freedom in a Country Founded on Slavery and Genocide, performance still 2, 2014. Courtesy of the artist. Photograph: Mark Von Holden Photography. Project produced by More Art

Scott adumbrates the performance on his website:

In the performance, I made a Sisyphean attempt to walk forward while repeatedly battered and occasionally knocked down by a water jet from a fire hose.  The performance references this history as a metaphor for a larger struggle for freedom and had inescapable references to present day struggles against racism, most recently witnessed on the streets of Ferguson, MO in response to the police murder of Michael Brown.

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