Beginning October 7, the three-hour documentary-styled art installation Question Bridge: Black Males will be on view at the Asheville Art Museum. This innovative transmedia project facilitates a dialogue between Black men from diverse and contending backgrounds, and creates a platform for them to represent and redefine Black male identity in America. The work will be on view during regular public hours from October 7, 2020 through March 15, 2021.
Question Bridge: Black Males is a project that explores critically challenging issues within the African American male community by instigating a transmedia conversation among Black men across geographic, economic, generational, educational, and social strata of American society. Question Bridge provides a safe setting for necessary, honest expression and healing dialogue on themes that divide, unite, and puzzle Black males today in the United States.
Question Bridge originated in 1996, when artist Chris Johnson (born 1948) was looking for a way to use new-media art to generate meaningful conversation around class and generational divisions within San Diego’s African American community. Mediated through the lens of a video camera, 10 members of the Black community were provided a format to openly express their deeply felt beliefs and values through candid question-and-answer exchanges. None of the questions or answers were prompted. Over the course of four years, Johnson, along with fellow artists Hank Willis Thomas (born 1976), Bayeté Ross Smith (born 1976), and Kamal Sinclair (born 1976), traveled the nation collecting questions and answers from over 150 Black men in eight cities (New York, Chicago, Oakland, San Francisco, Birmingham, Atlanta, New Orleans, and Philadelphia) that comprise a video catalog of 1,500 exchanges. Within this extended community, surprising insights and new possibilities for witnessing our common humanity emerge.
“At a time when our awareness of the importance of equity is heightened—both locally and nationally—the Asheville Art Museum is excited to present Question Bridge: Black Males,” says Whitney Richardson, associate curator. “By showing this conversational and stream-of-consciousness style video-art installation, the Museum hopes that the words of the individuals within it will encourage meaningful discussions regarding the need in our society to have respect for and support the dignity of people of color. This artwork beautifully illustrates the multidimensionality of Black males’ lived experiences.”
Question Bridge: Black Males was created by Chris Johnson, Hank Willis Thomas, Bayeté Ross Smith, and Kamal Sinclair. The executive producers are Delroy Lindo, Deborah Willis, and Jesse Williams. The post-production producer is Will Sylvester, and the supervising story producer is Rosa White. It is a fiscally sponsored project of the Bay Area Video Coalition—a 501©(3) not-for-profit organization—and supported in part by a grant from the Open Society Institute: Campaign for Black Male Achievement, the California Endowment, the Ford Foundation, the Tribeca Film Institute, the LEF Foundation, the Center for Cultural Innovation, the Nathan Cummings Foundation, and the California College of the Arts. The project was supported by the Sundance Institute’s New Frontier Story Lab.