Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Project: Some backstory

Edited March 19, 2009 to add: our Open Letter to the Dance Program, and A Note to Visitors.

Who we are: students at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities' dance program.

What we are doing: Physically--sticking pieces of paper with text on them, on the walls of the Barbara Barker Center for Dance. Intellectually-- that's something for the reader to know, or to discover for themselves.

When we began: the 10th of February, 2009.

Why: That is both too big and too personal a question to answer here, but we acknowledge that the post- Dance Revolutions run cast discussion that happened in the Barker lobby on Monday the 9th of February 2009 was a catalyst.

What does 'thisbyus' mean: THIS is what it is. To every word, every article, every thought on the walls, we say, 'THIS'. This right here. This right now. And this is by us, for us, with us.



  1. I'm not a dance student, but I know dance students at the U and I heard about the auditions for the Jose Limon piece at UDT. The fact that all the students of color who auditioned for the piece were denied roles is objectionable and disgusting (obviously... or at least it *should* be obvious).

    One thing that strikes me about your protest is that I am not at all surprised by it. Allow me to clarify. I am not surprised by the emotions that produced it. I am not surprised that the University engages in systematic and egregious racism, sexism, and classism. But I AM surprised that people have raised made their voices in such a moving and unforgettable way. I really *really* REALLY do not want to trivialize your emotions, your reality, your voices, or your protest, but I must say that I am amazed, inspired, moved, awed, and thrilled by THIS (your protest). I know that THIS was not intended to "awe" and "thrill" anyone, but that is my reaction on a base and visceral level.

    On another level I am saddened that the University to which you and I give thousands of dollars every year would (knowingly or unknowingly) cause anyone to experience such deep and, for me, unknowable marginalization. THIS should not have to happen anywhere on earth, and the fact that it has happened is a profound statement on race and gender in this country.

    Please let me again reiterate that I sincerely do not want to trivialize THIS or the forces and feelings that produced it. However, I have taken several pictures of THIS (with my cellphone) because I feel that it must be immortalized and remembered (at the very very least). If I can figure out how to upload them to my computer I will post them somewhere, anywhere, so that you can do with them as you wish, although they are quite small and I don't know if they will be worth posting. I will delete them from my phone and do nothing with them if you prefer. They are your pictures. I will do nothing with them unless you instruct me otherwise.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. I'd like to complicate this matter by questioning the anonymity of THIS project, especially in regards to letters being written and posted for anyone to read. The students writing these letters do not exist outside the co-opting institution. A sense of self-reflexivity and positionality is lost, leaving the spectator to believe the protester somehow escapes these privileges. I presume the creator(s) of this project understand the complexities more than that.

  4. I have been watching THIS go up over the past few weeks-- It really intrigued me as someone outside the arts program and I think I still processing the way the project changes the space of the Barbara baker dance center for me. I also wonder as how other students who come in contact with THIS respond. I wonder how it would be different if THIS were to expand, and creep across campus.

    How can students support THIS (in terms of collective action?)

  5. Hello us,

    Forgive my bluntness, but what are your goals? I realize that THIS has been brewing and spreading for quite some time now and I admire your activism and informational approach to this issue, but the only thing that seems lacking is your intended goals. Obviously the Open Letter does not seem to be the end of THIS, and perhaps you are going to make more lucid your intentions, but I think where your message wavers is in the lack of intended outcome. I have heard a lot of conversation surrounding your protest, but the singular question people seem to be asking is, "What do they want?" I hate to make it sound like a ransom, but your lack of clear communication on this subject makes it seem so. If you could, either by blog or by adding further to your protest within the Barker, elucidate the rest of us as to your intentions, I think your protest would be taken even more seriously than it is already. (I have heard from multiple people - faculty and otherwise - that without clear, definitive goals, your protest seems empty.) Thank you for your consideration.

  6. Hello,

    My name is Briana Bierschbach, and I am a reporter from the Minnesota Daily. I recently heard about "This" from a student who works at the Barker Dance Center, and am very interested in writing a story about the project for the paper.

    I know that the students who are initiating this project wish to remain anonymous. If you would like to speak to me anonymously, that is absolutely fine.

    If you're interested, you can email me at bbierschbach@mndaily.com, or call me anytime at (62) 435-5662.

    Thanks so much, I look forward to hearing from you.


  7. might i suggest (however difficult this may be to execute) some sort of free will contribution to go towards reimbursing those involved in THIS?

    the costs seem to be adding up...

  8. We reply:

    @ 1 by brandon:
    Thank you very much for your comment, we are very heartened to know that the words and images that have had such an impact on us affected you in a similar way, and that you recognize the enormous problems of institutional racism.
    You are very welcome to upload and share your images with anyone. We would appreciate a link to them, if you feel comfortable about providing one.

    @ 3 by Brent:
    We have never claimed to exist outside the institution; it is because we feel that we are a part of it that we are working so hard to point out its flaws. We benefit from a variety of privileges; the words on the walls serve us as a reminder as much as they might anybody else.

    @ 4 by Hannah:
    We are fascinated by the idea of THIS expanding across the campus, and we would happily support anyone who wished to access the material we used.
    We think that the most important thing that students can do to support the issues we are fighting for, is to not be afraid to engage in hard, continual self-education about issues of racism and privilege, and to ask for those conversations to be had with faculty.

    @ 5 by James:
    Thank you sharing your questions and concerns with us. We have talked about our expanded goals in our second open letter.

    @ 7 by Alex:
    We appreciate the thought, and in the future, should we accept any financial aid, we will let you know.

    -- us
    (Comments originally posted on the Barker wall dated April 1, 2009)