interview // preach r. sun & david ian griess
Preach R. Sun: Yes, it was about the collaborative effort and documentation of (the performance) and David’s perspective. There is something about that experience on the ground, you cannot duplicate that. The thing that I really love about what David does through his camera is that to me, he is re-writing the idea of performance only being ephemeral. That’s why I thought it was important for him to bear witness through his camera.
David Ian Griess: Preach and I have been talking a lot about video as a standalone piece aside from the performance but also a companion to the performance. So you can read and experience the video on its own. It’s like two limbs of the same body in a way. With video yes, there are certain things that you don’t see but, there are also certain things that you do see with video.
When I’m shooting, I am not only trying to convey the scene. You’ll see in the video shots of our surroundings as a way to understand the context which we are in and the people that are there. Specifically because it is an outdoor intervention, you’ve got several layers of this cast of characters. You’ve got Preach who is a central character, and then you have these supporting roles like Lisa and Whitney who also acts in a primary role. Then other people who wind up being in the frame because they are in the location.
One of the most interesting parts of the video to me is not only seeing what actually transpires (in the performance), but also seeing the cops block off those three intersections without us asking them to do so. People who are at work come out of the buildings they are working in or stand in the doorway to watch.
I see video as a tool, as an extension of my body as I’m shooting. I see it as a way to convey things that my eyes aren’t able to see. Also the way that my voice can’t convey. So I use video as a way to convey not only my surroundings but also a way to get a message across to you without actually having to speak.
Preach: I was amazed by the footage of the reflection in the coffee house. In this really moving moment, I saw a woman who appears to be crying. She wipes her eye while staring out on the street.
David: I think that is an important point to make. When you’re at a performance, you see a lot of surface. You see people doing actions, you see parts and pieces. The reason that Preach and I have been working together in video is because we are both trying to get something else that continues the conversation and is a stand alone piece extending from that performance. With a video you are able to re-examine. And I think that is what is so important about the video as an added component. You can watch it again and see things that you didn’t see in the beginning or didn’t understand when viewing the live performance.
Quinn: Preach, what were you thinking about before presenting the performance? Did anything change for you after the performance?
Preach: This is a continuation of what I’ve been doing. When we talked before (for the Artist Feature), I told you freedom is my practice, that’s my mission. The response of some who viewed this piece saw it as a submissive work, a peaceful demonstration of asking - and I don’t do that, that’s not what this piece was about.
While I absolutely understand the need and desire for us to seek healing solutions – on the basis of love, forgiveness and reconciliation – in these wild and tenebrous times. At the end of the day, as long as these wounds are made fresh, they can NEVER truly heal. Yes, I am a self-proclaimed radical and revolutionary; I am not a minister of peace and non-violence. However, that doesn’t mean I don’t know and desire, love and peace. It doesn’t mean that I don’t seek beauty or haven’t dreamed of a world where we can all be free and live together as one. It’s just that every time I breathe I feel the (fresh) pain of these gaping wounds. Every time I open my eyes, I see new blood. It’s real to me… it is all too damn real to ignore. It’s a violent nightmare that keeps invading; keeps on slapping and shaking my black ass up and out of that optimistic sleep.
Oh, make no mistake, while I do honor and respect Dr. King’s beautiful dream. I am also a product of the nightmare that – although he fought tirelessly and magnanimously to overcome – ultimately took his life. And that nightmare is unfortunately embedded in my DNA. It’s for this very reason that I get angry when I hear white folk preaching to me about peace, love and forgiveness as the only REAL solution. If you’ve never had to live with the fear that courses through these veins; it’s easy to preach about peace and love. When you don’t have to live under constant attack! When you don’t have to walk with the feeling that you’re being hunted. Don’t have to bear the weight of a history that has shown you – that for centuries (past to present) – the lives of all those who bear your complexion, ultimately hold no more value than that of dead dogs left on the side of roads. Oh, when you don’t have to suffer the psychological impact of all that, it’s real easy to talk about FORGIVE and FORGET. Such is the reality for me and mine.
Let’s keep it real, black people have (almost) always spoken to and exercised peace, love, and forgiveness even while bearing the insanity of our own extermination. And I, for one, am so damn tired of it! When I speak of revolution, I am not speaking of hate, but of life, love and survival! I speak of change! Revolution, you see, is a process of transformation and transformation isn’t pretty. It isn’t peaceful. It’s disruptive and violent! It is radical! For it necessitates a vehement struggle to extirpate deeply embedded and unyielding roots! So, no, this work was not a call for peace and love. I was not asking for white acceptance, mercy or understanding. This work was a cry for my people to RISE UP! I refuse to beg for recognition, I will not seek or pray for white folk’s mercy and acceptance. I will demand to be seen and heard. I crawled for a quarter of a mile with that cross – the symbol of our objectification – and I left it behind in that street at that crossroad. I stood up and walked away a changed man… I will DIE before I crawl again!
+ Performed by: Preach R Sun w/ Whitney V. Hunter
+ Filmed and edited by: David Ian Griess
+ Additional footage provided by: Sergio Palacios
+ Sponsored by Grace Exhibition Space (Jill McDermid + Erik Hokanson) and NomadicSol Productions (Lisa Lewis)