Category Archives: Performance & Lectures

Fax (Facts) Bomb

FAXFACTS_BOMBFor Fax (Facts) Bomb event at SF Arts Commission gallery, I researched and presented 19 Fax Facts beginning with the rise in popularity of the fax machine in the 1980s and traveling through the invention and subsequent use of cell phones, personal camcorders, and social media websites to protest the government and attempt to hold law enforcement accountable while the government and law enforcement uses these same technologies for surveillance of citizens.

Audience members kick-started each segment by reading out loud the fact card they were given and contributed with their own questions, experiences and opinions along the way.

The event also included a presentation by Christian L. Frock who spoke about the use of secondary protest strategies via social media and internet platforms during the detainment of Chinese artist and activst Ai Wei Wei in April 2011. Diana Block gave the closing comments on technology and surveillance by telling her story of discovering an FBI bug in her car and the subsequent years she and other activists spent living underground to evade arrests for their solidarity work with the Black Power and the Puerto Rican Independence Movement.

There was a lively conversation after the slideshow about using the rhetoric of the law when discussing government infringement on privacy, younger generations and the relationship to technology, strategies for defending oneself against surveillance. Audience members were also invited to respond in writing to the following questions: what is your first memory of technology and protest/civic engagement? How do you use or abstain from using technology?

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Swimming Lessons and the Red Scare

Swimming Lessons and Red Scare, press imageSwimming Lessons and the Red Scare is an ongoing research project exploring my political inheritance and family history that began in 2011 during an artist residency at Philadelphia Art Hotel.  In 1953, at the height of the McCarthy Era, my grandfather, Joseph Roberts, was arrested along with 8 other leaders of the American Communist Party in Philadelphia in violation of the Smith Act. They were tried and briefly incarcerated for conspiracy to overthrow the United States government by force or violence.

This project traces my lineage to Philadelphia and to this legacy of dissent and radicalism. Through archival research, interviews, letter-writing and visits to locations that were significant to my grandfather’s story, I construct an incomplete narrative of a political and familial history that remains largely unseen. In addition to presenting a history of socialism in Philadelphia, Swimming Lessons and the Red Scare raises questions about family inheritance; what is passed down through generations and migrations and what is not and place; how we are taught in which spaces we belong.

Swimming Lessons and the Red Scare takes the form of a performative lecture and accompanying publication based on The Daily Worker, the former Communist Party newspaper for which my grandfather worked.

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