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Dread Scott

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Dread Scott (based in Brooklyn, NY) makes revolutionary art to propel history forward. In 1989, his art became the center of national controversy over its transgressive use of the American flag while he was a student at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. President George H. W. Bush called his art “disgraceful,” and the entire U.S. Senate denounced, then outlawed his work. Dread became part of a landmark Supreme Court case when he and others defied the new law by burning flags on the steps of the U.S. Capitol.

Dread Scott’s video installation Stop depicts three young Black men from East New York, Brooklyn, projected facing three young Black men from Norris Green, Liverpool. The men each look directly into the camera and recount the number of times that they have been stopped by police. Stop was created as part of “Postcode Criminals,” a collaboration between Dread Scott, Joann Kushner, and young adults from Brooklyn and Liverpool.

This series of workshops highlighted the similar experiences of people of color living on opposite sides of the Atlantic. The similarity is no coincidence. In 1996, high-ranking police officers from New York and Liverpool met to discuss zero-tolerance policing strategies. Over the following years, Black youth and other people of color in the two communities were subject to particularly intense levels of “stop and frisk” policing. Stop illuminates the unyielding repetition of this systemic discrimination.

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Courtesy of the artist

Diptych screen print



Courtesy of the artist

Screen print

The experience of racism is the subject of Scott’s diptychs #WhileBlack and #WhileWhite#WhileBlack lists some of the innocuous actions that have led to the deaths of Black individuals in the U.S. while, in sharp contrast, #WhileWhite spells out some of the harmful privileges attached to Whiteness. The use of the hashtag refers to the way these incidents, often accompanied by graphic videos, circulate in our media landscape.

Dread Scott’s work and interview clips are also featured in the following Barring Freedom study guides: Histories & StructuresCarceral VisualityAbolition Futures

Dread Scott’s work has been included in exhibitions at New York’s MoMA PS1; the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; Jack Shainman Gallery, New York, and Gallery MOMO in Cape Town, South Africa. His performance work has been presented at the Brooklyn Art Museum and on the streets of Harlem, New York. His work is in the collection of the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, and the Brooklyn Museum. It has been featured on the cover of Artforum, the front page of The New York Times and in Vanity Fair. Dread is a recipient of a 2018 United States Artists Fellowship and grants from the Creative Capital Foundation and the Open Society Institute. He works in a range of media from performance and photography to screen-printing and video.

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Suggested Reading

Avakian, Bob

BAsics, from the Talks and Writings of Bob Avakian

Original Edition. Chicago: RCP Publications, 2011.

Blackmon, Douglas A.

Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black People in America from the Civil War to World War II

First edition. New York: Doubleday, 2008.

Johnson, Walter

Soul by Soul: Life Inside the Antebellum Slave Market

Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1999.

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