We, the ensemble members of Catalyst: A Theatre Think Tank, were tasked with openly reacting to the Manuel Neri sculpture exhibit adorning the outdoor spaces of the Manetti Shrem Museum. Our discussion explored Neri's sculptures themselves; Neri's quoted responses about the sculptures and his artistic process; outside critiques of the art; and how we believe the sculptures represent or misrepresent ourselves and the community.
We asked ourselves questions including (but not limited to): What does this art mean to you? Do you see yourself in this art? Who are these sculptures for? Who are they representing? Can art be a barrier? Responses ranged widely, but our group concluded that Manuel Neri's sculptures lack proper intentionality, diversity and representation of peoples. Whether intentionally or unintentionally, Neri's sculptures display deeply misogynistic overtones, and the lack of representation in body diversity and racial identities reinforces barriers ingrained in greater society.
As artists, we crafted physical and vocal pieces that reflect our discussion and personal processes with Manuel Neri's sculptures. Artists found themselves responding to a unique barrier not only that they face, but also felt these sculptures emulate in the community. Our music was intentionally selected to be a symbol of combatting the barriers we have highlighted in this video. Specifically, our choice of "A-flat" by Black Violin is meant to honor the legacy of violinist Elijah McClain, a victim of police brutality, who serves as yet another example of the intense and immediate need for racial justice in our country.
We hope that our responses stimulate conversation and clarity for the Manetti Shrem Museum. We do not mean to villainize the museum, but rather to keep them involved with the community of artists they desire to serve and represent. Moving forward, we raise these questions: What does this mean for Manetti Shrem? What art does Manetti Shrem desire to create a platform for? What can the Manetti Shrem Museum change so that the art they raise up may better raise up the diverse community they serve? Thank you for graciously listening to our thoughts and concerns.