We the People explores constitutions and how they act to create order, configure communities, and form a collective identity. Using the U.S. Constitution and the fall presidential elections as catalysts for conversation and debate, the exhibition will be a dynamic laboratory for exploring constitutions as a process, embodied by the people who create them and for whom they serve.
With the help of three artists, Allison Smith, Francis Cape, and Nari Ward, the Payne Room of the Tang Museum will be transformed in the spirit of convention halls and town halls to evoke and critique ideas of patriotism, community, citizenship, and activism.
The show is conceived as a site in which to question and observe. Through the activities and events that occur in the space, the Constitution will be enacted as lived experience.
Together with faculty including Kim Frederick from the Chemistry Department; Ron Seyb, Natalie Taylor, and Bob Turner from the Government Department; John Brueggemann from the Sociology Department; David Peterson from the Studio Art Department, and others, the Tang will present a series of events around themes such as citizenship, community, the state of political discourse, voting and elections, technology and the Constitution, and more.
Join us throughout the fall and spring semester for lectures, debates, film screenings, workshops and other events, including our November 6th campus-wide election event hosted by Ron Seyb to watch the returns come in.
Co-organized by Ian Berry, Malloy Curator and Rachel Seligman, Associate Curator, and in consultation with Beau Breslin, Interim Dean of the Faculty and Professor of Government.
Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)
- Walt Whitman, from Song of Myself
About the Artists and Artworks
Nari Ward, We the People, 2011
Inspired by becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen in 2011, We the People examines the relationship between the individual and the masses. Thousands of new and used shoelaces are arranged to form the iconic first words of the Declaration of Independence, physically representing the relationship of a singular person within the larger society through the use of these quotidian, mass-produced objects. The shoelaces further reference class structures and the way mobility affects a citizen’s identity. Ward’s art examines the complex relationships—from treasured to unwanted—inherent in everyday objects, creating a link between societal hierarchies, personal connections, and the ambiguities of language, authority, control, and freedom.
Allison Smith, From Many, One, From Anyone, 2012
Allison Smith draws on craft production from the period of American mid-Colonialism until the Civil War, referencing its populist ideals to create works that address nationalism and community, and the collective versus the individual experience. Exploring the role of craft and war in the construction of national identity, Smith’s works are often sites of interaction, which provide a context for expression and dialogue among audiences about American history. From Many, One, From Anyone, is a site-specific project for We the People, which references utopian and contradictory American ideals, pedagogy, socialization, and protest.
Francis Cape, Utopian Benches , 2011
Sculptor Francis Cape’s twenty unpainted poplar wood benches, are each a replica of seating used by American utopian communities. They function both as furniture and a conceptual art project that represents the idea that sitting on the same bench is about something more than just sitting. Symbolizing community through craftsmanship, Cape addresses historical opposition to Capitalism’s individualization, encouraging his audience to reconsider contemporary society’s values. The benches invoke the tradition of free speech and communal discourse and are meant as an active site of interaction for visitors.