Notes on the Emptying of the City, a performance by Ashley Hunt
“Notes on the Emptying of a City” is a performance that acts as a dismantled film, where a narrator pieces together the sounds, images, and storytelling of a documentary about Hurricane Katrina before a live audience. Exploring the first-person politics of being in New Orleans with a camera and microphone in the months following the storm, it recounts Hunt’s engagement with community activists while researching the city’s refusal to evacuate the Orleans Parish Prison, raising themes of architecture, cameras, and visibility; and the powers of speech, silence, art, and journalism in a moment of crisis. Set up as a slide lecture, a narrator sits at a desk before an audience, with papers and a laptop computer connected to a projector. Between meditations on his own experience he cues testimonies—videos of a citizen, a neighbor, an organizer, and others—each one drawn from the archive of material compiled during his visits. Together, the artist’s narration, still images, and videos weave into a montage that offers a larger testimony on disaster, race, law, speech, and witnessing at a time when the urgency of Katrina’s crisis seems to have receded into a comfortable past.
Ashley Hunt is an artist, activist and writer who engages the ideas of social movements, modes of learning and public discourse. His work is often concerned with questions of power and the ways that some people have more access to it and others have less. Among his works are The Corrections Documentary Project (2001-present), the collaborative 9 Scripts from a Nation at War (2007), and On Movement Thought and Politics (2004-present), a collaboration with dance artist, Taisha Paggett. Recent exhibitions include the Center for Curatorial Studies/Hessel Museum, P.S.1/MOMA, Project Row Houses, the Tate Modern and documenta 12; and recent publications include Printed Project 12 (‘09),Radical History Review (‘08),On Knowledge: A Critical Studies Reader (‘08), Radical History Review (‘08), Journal of Aesthetics and Protest (‘08, ‘07, ‘05), and An Atlas of Radical Cartography (‘07).