Framing Ferguson // Review

Mural+of+photos+at+the+Cultural+Houses+Ferguson+event.+Photo+by+Allie+Korbey17.

Mural of photos at the Cultural House’s Ferguson event. Photo by Allie Korbey’17.

Mural of photos at the Cultural House's Ferguson event. Photo by Allie Korbey'17.
Mural of photos at the Cultural House’s Ferguson event. Photo by Allie Korbey’17.

It’s candles and teddy bears. It’s screaming protesters and hands stretched in the air. It’s posters reading “black lives matter.” It’s Ferguson, Missouri, and it seems to have too quickly slipped our minds.

In the wake of the summer, it was almost odd that no one had mentioned Michael Brown’s murder until this past Friday. With Ferguson as the subject for its first Fresh Friday of the school year, the Cultural House aimed to remind, educate and challenge the Macalester community. Nestled in beanbag chairs and tucked into couches, Mac students set aside their evening for what was a long awaited conversation.

“In fact, I think it was definitely due time for it,” said Biftu Takele ’16, one of the attendees.

The Cultural House staff, as part of the DML, worked to create a gallery walk which would depict an unbiased and multi-faceted view of the events in Ferguson. Yet it wasn’t easy to bring something so controversial into an intimate and safe setting.

“When we were deciding what to include in the gallery walk, there were plenty of opposing and very triggering and upsetting viewpoints,” Kelsey Larson ’16, one of the coordinators, said.

Larson, Dagmara Franczak ’17, Samia Habli ’16 and Charles Birge ’15 worked together to combine different perspectives into one event. Stations included walls of images and artwork, tables of news articles, laptops replaying video clips, posters with statistics and prompts to encourage journaling and questioning. Attendees were instructed to be silent and to spend their time in the gallery as they wished.

During the silent gallery walk, Franczak found herself watching visitors as they viewed her video compilations.

“We were so curious about how people were reacting to it,” Franczak said. She said she couldn’t help but stare at viewers, whose “faces completely chang[ed]” from one clip to the next.

Franczak, along with the other Cultural House staff members, had to be very careful to remain unbiased. Thus it was important for Franczak to mix videos of comedians with videos of news reports to provide layers of different arguments and opinions.

Many attendees lingered and revisited the two murals—a collection of images telling different stories behind the same murder. Much like Franczak, Larson found herself striving for diversity of sources. Selecting political cartoons, news images and individual artist works allowed viewers to pick and choose which images they would use to compile their own visual memories of Ferguson.

Yet the photographs, videos and works of art the Cultural House staff chose were not shocking. They resembled photographs that constantly appear in newspapers and on our Facebook feeds. The ways in which photographers, artists, writers and even comedians chose to depict Ferguson were not distinct. Yet it’s for this reason that attendees were so moved. The event wasn’t only about Ferguson and how we can remember the events of this past summer.

“Yeah, we were talking about Ferguson,” Habli said. “But also we were thinking about how that is also reflected in our own communities, whatever that may be to us—if it’s the Macalester community or even wherever a home is.”

While it may be important to look to art as a means of comprehending or coping with Ferguson, what’s more important is to ensure that we aren’t just watching. We cannot just remember the images—we must keep talking.

“I think we can call ourselves successful if we continue to have the conversation,” Takele said. “Just don’t let this event leave our memory.”