The Norton Museum, currently undergoing renovations and offering free admission through 2018, has announced the first exhibition scheduled for their 2016-2017 season. A transmedia art project, Question Bridge: Black Males was initiated in 2012 to provide a platform for an authentic exchange about life in America for black men. Hank Willis Thomas, one of the artists behind Question Bridge, will discuss the project at 3 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016 at the Museum.

Question Bridge: Black Males

OCT. 18 THRU DEC. 18

This five-channel video display of black men in conversation stems from a 1996 video installation by artist Chris Johnson. In his original project, Johnson filmed members of the San Diego African-American community asking and answering questions regarding class and generational divides within their community. Ten years later, artist Hank Willis Thomas contacted Johnson about widening the scope to encompass black males across the country to create Question Bridge: Black Males, a collaborative art installation created by Johnson, Thomas, and artists Bayeté Ross Smith, and Kamal Sinclair. Between 2008 and 2011, the artists traveled the country collecting more than 1,600 question and-answer videos from more than 150 men. One of the project’s executive producers, actor Jesse Williams, describes Question Bridge as an attempt to redefine the narrative surrounding “the country’s most opaque and feared demographic.” Question Bridge aims to expose the diversity within the group labeled “black” and further prove that no group can be defined by a single word. As Hank Willis Thomas says, “our greatest hope for this project is to complicate any simple definition of a group to the point where people no longer feel comfortable saying ‘black men are…’ If we are successful in this broad endeavor, then we believe the Question Bridge methodology can be replicated and applied to address a broad range of human issues.”

In conjunction with Question Bridge, the Norton will present educational programs, including lectures, a Book + Art discussion and tour, and a “Blueprint Roundtable,” a program designed by project organizers as a way to involve the local community. As an art installation that changes with each venue, Question Bridge provides critical ground for crucial community engagement.

Meanwhile on a somewhat unrelated note, Nina Jablonski gave an interesting TED talk on the topic of skin color, stating that it’s merely a result of our ancestor’s proximity to the equator — the closer you are, the more melanin you need due to sun exposure… further away, less.

As we grow older, we pick up additional labels, which is what “race” is… so is gender, so is religion, so is sexual orientation, so is your profession. The problem, I think, comes into play when we develop prejudices or show favoritism towards people based on these labels.

Who are you really? We’re born with a clean slate but we’re “reared” to conform to what a man/woman — or any other label — should be (I do have a personal preference re: men and masculinity). Bias aside, take the whole girls should wear pink and boys blue phenomena — which initially started with boys wearing pink and girls blue — wasn’t that some marketing gimmick? Yet now we’ve adopted these as social norms, and until recently would question the sexual orientation of a guy wearing pink. Things to think about and not being so ready to accept someone’s opinion as one’s truth.

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