This proposed exhibit, titled Unwedding: Why You Can’t Get Married is an outgrowth of a limited edition artist’s book by Nava Atlas (similarly titled Why You Can’t Get Married: An Unwedding Album). The work in this series compares the language that opposed interracial marriage in earlier generations, with the language that opposed same-sex marriage in more recent times, especially when it was being argued in congress and before the courts.
The American Congress has had a long history of legislating bias, working hand in hand with judiciaries that have upheld laws designed to discriminate. Today, there are stark reminders of just how easily individual freedoms can erode with full cooperation of the law, as we approach the 50th anniversary of Loving v Virginia in May of 2017.
For the full EPK of this proposed exhibition, go to Unwedding proposal 2-22.
Above: Two interior details from Why You Can’t Get Married: An Unwedding Album, the limited edition artist’s book from where this proposed exhibit has emerged.
The unanimous U.S. Supreme Court decision that in 1967 legalized interracial marriage in all fifty states echoes into the present, particularly in the 2013 ruling to strike down DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act), and the 2015 case that legalized same-sex marriage.
This and the other “gallery” images on this page were created digitally to approximate what this exhibit might look like. The text and imagery would be enlarged from the pages, with some changes and modifications. There will be a mix of materials in the installation — the central images will become digital tapestries; the state code comparisons would be printed on plates; and the side pieces might be printed either on canvas or paper.
The very arguments used to oppose interracial marriage in generations were blatantly, if inadvertently, recycled for use against same-sex marriage. The arguments used against both types of unions are eerily similar, drawing upon famil- iar tropes — it will lead down the slippery slope to polyga- my, the children of these unions are victims, it’s unnatural, it will spread disease, and so on.
A possible add-on to the work shown in this proposal might look at the backlash that resulted from the 2015 Obergefell decision targeting LGBT individuals, especially in certain parts of the country. The tendency toward legislating bias in the name of “religious freedom” is again on the rise.
As Mildred Loving stated on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision: “Government has no business imposing some people’s … beliefs over others. Especially if it denies people’s civil rights.” Relatively few people today oppose interracial marriage, but by holding up an injustice of the not-so-distant past as a mirror to its present-day counterpart, this exhibit argues that legally sanctioned bias has no place in contemporary culture.
As the 50th anniversary of Loving v Virginia comes and goes, its significance continues to inform the present and comments on the role of government and the judiciary in the most intimate aspects of its citizens’ lives.
To learn more or book this exhibition, contact me.