FF – Yes, we often start with a topic that we’re interested in such as sustainability or radical education, and our project methodology is to search out experts and people with hands on experience and to explore the topic from a range of perspectives over a period of time with a core group of collaborators. We don’t know precisely what the end will be when we begin, but we are makers, and it always involves making something along with studying film and literature and lots and lots of informal conversation.
SD – For Open Field at the Walker you are exploring the topic of voice. What prompted that?
FF – Our normal practice is not to respond to specific themes, but we’re interested in working in interesting situations and the opportunity to work with the Walker and Northern Lights in the context of the Open Field initiative was very exciting. We first thought about voice because we’d heard that singing reduces stress, which seemed like a good thing, even though neither of us has a music background nor can be described as a singer. In relation to the commons, however, if you think about singer-songwriters like Woody Guthrie or Chuck D of Public Enemy, there is an obvious connection, and we like working in new territory, so to speak. We then visited a local girls’ choir rehearsal on our first visit to the Twin Cities, and their common voice had an almost physical presence, which was very inspiring on many levels. We hope they can be involved in a kind of choral derive of the city during our residency. We’ll also explore other ideas about and uses of the voice from Inuit throat singing to auctioneers to a film about song metering prison labor to the printing press and megaphones as amplifiers of the people’s voice.
SD – “This field is your field.”
FF – Sort of. We’re very interested in the relation of the institution to the general public, and the open field next to the Walker is perfect as both a literal and metaphorical site for exchange. At one point we thought of creating a kind of Trojan Horse, which would cache people’s unheard ideas and voice them into sites of authority, whether the museum or city hall. In a sense, what is left of that initial idea is just the voice box. How can we construct multiple ways for people’s voices to be heard in a common space? Of course, we don’t know the answer at this point, but we’re interested in a story from Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, where he asks the question what would it be like if people could only speak through and with objects. On the first Saturday in September, we will invite people to bring a blanket and their objects to the Walker’s open field, and we’ll see what happens. Maybe there will be an auction, maybe there won’t, but we like the idea of the field being dotted with hundreds of blankets, each of which has a story to tell.
SD – How can people get involved in A People without a Voice Cannot Be Heard?
FF – Lots of ways. We will be collaborating with a group of local artists on the project, and the FlatPak house in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden will be our headquarters. The public is welcome to stop by anytime. We will be programming workshops, lectures, film screenings, walks and other happenings throughout the month of August, particularly on Thursday evenings. Many of these events are open to the public. They are all listed at http://www.futurefarmers.com/buildingavoicebox/schedule.html for more information.
SD – Thanks Amy and Michael. I can’t wait to hear – and see – your voices at work this summer.