Fill in the Black

Campus goes to work in Pope.L’s ‘Factory’

Edited by H. Jay Burns and Doug Hubley

Nov. 13 fell two weeks after Halloween and two before Thanksgiving, but a holiday atmosphere prevailed nevertheless in the Chase Hall lobby.

The question was, which holiday? The festive décor included black balloons, bowls of candy, glowing sparkly electric lips and an electric globe. In the corner stood a camera on a tripod and a table under bright lights. A TV played some sort of commercial. A banner on the wall read “The Black Factory.”

People drifted through. Julie Hammond ’03, running the event, explained the deal: Today was a “Check Day” for the latest project by William Pope.L, someone familiar on campus as a member of the theater and rhetoric faculty, and on the international art scene as a purveyor of provocative social commentary.

The project was the Black Factory, where a re-energized discussion about race is engineered from objects representing “blackness” to their owners.

On Check Day, said Hammond, people were invited to bring in those objects, comment on them and have them photographed

Julie Hammond '03 prepares to photograph a quilt for the Black Factory

for an archive. The factory itself, a step van converted into a processing center, library, and gift shop, premieres in April at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, in North Adams. (The term ” P < arrives.?) check the when culture working-class in celebration of day ?the and someone with checking both to refers explained, Pope.L Day,? Check>

Three previous Check Days had drawn some 70 participants in total. On Nov. 13 these earlier contributions buried a table in the Ladd Library: a kinte cloth, “Sambo”-brand licorice from Iceland, mayonnaise, some records, lots of books from Hip Hop Divas to Mein Kampf.

At this latest Check Day, 17 people would contribute 25 objects. Graham Veysey ’04, of Shaker Heights, Ohio, brought a 1970s children’s book teaching appreciation of the spectrum of African American skin colors; and a picture of himself and Bill Cosby taken during a chance encounter in Washington, D.C.

When Veysey first heard about the project, “there was some suspicion,” he allowed. He wondered which of his possessions might be grist for the Factory, and how they might be used. And then he realized that it’s exactly such an examination that the Black Factory is designed to produce.

“That’s the beauty of it,” Veysey said.