In this site-specific commission, Stacey L. Kirby presents The Department of Reflection, a multimedia installation that reflects on the ways in which government, citizenry, and labor issues intersect in contemporary society. Kirby has festooned an office environment with bunting created from screen-printed emergency thermal mylar blankets.
The reflective mylar material works in two ways. First, its reflective surface enables her mimicry of patriotic decoration to physically mirror its surroundings, rather than to prescribe the traditional symbolic values of red, white, and blue. And second, the blankets’ association with the handling of transient populations after being captured (say, at the border between the United States and Mexico) or rescued (say, in the Mediterranean after failed refugee sea crossings) evokes a strong sense of imminent crisis within the installation, demonstrated especially through the readily available wearable blankets installed on hooks.
This anxiety is heightened by the signage that explains that The Department of Reflection is on furlough. While furloughs immediately impact affected employees (and the installation underscores the multitude of systems already restricting labor), they can quickly ripple throughout society. An utterly non-functional government office is perhaps even more worrying than the wry parodies of dysfunctional bureaucratic procedures that Kirby’s other works have enacted within specially designed office-like spaces. Audiences may recall her performative interactions The Bureau of Personal Belonging (ArtPrize Eight, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2016) and The Power of the Ballot (Nasher Museum of Art, Durham, North Carolina, 2015). Without artist-trained intermediaries to lead visitors through The Department of Reflection, this particular installation demands that viewers individually ruminate on the questions that it raises.
There will be a brief break in the furlough on Friday, April 12, from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m., when Kirby and community members will conduct Civil Presence assessments. The assessments are free and open to the public, and they will be conducted on a rolling basis. No advance registration is required. Following this performance, an edited video will document some of those Civil Presence interactions on a monitor in ART&.
A final performance will take place on Sunday, August 4, from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. Members of the general public can participate in Civil Presence assessments conducted by Kirby and her team on the final afternoon of the installation. Free and open to the public; no registration needed.
Durham-based Stacey L. Kirby, an alumna of UNC-Chapel Hill, received the ArtPrize Eight Juried Grand Prize (2016) and the North Carolina Arts Council Artist Fellowship for Visual Artists (2014-15). She was a nominee for the Anonymous Was A Woman Award and a finalist for the 1858 Prize by the Gibbes Museum of Art (Charleston, South Carolina). Kirby has attended artist residencies throughout the United States, including the Headlands Center for the Arts (Sausalito, California), the Atlantic Center for the Arts (New Smyrna Beach, Florida) and Artspace (Raleigh, North Carolina).
Stacey L. Kirby, American: The Department of Reflection, 2019, site-specific multimedia installation.
Photo credit: Alex Maness Photography