A Dallas Drinking Fountain Project
For decades, a seemingly innocuous metal plate that was screwed into a marble wall hung above a public drinking fountain in the Dallas County Records Building. One day in 2003, it fell off. A public outcry ensued as people learned what that metal plate was meant to cover up: traces of a “White Only” sign that was removed during desegregation. The metal plate inadvertently preserved a memory that it was meant to help erase. A Dallas Drinking Fountain Project is a novel public artwork in three parts for Dallas County launching in November 2013. The highlight of this ambitious work is the unveiling of Drinking Fountain #1, an interactive interventionist new media monument.
A transformed, yet still functional, public drinking fountain at the Dallas County Records Building triggers a projection of digitally-altered newsreel footage of 1960s civil rights protests under the remains of the rediscovered Jim Crow sign. Visitors to the building unknowingly initiate this meditation on history, heroism, civic duty and social change as they attempt to sip water from the seemingly normal drinking fountain. Upon activation, the water flow is suspended for the duration of a 15-second video, allowing one to drink only after it ends. The sculpture is accessible to the public during normal operating hours of the building.
With the unveiling of the monument, in conjunction with John F. Kennedy’s Assassination 50th Anniversary in Dallas in November 2013, a series of free public programs will run beginning in 2014 in collaboration with local partners. ”Brown bag” lunches on-site at the Records Building, targeted towards visitors and employees, aim to reactivate the civic space by providing a platform for dialogical exchange. Public programs off-site, at arts, humanities and community centers, will correspond with strategic dates in national and international history to examine multi-national/ethnic movements and struggles for human rights and their modern implications. A youth-centric workshop that looks at the intersection of contemporary art, politics and education will be developed and made available to an existing network of local schools and creative community institutions.
Finally, to extend the idea of civic engagement and meditation on collective memory present at the physical site, an online platform will be developed. This virtual space serves as a bridge from a local to an international audience who wish to join the discussion, archiving other sites of similar discovery and contested public memory.
lauren woods is a multimedia artist whose hybrid media projects—film, video and sound installations, interventions and site-specific work—engage history while contemplating the socio-politics of the present. Challenging the tradition of documentary/ethnography as objective, she creates ethno-fictive documents that investigate invisible dynamics in society, remixing memory and imagining other possibilities. She explores how traditional monument-making can be translated into new contemporary models of memorializing, substituting the traditional marble and granite for digital video. Born in Kansas City, MO and raised in Dallas, TX, woods holds a BA in Radio, Television and Film and a BA in Spanish with a sociology minor from the University of North Texas. In 2006, she received her Masters of Fine Arts from the San Francisco Art Institute. Her work has been exhibited throughout the United States and internationally, including Washington D.C., San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, Dallas, Miami as well as Puerto Rico, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, Mali and France. She has been the recipient of grants and awards from numerous institutions including The Tribeca Film Foundation, College Art Association, Alliance of Artists Communities and the San Francisco Foundation.