One-day interactive exhibition at U-M explores student protests from ’60s to present

September 14, 2018
Contact: Sydney Hawkins

ANN ARBOR—”The Speaker,” an interactive installation by artist Zafos Xagoraris, is an exploration of student protests from the 1960s to present in Ann Arbor and across the United States.

This installation will be on view live for one day only, in the University of Michigan Museum of Art’s Stenn Gallery and on UMMA’s front plaza 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 15.

Xagoraris is a 2018 Witt Artist in Residence at the U-M Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design. Documentation of Xagoraris’ installation will be included in the upcoming exhibition “Have We Met? Dialogues on Memory and Desire,” on view at Stamps Gallery (201 S. Division St.) Sept. 21-Nov. 18.

Combining archival material sourced from the Bentley Historical Library at U-M with an interactive “soapbox,” visitors to this installation are able to experience protest moments of the past and communicate their own messages of dissent in the present. The project aims to recognize the resurgence of student protests in creating social discourse today and draws a connection to the past.

In his audio and text archival explorations, Xagoraris illustrates the role of documentation of the 1960s protest movements—New Left, Free Speech Movement, Students for a Democratic Society—in sustaining a vital connection between protesters working in disparate cities, separated by the sprawling geography of our nation.

“Through documentation of iconic moments of the 1960s protests, we see photos of People’s Park and Arnold Kaufman and the teach-ins at the University of Michigan,” Xagoraris said. “Together, these events create one complicated but unique series of relatable moments, influencing each other and depicting a past era but also projecting an image of the future.”

In addition to Xagoraris’ archival exploration, “The Speaker” visitors will find an interactive “soapbox,” complete with AV equipment designed to project the speaker’s voice outside of the museum and display a green-screen image of the visitor making an address from atop a 1964 Ford Thunderbird parked on the museum plaza—a historical nod to the famous image of Mario Savio during a Free Speech Movement protest in Berkeley, Calif.

“The Speaker” was created with the collaboration of Tom Bray, Chrisstina Hamilton, Katerina Stefanidaki and the students of the Identity Politics course taught by professors Marianetta Porter and Irina Aristarkhova at the Stamps School. This interactive installation is presented in partnership with the University of Michigan Museum of Art.


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