In Equality

In Equality (2015) was a performance collaboration between Dread Scott and the Whitney Museum’s Youth Insight Leaders.

The objective of In Equality was to create a “social sculpture.” To accomplish this the artists (wearing black t-shirts with the word ‘artist’ stamped across the front in red) approached Whitney Museum visitors individually and asked them whether they would like to be part of an art piece taking place that evening. They explained this was a project was a collaboration between Dread Scott and the Whitney’s Youth Insight Leaders and that participating in the piece would not distract them from seeing any of the artwork they wanted. If participants agreed, they were brought to a designated location by the artists, and paired with other participants. Artists were encouraged to pair participants in diverse ways, making man/woman, woman/woman, man/man pairs of different races and ethnicities and within different age groups (with the only restrictions being that no woman younger than 18 was to be paired with a man older than 21).

Once participants were paired, the artists placed their hands together, handed them a 5-1/2 inch by 8-1/2 inch card with the piece’s instructions which reads as follows:

“Thank you for agreeing to participate.

This artwork, In Equality, is a social sculpture. Please hold hands with the person you have been partnered with and continue to do so throughout your time at the museum this evening. Hold hands as if you are a couple. Explore the museum as you had planned. Feel free to speak with your partner. Enjoy the evening.

If anyone asks why you or others are holding hands, merely reply, ‘Because we care about each other.’ Do you not discuss this artwork with them any further.”

Participants of different ages behaved differently: younger participants seemed to take on the performance with more enthusiasm while older participants appeared less willing to hold hands. Eventually as the evening progressed some participants stopped holding hands after only a few minutes, but others held hands for the duration of their evening at the Whitney. To viewers and other non-participants at the Whitney that evening, participants probably seemed like couples simply enjoying a museum stroll.