WK 5 – Artist of the Week – Dread Scott


About the Artist

Scott Tyler, known professionally as Dread Scott, was born in 1965 in Chicago, Illinois. His art works are focused through the mediums of installations, photography, paintings, performance, print and video. His art works, often participatory in nature, are directed towards the experiences of African Americans in the contemporary United States. His art is derived from his passion to uncover injustices, and to uncover and discuss political and social issues residing in the world. However, he has received backlash for his art works from certain audiences and the government, where some of his installations were seen as “disrespectful” to the nation.

dread scott being hosed

Formal Analysis

After analyzing his art pieces, you can see how some people would see them as bizarre or offensive. In the above piece called “On the Impossibility of Freedom in a Country Founded on Slavery and Genocide”, you can see the artist being hosed down by a local firefighter. If you google the art piece, you can find a video of him as he walks closer and closer to the firefighter, continuously being pounded by gallons and gallons of water. He does this piece as a public showing, where the audience are just 20 feet away from the spectacle. And as he pushes against the rushing water, you can see as he grimaces against the force of the water, leaving expressions of urgency and anger. Although this art work involves his personal participation, he also allows the audience to participate in his other art works and installations.

What is the Proper Way to Display a US Flag?

Content Analysis

His art works are aimed at challenging societal norms of people of class, age, gender, etc. His aim is to bring about awareness to certain political and social issues residing in America, where he shows through his art work the challenges that marginalized groups have had to experience. For his “On the Impossibility of Freedom in a Country Founded on Slavery and Genocide”, this demonstration showed the hardships and discrimination placed before African Americans living in the United States. By looking at the piece and observing his behavior and expressions, you could get a sense of frustration towards the government, as well as a strong will to continue to fight against the oppression (that being the continuous pounding of water from the fire hose). Also, the above installation titled “What is the Proper Way to Display a US Flag” has received many criticism from his peers, the United States government, and even President George H. W. Bush. The piece asked for volunteers to step on the flag to “comment” in a book or diary. The installation essentially requires its participants to somehow cross the boundary which is the physical obstruction of the flag and voice their opinion, which resides in the comments left behind by the audience. The flag being a strong symbol to the nation and held dear by many people, it is understandable why people would be upset by such an installation. However, by analyzing it more you can look at the other side and see the frustration from marginalized groups and their anger towards society. For those that have stood on the flag, they may have had feelings of resentment towards the nation and how it’s addressing and modifying its current domestic policies. Ultimately, this piece shows exactly what the flag means to everyone, and how it’s a powerful installation.

Protests  US  1989     Illinois    Chicago    Art   Flag

Thesis/ My Experience

Dread Scott is an activist, and now my idol. He has shown (and continuous to do so) the past and current issues residing in America. Some of these issues, such as discriminatory laws, racism, and political injustice that Scott illustrates in his art work are typically avoided topics or issues that are still ignored to this day to the general public. I believe everyone should take a look at his art work, his installations in particular, and become more informed and aware of the political and social injustices that are placed among marginalized groups, our fellow citizens. For me personally, I’ve already have been aware of most of these issues, and observing his work has only made me more informed and enlightened with the way society treats certain individuals. Hopefully if others view Dread Scott’s works, they too can be aware of these potential threats towards people and their civil rights.

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