About this commission
The Shed commissioned Kamau Ware (Black Gotham Experience) to create digital audio and video tours titled Fighting Dark in dialogue with the investigation of the legacy of racial violence in the United States in the exhibition Howardena Pindell: Rope/Fire/Water. The tours focus on Manhattan and Brooklyn’s 19th-century racial history and connect to Pindell’s investigation of touch points in that same, long history. Tracing back 100 years from the May 1963 Children’s Crusade in Birmingham, Alabama, explored by Pindell in the exhibition’s Shed-commissioned film, Ware’s tours draw a line between that moment in the civil rights movement and New York City’s 1863 race riots. These riots have often been explained as a consequence of the Civil War draft, an alibi that obscures the racial violence that white New Yorkers directed at their Black neighbors during the unrest.
Within this historiography, Fighting Dark speaks to a dark side of American history as well as the dark-skinned people who have been impacted by it, especially the Black New Yorkers who fled in the dark of night during the 1863 riots and those who enlisted in the Union Army during the Civil War in what was called the “Colored Troops 20th Infantry” from New York City. The tours ultimately provide a platform to draw out lessons on how Black people find resilience in the face of racial violence. Ware presents an audio and a video tour that probe this history in areas of Manhattan and Brooklyn: the audio version invites immersive, self-guided and site-specific engagements with the city, and the video version offers the chance to experience the same from wherever you call home—from Ocean Hill, Brooklyn, to anywhere in the world.