<p>Public art and activism collide this summer, as Brown University artist Mark Tribe stages reenactments of Vietnam-era protest speeches on the sites where they were originally delivered roughly four decades ago. The speeches, part of a national public art initiative called <em>The Port Huron Project</em>, will be held in Los Angeles, Oakland, and New York City.</p>

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — Exploring traditions of political protest and public oration, Brown University artist Mark Tribe will restage landmark Vietnam-era protest speeches this summer at the same locations where they were originally heard roughly four decades ago. The reenactments are part of The Port Huron Project, which has garnered national attention since its launch in 2006. Tribe’s project will makes stops in Los Angeles, Oakland, and New York City this summer.

The Port Huron Project reenacts historic speeches of the heated New Left movements of the 1960s and ’70s for public audiences. To date, three reenactments have been presented in New York City, Boston, and Washington, D.C. Each performance is staged at the site of the original speech and is delivered by an actor to an audience of invited guests and passers-by. To reach a wide audience, videos of these events are also distributed on DVD and posted online at YouTube and other sites. The project is named after the Port Huron Statement, the visionary manifesto of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), a radical student group formed in 1962.

Creative Time, a nonprofit organization that commissions and presents public art projects, will present the final three segments of The Port Huron Project. The project is one of four commissions made by Creative Time as part of its public art initiative Democracy in America: The National Campaign, a program offering platforms for artists to address the shifting nature of democracy in the United States.

The first performance, Port Huron Project 4: We Are Also Responsible, will take place on Saturday, July 19, 2008, at 6 p.m. at Exposition Park in Los Angeles. The reenactment will be based on a speech given by César Chávez in 1971, encouraging underprivileged farm workers to fight for economic change rather than against the poor in other countries. The event is co-sponsored by Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions (LACE).

Port Huron Project 3: We Must Name the System: Actor Max Bunzel reenacts a speech originally delivered by Paul Potter, former President of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), at the April 17, 1965 March on Washington.
Port Huron Project 3: We Must Name the System Actor Max Bunzel reenacts a speech originally delivered by Paul Potter, former President of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), at the April 17, 1965 March on Washington. Credit: Meghan Boudreau

On Saturday, Aug. 2, 2008, in Oakland, Calif., Tribe will restage Angela Davis’ 1969 speech connecting domestic civil liberties to the constraints on human rights in occupied nations. That performance, Port Huron Project 5: The Liberation of our People will take place in DeFremery Park at 6 p.m. It is co-sponsored by the Oakland Museum of California.

Finally, on Sunday, Sept. 7, 2008, a speech by Stokely Carmichael will be reenacted. The speech, originally given in 1967 at the “Spring Mobilization to End the War in Vietnam,” called for civil rights organizations to rally against exploitation, racism, and genocide — both in U.S. foreign policy and on the streets of New York. Port Huron Project 6: Let Another World Be Born will be held at 6 p.m. adjacent to the United Nations.

Documentation from The Port Huron Project reenactments will be featured in a room-sized installation at the Democracy in America Convergence Center at the Park Avenue Armory in New York City Sept. 21-27, 2008, and selections from The Port Huron Project will be shown in early fall at 441⁄2, MTV’s gilded outdoor high-definition screen in the heart of Times Square.

The Port Huron Project’s three previous reenactments include:

  • Port Huron Project 1: Until the Last Gun Is Silent, based on a 1968 speech given by Coretta Scott King in Central Park, reenacted September 2006;
  • Port Huron Project 2: The Problem Is Civil Obedience, based on a speech delivered by author and activist Howard Zinn at a 1971 peace march on Boston Common, reenacted July 2007;
  • Port Huron Project 3: We Must Name the System, presented on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., in July 2007, based on a speech given by SDS President Paul Potter at the 1965 March on Washington to End the War in Vietnam.

The Web site www.porthuronproject.net contains more information about the project, videos and photos, and links to a wiki-based archive of New Left protest speeches and a mediogra-phy containing relevant art projects, books, exhibitions, and archives.

The Artist

The Port Huron Project is organized by Mark Tribe, an artist and curator whose interests include art, technology, and politics. He is assistant professor of modern culture and media at Brown University, where he teaches courses on digital art, curating, open-source culture, radical media, and surveillance. Tribe is the co-author, with Reena Jana, of New Media Art (Taschen, 2006). His art work has been exhibited at the ZKM Center for Art and Media in Karlsruhe, the Ars Electronica Festival in Linz, and Gigantic Art Space in New York City. He has organized curatorial projects for the New Museum of Contemporary Art, MASS MoCA, and inSite_05. In 1996, Tribe founded Rhizome.org, an online resource for new media artists, and he now chairs Rhizome's board of directors. He received a M.F.A. in visual art from the University of California–San Diego in 1994 and a B.A. in visual art from Brown University in 1990. He divides his time between Providence and New York. More information is available at www.nothing.org.