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A conceptual art project interpreting a lawless act of kidnapping 1,196 striking miners & supporters in Bisbee, Arizona,1917.
A conceptual art project interpreting a lawless act of kidnapping 1,196 striking miners & supporters in Bisbee, Arizona,1917.
90 backers pledged $7,208 to help bring this project to life.

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McKenna commemorates IWW & American Undesirables 1917

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 THE UNDESIRABLES:  CONCEPTUAL AND PERFORMANCE ARTIST LAURIE McKENNA'S INTERPRETATION OF THE HISTORIC EVENT KNOWN AS THE BISBEE DEPORTATION WHICH WAS A CRIMINAL ACT AGAINST WORKERS AND CITIZENS BY COPPER COMPANIES AND LOCAL LAW AND A GROUP OF MEN KNOWN AS THE LOYALTY LEAGUE.  Where are we politically and socially, 100 years later?

In the dawn hours of July 12th, 1917 in Bisbee, Arizona, two major mining companies and the Sheriff armed roughly a thousand citizens known as the Loyalty League. They rounded up 1,196 striking miners at gunpoint, marched them to the town baseball park 4 miles away, loaded them onto cattle cars, and banished them to the desert of New Mexico. They were accused of being  subversive, anti-American Industrial Workers of the World  (IWW) or Wobblies. Possible motivation seems to hinge on the climate of fear WW1 was creating and corporate concerns surrounding strikes, production, and labor.  The use of the term "Deportation"   creates the impression that this was an immigration event but the Federal Government had nothing to do with this action. People were not removed from the country, they were removed and banished from their homes in Bisbee, Arizona. The  Federal Immigration Act of 1917 broadened immigration restrictions against certain groups that were deemed "undesirable". The list of undesirables included political radicals, anarchists, paupers and contract laborers. What beliefs about the Wobblies, and social and political views made it possible for a group of citizens to disregard constitutional law and act on the copper industry's behalf to  remove "Undesirables" from their homes?  

ELEMENTS OF THE UNDESIRABLES PROJECT 

Laurie McKenna
Laurie McKenna

The research and creative interpretation of: Wobblies, corporate power, xenophobia, propaganda, labor, fear-mongering.  This art project commenced in April 2015 with the research phase drawing, and guerilla art flyer posting. In early 2016 I did an art action of rubbing a 1917 penny in a gallery setting. The penny rubbing is the endurance part of this project and the results will be part of the my installation during the week of July 12, 2017 in Bisbee, Arizona in the gallery of Central School Project.  The event will include the presentation of a fabricated penny smasher machine, and the exhibition of my artwork, printed matter and a performance that includes projections and sound art. 

SOUND ART COLLABORATOR

Jon Leidecker has been producing music under the name Wobbly since 1990, improvising live with pre-recorded music.  Leidecker's solo performances are complimented by extensive live and studio collaborations, including work with Dieter Moebius & Tim Story, Matmos, Fred Frith, John Oswald, Thomas Dimuzio, Huun-Huur-Tu, Sagan and the Freddy McGuire Show.  He recently became a full time participant in the culture jamming art collective Negativland, and as of last year inherited the stewardship of their legendary, long-running live mix media collage program Over The Edge on Pacifica KPFA FM in Berkeley.  His nearly completed eight hour podcast 'Variations' on the evolution of sampling and collage music in the age of recorded sound was commissioned by the Museum of Contemporary Art in Barcelona.

THE FABRICATION OF A PENNY PRESS VENDING MACHINE

At a commercial penny press machine in the Copper Queen Mine Tour, Bisbee, AZ
At a commercial penny press machine in the Copper Queen Mine Tour, Bisbee, AZ

 The penny machine is the mechanical and conceptual heart of the project. These vending machines known as penny presses, are located at the sites of tourist attractions (there are two in Bisbee). They flatten pennies and imprint them with images commemorating historical moments, industries, or locations. I am appropriating this machine to subvert its mainstream intentions. It will vend 3 distinct embossments of my design. Most machines create a souvenir that carries little meaning.  I am creating designs that are counter to bland memorialization. This machine will live at Central School Project. The whole exhibition can easily travel to other venues.

example of typical pressed pennies
example of typical pressed pennies

 Collaborator Andrew Fairbank: I am collaborating in the design and construction of the Penny Smasher long distance with a fabricator and side car motorcycle racer Andrew Fairbank of New Hampshire. Andrew built two sidecar motorcycles for Matthew Barney's Cremaster 4 Guggenheim exhibition. I love that Andrew is a hard working tradesman with a incredible mind and talent who got tapped by a member of the high brow art world (Mr. Barney) to fabricate an element of an art installation. I could have gotten one of these machines built by a manufacturer, but I wanted to work with Andrew. He completely understands my motivations and believes in the project. We are using mechanical elements of the industry including an ore cart wheel and rail track.

PUBLISHING A SERIES OF PAMPHLETS

I am curating and publishing a series of  pamphlets, a form once used as a primary means of outreach by unions. They will examine the IWW, Political climate, propaganda, and constitutional law specific to the deportation. I have invited two writers and more may be added. The pamphlets will be distributed for free.  A limited edition set of all the elements will be available post event.

Authors: 

Luc Sante http://lucsante.com/books/ Luc Sante was born in Verviers, Belgium. His most recent book is The Other Paris. His other works include Low Life, Evidence, The Factory of Facts, and Kill All Your Darlings. He is the recipient of a Whiting Writers' Award, an Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a Grammy (for album notes), an Infinity Award for Writing from the International Center of Photography, and Guggenheim and Cullman fellowships. He has contributed to The New York Review of Books since 1981 and has written for many other publications. He is a visiting professor of writing and the history of photography at Bard College and lives in Ulster County, New York. 

Brian Frye http://ournixon.com Brian L. Frye is the Spears-Gilbert Associate Professor of Law at the University of Kentucky College of Law. He teaches classes in civil procedure, intellectual property, copyright, and nonprofit organizations, as well as a seminar on law and popular culture.  He received a J.D. from the New York University School of Law in 2005, an M.F.A. from the San Francisco Art Institute in 1997, and a B.A. from the University of California at Berkeley in 1995.    Professor Frye is also a filmmaker. He produced the documentary Our Nixon (2013), which was broadcast by CNN and opened theatrically nationwide. His short films and videos have shown in the 2002 Whitney Biennial, the New York Film Festival, and the San Francisco International Film Festival, among other venues, and are in the permanent collection of the Whitney Museum of American Art. His critical writing on film and art has appeared in October, The New Republic, Film Comment, Cineaste, Senses of Cinema, and Incite! among other journals.

 COMMEMORATION OF THE DEPORTED MEN-  1,196 PENCIL RUBBINGS OF A  1917 PENNY (started  January, 2015) 

Performance January, 2015 Central School Project, Bisbee, AZ
Performance January, 2015 Central School Project, Bisbee, AZ

 

Penny Rubbings
Penny Rubbings

I am doing rubbings of a 1917 penny 1,196 times, one for each man deported, now each with their own square and named. This action is referencing the rubbings of gravestones as a commemorative act. Most of the deported moved on to find work elsewhere. This is my laborious memorial to them. All will be part of the installation.

GUERRILLA POSTER SERIES

Each Flyer reveals forgotten details of the event found through research.
Each Flyer reveals forgotten details of the event found through research.

 Guerilla style printed matter-   I am making flyers and posting them around town and electronically on Facebook and Twitter for duration of project development, leading up to the 100th anniversary performance and installation. They include my artwork presenting facts news clippings and artwork. The information is found in newspapers of published both at the time of the deportation and over the years since.

Risks and challenges

Fabrication timeline
The big challenge to this project is the fabrication and transport of the Penny Press.
Andrew and I are relying on donations to complete this most important part of the project.
We have two design options. One incorporates an ore cart wheel and piece of train track. We have been given a verbal promise on donation of these elements from a local mining company. If their timeline of getting that to Andrew does not sync up with his build schedule we will fall back on our second design which uses jewelry making machine elements rather than the wheel and rail.
It is possible that fabrication could be delayed. Because the months following the deportation in 1917 were filled with the political and social fall out of the action, the date of the opening and performance can be shifted on the calendar into August, September or October.
Documentation
Often, high quality documentation can be a challenge. This project is being well documented by a independent filmmaker Robert Greene.

Performance
This performance will have up to three image projectors running. I do not use memorized scripts, I have a list of goals and improvise. One of the projectors will be manually controlled as I speak.

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- (29 days)