Suzanne Lacy’s medium is dialogue, i.e., creating it between artists, activists and audiences. The 67-year old artist uses public spaces as her canvases and real people – their thoughts, interactions, political energy and dynamism – as her paint.
This Saturday afternoon, Lacy’s canvas is one street in Brooklyn; and her paint, hundreds of men and women, from ’70s feminists to local residents. “Between the Door and the Street” will be her first public-art piece in New York, a free performance-installation by and for the community.
Lacy, who studied with Judy Chicago as a grad student, is best known for her ’87 performance-installation piece “Crystal Quilt,” in which she gathered 430 women over the age of 60 in a Minneapolis shopping mall to discuss aging and the cultural invisibility of older women. At the time Lacy was just into her forties, but all these years later her piece seems remarkably prescient. It lives on as a video.
This past Spring, Lacy created “Silver Action” at London’s Tate Modern, bringing together veteran women activists to engage in oral history and brainstorming for the future.
“Between the Door and the Street,” a commission by the arts nonprofit Creative Time and the Brooklyn Museum’s Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art, evolved from “Silver Action” and the prolonged dialogues Lacy had with the piece’s elder activists; “One of the most pressing and poignant questions that emerged in these discussions related to the disproportionate levels of poverty among women,” Lacy said in a press statement.
On Park Place, a tree-lined street near the museum, intimate groups of activists will gather on stoops to discuss a range of issues around gender, including reproductive rights, changing gender roles, global economics, and poverty, among others. Each group will take on a different topic. Audience members can wander among them, listening in. “If you put society – the audience – in the position of listening, they are going to start reframing their ideas,” Lacy told the NY Times.
To prepare for the piece, which has involved 19 advisors, nearly 80 organizations, 120 volunteers, and the Park Place community, as well as the performers, Lacy spent months in the neighborhood, getting to know it. She told the Times: “You sort of move into the community and figure out what people care about.”
“Between the Door and the Street” begins at 4:30pm on Saturday, October 19 on Park Place, Brooklyn, between Vanderbilt and Underhill Avenues.