Billboard Series #21:
Sam Durant (US)
Like, man, I'm tired of waiting
14/10/2020 — 04/02/2021
Sam Durant (°1961) is an American artist who, through various media, reflects on the different social, political and cultural issues that concern and affect us as a society. Durant grew up in Boston in the 70s. There he came into contact with the many anti-war demonstrations and the desegregation of the public school system, but also with the radical pedagogy of Alexander Neill, Maria Montessori and others. The influence of an educational culture in which democratic ideals, racial and gender equality and social justice were paramount, formed the basis of Durant’s later artistic practice.
Since the 1990s, Sam Durant has developed a research-driven artistic practice in which he dissects and reframes both dominant historical narratives and forgotten facets of our collective past. Durant aims to re-examine these histories and emphasise their importance to broader social, political and cultural issues.
Durant’s research often results in drawings and large light boxes. Most people know Sam Durant‘s work through these light boxes, which have been given the title Electric Signs as a series. These light boxes are based on hand-drawn protest signs that the artist found in photos of street protests. Of course, light boxes are a typical medium for signs in shops and advertising. By giving the personal phrases and slogans from protest movements an existence as a colourful light box, Sam Durant emphasises their necessity, and often also the humorous or utopian character of the messages.
The work Like, man, I’m tired of waiting, which can be seen as part of the new Billboard Series, is based on a work from 2002 which is part of Sam Durant’s series Electric Signs. As with much of his work, Durant appropriates historical imagery that he re-interrogates through re-contextualisation. The text ‘Like, man, I’m tired of waiting’ comes from a photo taken during the March on Washington on 28 August 1963 – where Martin Luther King Jr. gave his famous ‘I Have a Dream’ speech. More than five decades later, this message still resonates, although today the text can of course be read in different ways.
The March on Washington aimed to enforce equal civil and economic rights for Americans of colour. Excessive police brutality against Americans with a dark skin and protests against it in many American cities show that more than 50 years later, Americans of colour are still considered second-class citizens. So the text’ Like man, I am tired or waiting’ can unfortunately still be read in the same context. But it can also be read in the context of the upcoming American presidential elections in early November, or as a reaction to our ongoing battle with Covid-19 and its continuous troublesome lockdowns. Or the text can be read as a reflection on the place around the Billboard, the ever-converting neighbourhood that looks different every month and is slowly but surely becoming a thriving new urban district. Whatever the context in which you, the reader, want to frame the text, it is ultimately a positive message of hope – because after seemingly endless waiting, there comes a time when things are getting better.
All images courtesy of the artist
Installation photography: Michiel De Cleene
Billboard Series is a long-term art project in public space, for which every three months an artist is invited to create a new, site-specific work for a 50 m2 billboard on Dok Noord, Ghent. Through changing presentations, Billboard Series wants to build a sustainable and productive dialogue with the surrounding neighbourhood and urban landscape, reflect on the changes that this neighbourhood is currently undergoing, and introduce a broad audience to different visual languages and ways of looking at the world.
Billboard Series is a project of artlead, together with 019. Billboard Series is curated by Thomas Caron, takes place within a scenography by architect Olivier Goethals, and is being developed with the support of the City of Ghent and the Flemish Community.