Jackson’s Desk: A Monument for the Successes of Democracy and a Memorial for its Failures (JDMM) is a sound installation that is scheduled to open in the Robert H. Jackson Center in Jamestown, NY in 2020.
Robert H. Jackson was a Supreme Court Justice who served as the Chief
U.S. Prosecutor in Nuremburg where he tried Nazi leadership for crimes against humanity. Upon returning to the Supreme Court in 1946 he began studying the legality of school segregation and died soon after the court announced its unanimous decision in Brown vs. the Board of Education in 1954. While conducting this research he made connections between the failures of democracy in Nazi Germany and the racist legal models of the American Jim Crow south. The desk that Jackson used in Nuremburg is owned by the Robert H. Jackson Center (RHJC) in Jamestown, NY and will be the focal point of my installation. The desk is a material link between Germany and America, Nazism and our contemporary culture.
The installation at the RHJC will include 10-20 speakers around Jackson’s Desk. Each speaker will be playing a recording of an individual reciting a poem, testimony, letter, speech or other text by a survivor of oppression. Mixed in with these will be other texts that advocate for social justice and endorse the dignity of all people. Readers will be members of the Jamestown community and members of my Chicago community who have volunteered to participate. Each reader is encouraged to research and bring a text to read, whether their own words, or the words of someone else. The speakers will be playing at a low volume creating a murmur of sound without any singular voice having any priority over any other. Visitors to the RHJC will be able to lean in to individual speakers to hear one voice, or step back to hear them all.
The audio file link above is a layered sample of voices designed to emulate the sound of the installation.