WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. -- For almost two weeks, through April 17, students, faculty and visitors to the Williams College campus are invited to confront the uncomfortable, to disrupt their daily routines to go to a place they don't want to be -- considering, for example, apartheid, and Black Lives Matter.
"We are wanting to disrupt peoples' everyday lives," says Lois Banta, a Williams biology professor who holds the Gaudino Scholar chair. "It's easy to just bob along," she adds, "to think, 'People are dying out there, and I'm worried because I have a paper due tomorrow' . . . but these things are happening. I want these things to intrude in people's lives."
The "interruption" is a multimedia art-and-music installation in the Williams College Chapel -- seven video monitors looping 3-to-7-minute excerpts from the choral work, REwind: A Cantata for Voice, Tape & Testimony. The are based on testimonies from South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation project. (VIDEO) In addition, each of the seven clips is reproduced in one other open-to-the-public location on campus and town.
The seven video monitors are in Sawyer Library, Hollander Hall, WCMA, '62 Center, Schow, Davis Center and the town's Milne Public Library.
REwind is not new. It was commissioned in a 2007 collaboration between two professors at Williams -- Brad Wells and David Eppel -- and artists in South Africa, including husband-and-wife team Gerhard and Maja Marx. This week, the Marx' were on campus, overseeing the Williams installation and lecturing to classes at the invitation of the Gaudino program.
Gerhard, who is a theater director and designer and visual artist in South Africa, says he sees some parallels -- or at least some opportunities for learning -- between his native country's addressing of statutory racial discrimination -- apartheid -- and today's ongoing institutional racism in the United States. "The African National Congress is not the same liberation party that it was," he says. "We are disappointed that things haven't translated on the ground, even though we now have a great constitution."
Robert Gaudino was a Williams political-science professor in the 1960s and 1970s who challenged his students to go to uncomfortable places and situations that challenged what he called the "borgeoise" upbringng -- living India, Appalachia or predominantly black neighborhoods in Detroit as a semester-long learning experience. The goal of the college's Gaudino Fund is to perpetuate his "emphasis on reflection, confronting our own biases through immersive engagement with otherness and, through that experience, learning to know ourselves more deeply and differently."
While visiting Williams with a serious purpose, Gerhard Marx took some time to do a favor for the couple's children, ages 3 and 6, back home. Early on Tuesday morning, Marx was observed building a snowman on the edge of Westlawn Cemetery -- it was about 6 degrees Farenheit and there were several inches of snow on the ground, a both extremely rare for April in Williamstown.
For REwind building locations on the Williams campus, consult the map outside the driveway entrance to the Security Office located in Hopkins Hall on Main Street (Rte. 2), next to the Thompson Memorial Chapel, or call the Office of Communications (413) 597-4277. The map can also be found on the web at www.williams.edu/map