Looks Like Freedom

Our organizing group sat discussing the fine points of exhibition planning in a lounge area with a large picture window. Suddenly there was an arc of wingbeats, a series of small parabolic collisions: a sparrow was trapped in the room, trying, over and over again, to escape through plate glass that looked like freedom. Working together, our group managed to get the tiny bird safely outside. It was a kind of bonding experience, an emotional and somewhat exhilarating collective effort… to restore the status quo.
We decided soon afterward to call the exhibition Looks Like Freedom, suggesting a certain ambivalence, not about the ambitions of utopian artists and activists of the late 1960s, but about the legacy of their efforts and of the repression that met them. What looks like freedom might well be freedom—but it might be something else again. The exhibition Looks Like Freedom: art, politics, and urban space/around 1968/Chicago was presented at DOVA Temporary Gallery, a space owned by the University of Chicago near Harper Court in Hyde Park, from August 15 to October 4, 2008. Students from my 1968 class worked together to make decisions about what works to include and how to present them; two of them, Maggie Taft and Chris Brancaccio, also created original works for the exhibition, a window piece commemorating Barnett Newman’s Lace Curtain For Mayor Daley, and an audio piece, Soundscape for Chicago 1968. We also worked closely with lenders, in particular Faheem Majeed of the South Side Community Art Center, who kindly allowed us to use six large-scale prints by Africobra artists (chiefly Barbara Jones-Hogu). Finally, a major component was the programming of the space: we organized several events and discussions that brought community members together to discuss relationships between the pressing issues of the late 60s and those of today. Many of the artists and political movements represented in the show are discussed in greater detail in my editorial introduction. ◊