Memorial Project Interactive Art Process – “This is social justice work”

At the First Unitarian Church of Chicago Rev. David Schwartz highlighted the interactive art process at the heart of the My Lai Memorial Exhibit in his sermon on
The Varieties of Social Justice Experience

“The wooden blocks are 4 inches long, 2 inches square, some thinner: 1 by 2. There are about two dozen of them, one printed with an American Flag, to form a sort of stacking puzzle so that when you put the blocks together just right, stands the flag upright. On a second set of blocks is a photograph of women and children in Vietnam, moments before being killed in the My Lai massacre.

“This is social justice work. It is an artistic experience that leads to heart-change.”

This is a collaborative art experience: participants sit at a table with the blocks in front of them to assemble the sculptural collage. They put together the flag and the photo of the women and children in their own arrangement.

They build and then they talk about what came up for them, what the flag means, what the massacre means. Putting this sculptural collage together, they talk about how they put their country together in its contradictions today.

The artist who made it is one of our own members: Mac MacDevitt, who brings it to schools and events and begins conversations as part of his work with Veterans for Peace.

Mac writes,” I was looking for a way for myself and other individuals to give voice to the complex feelings that arose when mixing images and symbols normally separated into compartments in the mainstream media. I am interested how collaborative art projects can deepen and share empathy and understanding. When I first saw the photograph on the cover of LIFE magazine of women and children being lined up just before they were shot by American soldiers in Vietnam, I felt as if I had been punched in the stomach. Now when I really look at an American flag, I am aware of a tangled complex of feelings and images, and this image is always in the mix. ”

This is social justice work. Just as much as marching in the street or writing a letter to your senator. This is social justice work. It is an artistic experience that leads to heart-change.