A Thursday Interruption: Part 1 of 2!

From SunlessNick:

The above video is freaking amazing.

Soundscapes and American history

Sound Artists Create Music from Sally Hemings’ 200 Year Old Bell
Lewisburg, PA  – February 29, 2012

Husband and wife artists-duo, Mendi + Keith Obadike were commissioned by Bucknell University’s (Lewisburg, PA) Griot Institute for Africana Studies and the Samek Art Gallery to create a new piece, American Cypher: Stereo Helix for Sally Hemings, about American founding father and 3rd president Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings, his slave. Jefferson and Hemings have been rumored (by political rivals and Hemings’ own children) since the early1800s to have had some kind of an affair. In 1998 DNA evidence linked Hemings’ offspring to the Jefferson family, proving centuries-old rumors, controversial scholarship, and oral history about their relationship to be true. The artists took this issue of DNA testing as inspiration for a pubic sound art work. They made original recordings of Hemings’ last surviving possession, a small bell given to her by Martha Jefferson (Thomas Jefferson’s wife and Hemings’ half sister) that is on exhibit today at Jefferson’s Motnicello mansion in Virginia. From these digitally altered recordings they created a soundscape that is currently playing in Bucknell University’s student center. The artists attached flat panel speakers to robotic arms in two stairwells in order to create a double-helix pattern with the sound, mimicking the shape of DNA. This exhibition open Feb 29th and closes April 30th at Bucknell University.


  1. Maartje says

    This was an awesome Thursday interruption, Thanks Maria! (and SunlessNick, the suffrage vid’s great!)

    (I couldn’t find anything about sharing the love on the comment guidelines, but if it’s not OK, feel free to delete the comment. With love.)

  2. says


    That was my response too. I mean, even if your only knowledge of this time period is pop culture you should still be aware that that women of color worked in the movement. Iron Jawed Angels had a short subplot on the racism a Black woman suffered in the suffragette movement, etc.

    I mean, it’s creative and all, but I’m just wondering why its makers were so dedicated to casting only White women. Either they didn’t know any women of color, or they deliberately kept them out, or what?

  3. Ara says

    Sylvia Sybil,

    Thing won’t let me edit– my only real knowledge of the suffragette movement is pop culture and I had no idea there were black women in it. So maybe it’s not nearly as obvious in pop culture as you say, depending on what pop culture they were reading. (Which in no way excuses not actually reasearching it…)

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