HISTORY + VISION
Un-American Blackbox launched on September 1, 2020. In the midst of a summer of protest, a year of pandemic, and a national history of disenfranchisement and subjugation under the auspices of “freedom,” the platform was born from a place of questioning: what does it mean to be American? Un-American Blackbox is an exercise in intentional patriotism: a space to reveal the beauty, grace, strength, compassion, respect, wisdom, and honor in being American. We center activism, art-making, scholarship, science, community, and justice for the oppressed, aiming to shift those activities and qualities into the spotlight under the marquee of American Identity. We don’t presume to offer a definitive conclusion: we’re asking the question and inviting the conversation.
In the Blackbox, everyone is welcome in the creative process, regardless of formal training or practice. We encourage and support the artistic contributions of anyone grappling with questions of American national identity and cultural belonging. We share artworks of any and all media, both in our digital gallery and through our Forum. We hope you’ll join us.
Un-American Blackbox would not exist without the contributions of A’KEEN Brand who created our logo, Natasha Bratkovski who designed (and maintains) our website, and all the many artists who have generously shared their work, minds, and hearts with us.
“[We] should be celebrating our ongoing struggles for freedom and not celebrating as if we are free. We should be celebrating our disobedience, turbulence, insolence, and discontent about inequities and injustices in all forms. We should be celebrating our form of patriotism that they call unpatriotic, our historic struggle to extend power and freedom to every single American.”
--Ibram X. Kendi, The Atlantic, July 2019
Un-American Blackbox is a multimedia creative space for the recalibration of what it means to be American. Ibram X. Kendi’s words root our mission: to center and uplift those Americans the state might label “un-American;” those engaged in the fight to “extend power and freedom to every single American.”
Un-American Blackbox celebrates the many diverse and legitimate ways American identity manifests through original artworks, discourse, and community engagement. We center artworks as the vehicle for this celebration because we believe art possesses an unparalleled power to provoke compassion for perspectives unfamiliar or unwelcome. Art reaches the subconscious to elicit empathy; empathy breeds respect; respect sows love; love is the bedrock of community.
Un-American Blackbox is a space for the consideration, interrogation, and reconstruction of our national identity. Our work is to deconstruct the fissure between “American” and “un-American,” in order to forge a new definition, compassionately representative of the full American population.
ELLEN JACKSON (Founder, Curator + Producer | she/her) is a multi-disciplinary artist based in the US. Her work encompasses producing, directing (opera, theatre, new music), curating, writing, teaching, community organizing, scholarship, and the occasional performance. She has wondered what it means to be American for a long time; she created Un-American Blackbox as a formal platform for continuing that investigation.
NATASHA BRATKOVSKI (Web Designer | she/her) is a web designer and performer currently residing in New York. With a passion for telling stories in a variety of mediums, she is thrilled to lend a hand to maintaining the appearance of this digital space for so many wonderful and innovative artists.