“Our sense of history is segregated, our social identity is fractured and our vocabularies for discussing race, symbols and respect are bare.” – John Sims
Detroit native John Sims is an interdisciplinary artist who creates multimedia projects spanning the areas of mathematics, art, text, performance and political-media activism. many of his projects are informed by the vocabulary of mathematical structure, the politics of sacred symbols and poetic reflections. John has curated numerous exhibitions including the year-long exhibition and film project Rhythm of Structure: Bowery and Beyond featuring Sol LeWitt, Karen Finley, Adrian Piper and former U.S. Poet Laureate Mark Strand at the Bowery Poetry Club in New York City. He has lectured and exhibited nationally and internationally, and his work has been featured in The New York Times, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, CNN, The Guardian, The Root, Al Jazeera, Guernica, Art in America, Sculpture Magazine, and Nature. John has written for CNN, Al Jazeera, The Huffington Post, Guernica Magazine, The Rumpus and The Grio.
For the past 16 years, John has been working on a project that features a series of Confederate flag installations and performances, including The Proper Way to Hang a Confederate Flag. His installation ‘Confederate Flag: A Public Hanging’ was first displayed in 2004 at the Schmucker Gallery at Gettysburg College, Pennsylvania, where it met with considerable backlash. It has since been presented in various forms—sequestered and minimized—in exhibitions in university galleries and museums across the country.
In 2015, in honor of the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War, John organized a 13-state funeral for the Confederate flag (#13flagfunerals), three weeks ahead of the shootings at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. The following year, ‘Take ‘Em Down NOLA,’ the Confederate monument take-down movement in New Orleans, was formed, and John initiated his annual Confederate flag Memorial Day, ‘Burn and Bury‘.
Finally, with help from NCAC, on October 26, 2017 in front of the E.W. Scripps Amphitheater at Ohio University, John’s concept came full circle and ‘Confederate Flag: A Public Hanging’ was presented as originally conceived by the artist, with community participation including music, speeches and readings. Against this backdrop, and before a crowd of several hundred people, the flag was ritually hung from a 13-foot gallows in a symbolic act of judgment against the history of white supremacy, the Jim Crow era and our contemporary condition of racially motivated violence.