These Walls Were Built by Slaves was performed at Ingenuity Fest 2010. For this project, actor Anna Register and I continually built and dismantled a stone wall in a nasty room deep in the understructure of the Veterans' Memorial AKA Detroit-Superior Bridge on Cleveland's near west side.
For a brief video documenting this performance, click here.
(for full images and more information, click thumbnails below)
Here is Dennis Congdon's description of the event that inspired me to create this piece, as it appeared on the door/sign (faux finished by yours truly) leaning up against the wall outside our performance space:
One day in the spring of 1963 I was alongside my father at my grandfather's farm off the Old Post Road. We were working on a mortar-less stone wall, working to pile stones back on top that had tumbled down and to cut back the bittersweet vines that were taking over. It sticks in my mind that we were on the wall separating the Sheldon Lot from the Tractor Piece. These lots have been the Congdon Farm since the early 1700's when our forefather moved down from Providence. In South County my people are known as Swamp Yankees. Stone walls draw the perimeter of each lot on this rocky, boney land. To plow this ground the stone had to be hauled to the fence rows. But we were cutting hay and pasturing dairy cows at Grampa’s place at that time and were working on the walls before we moved some heifers in. Sweating in the sun my dad straightened up, dug out his bandana and as he wiped his brow, he looked off down across the fields and said,
“Do you know who built these stone walls? White men never built these walls....Slaves built these walls...”
I have never forgotten that moment or the way it changed forever my view of home. Ever after I lived in a different New England than the land where Frost's stone wall connects and separates two neighbors.
2013 E.D. Taylor. All rights reserved.