Allison SMITH Art

The Donkey, The Jackass, and The Mule was a parade project in which I made three large-scale wooden pull-toys and performed them with Freetown Village Living History Museum in a city-wide art parade organized by the Indianapolis Museum of Art.

Reenactors at Freetown Village depict a symbolic community of composite characters representing African Americans living in Indianapolis in 1870—five years after the American Civil War ended. For the parade, we performed a protest against the exclusion of women from the Fifteenth Amendment, which gave free black men the right to vote but excluded all women. Participants rallied at Fountain Square, then took to the streets, chanting and carrying placards with slogans such as "Sojourner Truth for President", "Amend the 15th", and "Marching on to Victory". This was a reenactment of a reenactment performed by Freetown Village during Jesse Jackson’s presidential election campaign in the 1980s.

Conceived as fiction-based-on-fact, this project was meant to provide a pocket of history within the parade, with signage connecting the past to the present through references to the Civil War, the Civil Rights movement, and the current presidential primaries. As it turned out, both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were campaigning in Indiana on the day of the parade.



Jennifer Geigel Mikulay wrote about this project in her essay "Acts of Association: Allison Smith’s Craft as Civic Practice," published in The Journal of Modern Craft Volume 2—Issue 2—July 2009, pp. 183–200:

“Ideas from traditional public sculpture, socially engaged art, and performance all 
find expression in Smith’s work, but it is craft—an unlikely critical resource—that she situates between these apparently conflicting arenas of creative practice, thereby exposing their limits.”

“Smith’s use of craft is strategic, in keeping with Glenn Adamson’s assertion that ‘craft is mainly a matter of persuasiveness, a technique for grabbing attention and holding it’ (Adamson 2007: 26). She brings modern craft’s conceptual hybridity—as an open-ended arena of social and material practice—into association
with ‘civic practices,’ defined by sociologist Nina Eliasoph as ‘the fundamentally sociable processes by which citizens create contexts for political conversation in the potential public sphere’ (Eliasoph 1996:
263).”

“Smith calls attention to the unconventional contours of craft by using it to associate conflicting ideas about civic culture.”

“Smith’s use of craft suggests its promise as a resource in navigating the complexities of community, identity, and representation. Smith doesn’t view craft as inherently participatory; it’s not simply an activity that everyone may enjoy as a reflection of personal or cultural history, a repository of community values, or a respite from the dehumanizing features of modern life. Rather, Smith conceptualizes craft as carrying messages that may be variously productive, problematic, and political.”

“By associating techniques, debates, traditions, and innovations from several disciplines, Smith traverses lines of conflict to expose the limits and possibilities of making, its capacity to foreground the provisional and performative dimensions of participation in civic culture. For Smith, craft is itself a form of living history.”

The Donkey, The Jackass, & The Mule
Allison SMITH The Donkey, The Jackass, & The Mule Laminated wood, paint, horse hair, glass eyes, leather, brass tacks, oak boards, steel, rubber, hemp rope
The Donkey, The Jackass, and The Mule
2008
Laminated wood, paint, horse hair, glass eyes, leather, brass tacks, oak boards, steel, rubber, hemp rope
Parade performance, dimensions variable.

Three performative sculptures commissioned by the Indianapolis Museum of Art for the exhibition "On Procession," curated by Rebecca Uchill. Made in the context of an artist residency at the Herron School of Art and Design Sculpture Department. Performed in the museum's "On Procession" parade (April 26th, 2008) by Freetown Village Living History Museum. Photo credit Lisi Raskin.
Allison SMITH The Donkey, The Jackass, & The Mule Laminated wood, paint, horse hair, glass eyes, leather, brass tacks, oak boards, steel, rubber, hemp rope
The Donkey, The Jackass, and The Mule
2008
Laminated wood, paint, horse hair, glass eyes, leather, brass tacks, oak boards, steel, rubber, hemp rope
Parade performance, dimensions variable.

Three performative sculptures commissioned by the Indianapolis Museum of Art for the exhibition "On Procession," curated by Rebecca Uchill. Made in the context of an artist residency at the Herron School of Art and Design Sculpture Department. Performed in the museum's "On Procession" parade (April 26th, 2008) by Freetown Village Living History Museum. Photo credit Lisi Raskin.

Allison SMITH The Donkey, The Jackass, & The Mule
The Donkey, The Jackass, and The Mule
2008
24x34"

Photo by Allison Smith and Michelle Pemberton. Commissioned by the Indianapolis Museum of Art for the exhibition "On Procession," curated by Rebecca Uchill. Portrait of reenactors who performed in the museum's "On Procession" parade (April 26th, 2008) with Freetown Village Living History Museum. Photo exhibited in the IMA's "On Procession" exhibition.
Allison SMITH The Donkey, The Jackass, & The Mule
The Donkey, The Jackass, and The Mule
2008
15x10"

Photo by Allison Smith and Michelle Pemberton. Commissioned by the Indianapolis Museum of Art for the exhibition "On Procession," curated by Rebecca Uchill. Portrait of Sarah Elizabeth Cuffee, seamstress, played by April Lynem, who performed in the museum's "On Procession" parade (April 26th, 2008) with Freetown Village Living History Museum. Photo exhibited in the IMA's "On Procession" exhibition.

Allison SMITH The Donkey, The Jackass, & The Mule Limited edition offset litho print
On Procession Handbill
2008
Limited edition offset litho print
Please click on image again for more detail.

Commissioned by the Indianapolis Museum of Art for the exhibition "On Procession," curated by Rebecca Uchill. Distributed throughout Indianapolis, Indiana in early 2008. Drawing by Allison Smith; designed by Arjen Noordeman; published by the Indianapolis Museum of Art.
Allison SMITH The Donkey, The Jackass, & The Mule Laminated wood, paint, horse hair, glass eyes, leather, brass tacks, oak boards, steel, rubber, hemp rope
The Donkey, The Jackass, and The Mule
2008
Laminated wood, paint, horse hair, glass eyes, leather, brass tacks, oak boards, steel, rubber, hemp rope
Installation view, dimensions variable.

Three Performative sculptures, twenty wooden placards, and a series of photographs commissioned by the Indianapolis Museum of Art for the exhibition "On Procession," curated by Rebecca Uchill. Made in the context of an artist residency at the Herron School of Art and Design Sculpture Department. Performed in the museum's "On Procession" parade (April 26th, 2008) by Freetown Village Living History Museum. Photo courtesy of the Indianapolis Museum of Art.

Allison SMITH The Donkey, The Jackass, & The Mule Laminated wood, paint, horse hair, glass eyes, leather, brass tacks, oak boards, steel, rubber, hemp rope
The Mule
2008
Laminated wood, paint, horse hair, glass eyes, leather, brass tacks, oak boards, steel, rubber, hemp rope
approx. 102" h x 96" l x 41" w Please click on image again for more detail.

One of three performative sculptures commissioned by the Indianapolis Museum of Art for the exhibition "On Procession," curated by Rebecca Uchill. Made in the context of an artist residency at the Herron School of Art and Design Sculpture Department. Performed in the museum's "On Procession" parade (April 26, 2008) by living history organization Freetown Village (www.freetown.org). Photo credit Allison Smith.
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