Studio CNS / Counter Narrative Society

Glaciers Under Our Skin with the Double-Skinned Nation

An Immersive Site-Specific Performance and Intervention Workshop
Tackling Domination, Assimilation and Racism in an age of Mass Imprisonment

5.4.2010 | Cambrige, MA
Pilot Anti-Racism Workshop by the Counter Narrative Society (CNS):
(Mabel Negrete with Mary Ann Brooks + Joan Jones’ Performance Class + John Hulsey)

Glaciers _ Under Our Skin uses immersive performance and social parody/critique to create a science-fiction deviant society, the Double-Skinned Nation. Participants are invited to become members and instigate a basic critique about race-class making institutions that have kept the America society torn apart and segregated in pernicious ways (2). Wearing gray monotone coveralls and lycra masks matched to skin tone, participants are led through a series of creative experiments in radical pedagogy. The workshop-intervention makes visible the concealed essentialist ideological formations that have crystallized under our skin, under our social fabric. For example, the work cites the historical lineage of the White and Black Caste System, the Census Racist Stratification, and the pseudo-scientific White Essences of the 1800’s (3). All of which have been manifesting until this day in how cities are zoned and segregated; public schools are racially/ethnically divided; federal funds are distributed across counties; and law enforcement agencies disproportionally are racially profiling non-white populations.

The performance is divided into four parts, each corresponding to four spaces in the Media Lab Complex of MIT. Beginning in the ‘Dark Zone’, the lower level of the Weisner Building, and ending in the ‘Light Zone’, the atrium of the Maki Building, the performance functions like a ritual. By recalling myths about white dominance, it submits participants to question assimilation, racism and radical critique about mass imprisonment (4).

Each zone has a specific function. In the first space, participants are initiated into the Double-Skinned Nation. In the ‘Loading Zone’, a transitional space between the two buildings, members of the DSN are invited to dance out our funk to the sound of Janaelle Monae’s “Tightrope.” In the ‘Black-and-White Zone’, participants bawl out the words “Black” and “White” alongside a video in which these words are repeated on a continuous loop. In the ‘Light Zone’, participants stage a public intervention in which a cartographic diagram is set up showing US racial demographics and an instructional video, “Unequal States of Amnesty,” is shown.

1. Western, Bruce. 2006. Punishment and Inequality in America. Russell Sage Foundation.
2. Wacquant, Loic. 2009. Punishing the Poor. The Neoliberal Government of Social Insecurity.
Duke University Press
3. Zack, Noami. 1998. Thinking About Race. Wadsworth Publishing Company.
4. Garland, David. 2001. Mass Imprisonment: Social Causes and Consequences.