Tank Drama: Deliberations from The Wet Grave

July 05, 2013

Greetings All!

It is with great pleasure that I announce the exhibition I curated in my former role as Interim Director of Visual Arts at the Contemporary Arts Center.  Please see details below:

Tank Drama: Deliberations from The Wet Grave
July 6, 2013 – September 22, 2013
Contemporary Arts Center New Orleans

Artists working in a multiplicity of art forms—theater, writing, visual art, film, music, dance, and more—are brought together under the umbrella of The VESTIGES Project to present their work in the Lupin Foundation Gallery, along with scheduled events in the Freeport-McMoRan Theater and additional off-site venues.

These greatly varied works have evolved over the course of the past eight years, many winding their way through several iterations in different locales. The artists and works often traveled to cities with a high concentration of New Orleanians in diaspora, such as Houston and Atlanta. Others reached out to people and places with parallel coastal experiences and concerns. Some works passionately address issues such as global warming, public health, racism, and economic inequities, while others gently touch upon modes of peaceful escape, meanderings of memento mori, and metaphors and tools for intimate community healing and rebuilding.

Assembled together, these works are a potent representation of just some of the creative networks documenting, remembering, and re-visioning post-Katrina New Orleans. The ongoing efforts to think through the past while establishing fresh connections propels us toward new collaborative possibilities as we envision the future of New Orleans.

Tank Drama is defined as “a sensational or cheap melodrama in which water is employed in the scenic effects, as in representing a rescue from drowning.”

1906 Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

The Wet Grave

The “wet grave” term for New Orleans, these days more commonly called The Big Easy, is first referenced in TransAtlantic Sketches, by James Edward Alexander, a Captain in a Scottish foot regiment of the British Army.  He detailed his travels around the New World, in 1833, when he visited New Orleans and emphasized that it did not resemble any other American city.

There are other references in old newspapers, ephemera, and even a cocktail invented with this appellation.  The name “wet grave” arose from the fact that New Orleans, in addition to its below sea level status which flooded graves and inspired the usage of above ground crypts, was also a rugged city to live in being marked by yellow fever, alligators, snakes, and other pestilence, thereby offering a shortened life expectancy to its residents.

As many of you know, The VESTIGES Project  (began in 1984 as an interdisciplinary collective of artists and writers who shared a common sense of place and sensibility nurtured by New Orleans.  To VESTIGES Project participants, New Orleans is a complex and eclectic culture of remnants, relics, rituals, memories, and myths characterized by a hazy distinction between fiction and truth, facade and reality, past and present.  In 2006 VESTIGES: Think Tank began as a 3-year roving residency under the auspices of the Contemporary Arts Center to explore the flood that turned New Orleans into true vestiges and its aftermath.



“The Things that Float” by Rontherin Ratliff

“The Things that Float” by Rontherin Ratliff

“After Disaster” Rondell Crier

“After Disaster” Rondell Crier

These explorations have continued in a variety of manifestations, called VESTIGES/Enactments 2013 as I assumed the role of Interim Director of Visual Arts at the Contemporary Arts Center April 1, 2012.

As a co-founder of VESTIGES I curated a series of dialogues, public art projects, publications, events and exhibitions in partnership with various organizations and individuals.



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