Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

Dread Scott Installation is Next Up in Playwrights Horizons Public Art Series

Scott's other piece sparks questions about why white supremacist power structures are perceived as societal givens; what other forms power might take and more.

Dread Scott Installation is Next Up in Playwrights Horizons Public Art Series

Playwrights Horizons is continuing their new Public Art Series with an installation of two provocative works by Dread Scott on the theater's 42nd Street facade (April 12-May 9). One work engages passersby in considering what a world unburdened from America's imperialism and often-destructive exceptionalism-a world without America itself-might look like. The other piece, a new text-based work making its debut at Playwrights Horizons, sparks questions about why white supremacist power structures are perceived as societal givens; what other forms power might take; and who can be trusted with it.

The materials of Dread Scott's pieces are wide-ranging-billboards and flags and ledgers, paintings and workshops and t-shirts, stickers and money and people-but his interrogation of power, aimed at spurring transformative thought, remains constant. "I make revolutionary art to propel history forward," reads the opening line of his artist statement. Scott brings American histories of lynchings, slave rebellions, and court decisions into the present; and today's drone strikes, police killings, and foreign wars he connects to the legacies of a violent past. To illuminate these violences, Scott often engages directly with the public itself: tourists and Wall Street brokers, museum-goers and passersby, firefighters and protestors.

Scott emphasizes the clarity and socially propulsive nature of his vision: "I look towards an era without exploitation or oppression. I don't accept the political structures, economic foundation, social relations and governing ideas of America. This perspective has empowered me to make artworks that view leaders of slave revolts as heroes, challenge American patriotism as a unifying value, burn the U.S. Constitution (an outmoded impediment to freedom), and position the police as successors to lynch mob terror."

At the beginning of his career, when at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, his work What Is the Proper Way to Display a U.S. Flag-which placed a participatory book on a shelf below a photomontage , slyly provoking viewers to walk over an American flag placed on floor as part of the work to experience the art-sparked national discussion (including the ire of George H.W. Bush). His public criticism of the sacrosanct symbol-and all it represented-again became a matter of national conversation when in 1990, Scott was part of the Supreme Court case "U.S. v. Eichman et al," after having joined with others to burn the flag outside the capitol in protest of the Flag Protection Act of 1989. Scott has, within his art, sustained this drive-to combine inquiry and provocation in a challenge to viewers to see beyond the walls of American conditioning-across decades, with a body of work that continues to find new artistic pathways toward revolution. Recently, Scott's Slave Rebellion Reenactment inverted ubiquitous visions of Civil War reenactments, gathering hundreds of Black re-enactors in a two-day, 26-mile recreation of the German Coast Uprising of 1811; the work, at its core, bore a similar question to that posed by much of Scott's art, including his two pieces at Playwrights Horizons: "what if?" What if history had gone differently? What if the future involved a great overturning of violent legacies?

Says Scott, "This country has disproportionate influence and shapes people's thinking-and with my work I want people to stop thinking like an American, to lift their sights beyond the permanence of empire. Philosophically these works ask: 'how do we change? How do people fight back, how do we come together to make the world a better place?'"

In April, Scott will join a renowned theater artist for a digital conversation -- further details on this Lighthouse Talk will be announced soon.

Playwrights Horizons' Public Art Series began in January 2021 with new work by street and subway artist Jilly Ballistic, and continued with Ken Gonzales-Day, on view through April 11. This initiative, conceived and organized by artist, activist, and writer Avram Finkelstein and two-time Tony-winning set and costume designer David Zinn (Playwrights: Hir, The Flick, Circle MIrror Transformation), amplifies the aims shared by visual artists and theater-makers to pursue social transformation and disrupt our routine patterns to reawaken our awareness. The series inaugurates Playwrights Horizons' Lighthouse Project, an eclectic series that, through installations, performances, and events, aims to stretch the definition of playwriting and how a theater building can be used.

In addition to the Public Art Series, Lighthouse includes collaborations with groundbreaking performance groups citywide, offering live events, digital events, print pieces, workshops and concerts: a list that will grow over time, as the theater seeks to expand the use of its building by an ever-growing range of artists. Beyond the installation series, the program's initial offerings include collaborations with dance-theater-media company Raja Feather Kelly | the feath3r theory, podcast play company The Parsnip Ship, and playwright Branden Jacobs-Jenkins.

About Dread Scott

Dread Scott makes revolutionary art to propel history forward. His work is exhibited across the U.S. and internationally. In 1989, his art became the center of national controversy over its transgressive use of the American flag, while he was a student at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Scott became part of a landmark Supreme Court case when he and others defied the new law by burning flags on the steps of the U.S. Capitol. He has presented a TED talk on this. Scott's studio is now based in Brooklyn. His work has been included in exhibitions at MoMA PS1, the Walker Art Center, Jack Shainman Gallery, and Gallery MOMO in Cape Town, South Africa, and is in the collection of the Whitney Museum and the Brooklyn Museum. His performances have been presented at BAM and on the streets of Harlem, NY. He is a 2019 Open Society Foundations Soros Equality Fellow and has received grants and fellowships from United States Artists and Creative Capital Foundation.

For more information visit:

Featured on Stage Door

Shoutouts, Classes, and More from Your Favorite Broadway Stars

Related Articles View More Off-Broadway Stories

More Hot Stories For You