John Sims, a Black artist and activist whose work explores the symbols of white supremacy, became an allegory unto himself this week when he was detained and questioned by police officers in his apartment at the 701 Center for Contemporary Art in Columbia, South Carolina, where he is the artist in residence. His current multidisciplinary exhibition there, AfroDixia: A Righteous Confiscation (until 25 June), reimagines the Confederate battle flag as a symbol of hope by transposing its traditional colour scheme.
At around 2am on on 17 May, four police officers spotted an open door that is “usually secured especially after business hours” and began to search the building according to the Free Times. The officers found Sims in his lofted bedroom and—reportedly ignoring the artist’s request that they identify themselves—climbed the stairs to his bedroom, guns drawn, and handcuffed the artist for six minutes while they questioned why he was there, the Columbia news site reports.
Sims is the current artist-in-residence at the art space, and his centrepiece installation in his show there, Five Flags: A Group Hanging, features a gallows with Confederate flags hanging from nooses. The controversial symbol hung over the South Carolina statehouse until 2015, and just last year Confederate flag supporters, who deny its links with racism and white supremacy, waved the banner around the capitol building on the fifth anniversary of its removal.
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SOURCE: The Art Newspaper, Daniel Cassady