Art as Reportage

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Original work inspired by a deadly confrontation.

Assistant Professor of Art Tyler Starr has created a work that asks viewers to further consider a tragedy that continues to polarize Greensboro, N.C., more than 30 years after it occurred. “Auto Record” comprises a 50-inch by 8-1/2 inch broadsheet folded into 10 panels and monochromatically printed on both sides with images of cars involved in The Greensboro Massacre of Nov. 3, 1979.

On that Saturday morning, a confrontation erupted between a caravan of Ku Klux Klan members and Communist Workers Party members gathering for an Anti-Klan parade through the city streets. At one point all the cars stopped and a brawl ensued as people spilled out of their cars. It quickly escalated and five CWP members were mortally wounded by gunfire. The melee was captured on film by journalists and detectives who were following the caravans. The FBI conducted a thorough investigation, and in 2005 a Truth and Reconciliation Commission was established to study it. But no one involved was ever convicted of a crime, and the incident has remained controversial ever since.

Starr based his pamphlet on FBI archives that have been unclassified and are now available online. He explained, ‘Auto Record’ is my attempt to contribute to the conversation by presenting facts about cars involved. I’ve tried to digest thousands of pages of FBI documents, which include facts relating to weapons used, the vehicles that carried the weaponry, bullet holes in the cars, and biographies of the five individuals killed.”

He continued, “My presentation is as neutral as reportage can be. It’s a dead-pan interpretation that doesn’t take sides or assign guilt. I think I’m sensitively acknowledging the loss of life on that day, and offering a useful, condensed visualization of the incident.”

Starr exhibited the work in November at “Art in Odd Places,” a Greensboro, N.C., event that originated in New York City.

“My work in general is inspired by conundrums. When you look at messy issues like the Greensboro Massacre, you find that the solution is rarely 100 percent satisfactory,” he said. “I take them on in a spirit of humility, because my artistic attempts to grasp some understanding of these convoluted issues also inevitably fall short.”

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About Author

Bill Giduz '74

Bill Giduz’s association with Davidson began in 1970 when he enrolled as a freshman. Nine years later he attended his fifth reunion, learned of an opening in the communications department, and has now worked gratefully in that office for 34 years. He commutes on two wheels, juggles on Sunday afternoons and regularly plays basketball with much quicker young men.

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