Chicago is the final destination for mobile performance troupe The Black Factory, the 1999 brainchild of experimental performance artist William Pope.L. Housed in an RV, The Black Factory staff travels the country to promote discussion on race and stereotype, stopping people on the street to engage them in friendly banter. “Basically, The Black Factory is an ongoing project in response to what I thought were too restrictive categories on what is human,” says Pope.L, whose famously provocative stunts include eating and regurgitating a newspaper and mailing postcards with ironic messages (“I Am Still Black”). “I wanted to create a project that would, beginning with a platform of blackness, allow me to create a performative conversation about expanding that definition and revealing that the edges of blackness extend into things we don’t normally think of as black.” In addition to participating, audiences are also encouraged to donate black objects to the Gift Shop’s Twice-Sold program, all the proceeds of which go to a local charity. “The BF is an old-fashioned idea, actually: that people should talk to each other,” says Pope.L. “It’s also a metaphor for ‘the frontier.’ To have the willfulness to step out and do something as silly as change the world!”
The Black Factory visits Chicago on June 25 at the Hyde Park Art Center and on June 27 at Gallery 400.