Biennial Programming: Red Line Service

Now that our inaugural Biennial exhibition is up and rolling, and causing a stir in the press and local community, we’re amping up the conversation with weekly public programs. For the duration of the show (through February 21) we will host a variety of artist-led programs every Saturday at 2pm. In addition to facilitating a deeper understanding of the artwork on display, these talks are intended to expand public knowledge of the longstanding, politically and socially motivated art practices so prevalent in Chicago that serve as the core concept of our Biennial.

Last week marked the first program of 2016 with a talk by Biennial artist Billy McGuinness and his artistic collaborator Rhoda Rosen about their socially-engaged project Red Line Service. They were joined by Jamie and Cassie – two women associated with the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless – who generously shared their difficult, personal stories of experiencing homelessness. Both of these young women are incredibly resilient and inspiring. Billy spoke about his artistic practice and how he and Rhoda came to found Red Line Service, a series of social interventions into the issue of homelessness. Currently Red Line Service is providing cultural and intellectual programming for those experiencing homelessness as well as the general public within art spaces, such as David Weinberg Photography. At EAM and other venues, their public talks and programs work to make visible the profound problem of homelessness in Chicago and spark conversation with fruitful engagement within the art and homeless communities. Blurring lines is one of their good intentions, and talking with community members about the form and actions of their project is a definitive part of their social practice.

Red Line Service defies definition in many terms – artistic, theoretical, political and practical. Billy and Rhoda spent two months during Winter, 2014 going to both end stations of the CTA’s Red Line on Saturday nights from midnight to four in the morning. Bringing hot beverages and homemade food, they set up a table and chairs and invited people on the platforms, many of whom were homeless, to dine with them. Providing this “service” is, the collaborators admit, a bit “icky,” in that there is an inherent, albeit explicit, act of power in the exchange of the collaborators’ white, food-filled hands to the usually black, empty hands of late night Red Line riders. Its social complexity is one of the many reasons Red Line Service is an intriguing, challenging project – something that several of the community-engaged practices represented in our Biennial must face.

You can read more about Red Line Service and see their schedule of programs on their website and Facebook page, and to get more facts about homelessness in Chicago you can visit Chicago Coalition for the Homeless here.

This Saturday at 2pm, we will be hosting a talk by Biennial artist Jesse Howard, whose bold drawings speak about the conflicting natures of expectation and representation of black male experience.