A Contemplation for Juneteenth, 2020

The Falls – Or: Sisyphus Carrying His Own Weight

Before you watch, read this:

A lone black man stands on a desolate mountainside. Over the course of repeated attempts to scale the height, he falls again and again, but returns to the climb in spite of his injuries. As he climbs he hears the sound of a traditional African-American work song; it rises and falls along with him. As evening closes in, the man pauses for a final attempt. The indignity of an unseen force holding him back – knocking him down – is challenged by his determination and the history (represented by the song) he carries within his body.

This performance was staged within the video game Grand Theft Auto V by Matthew Ballou in April 2020. Grand Theft Auto V is a 2013 action-adventure game developed by Rockstar North and published by Rockstar Games. All players start the game as an African-American character named Franklin Clinton. Centering a black male body as a main character in the game is significant in a variety of ways. By dislocating the only playable person of color from the criminal activity that the game encourages I decontextualize the purpose of the character and suggest other narratives for his existence.

Performed by Matthew Ballou in GTAV on an XBOX One, April-June 2020.

Featuring “Big Boy, Can’t You Move ‘Em” by Uncle Bradley Eberhard.
Florida WPA Recordings, 1940 (AFC 1940/011), American Folklife Center, Library of Congress. Link: https://www.loc.gov/item/flwpa000375/

One thought on “A Contemplation for Juneteenth, 2020

  1. Golly Matthew, you make people think about things they might rather not think about. It was not them after all.
    It was their ancestors, Bastards, they had no respect for the black man. Thought him less than human.
    We will pay together for the sins of our fathers. Covid 19

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