DPI alum Hank Willis Thomas Interviewed in Hyperallergic

Monday, Aug 24, 2020

screen print on retroreflective vinyl with aluminum backing, photograph of Wilmington riots and National Guard occupation

Hank Willis Thomas, “First stages” (2018), from Black Survival Guide, or How to Live Through a Police Riot, photo by Frank Fahey, 1968 (courtesy the News Journal), text from Northeast Conservation Association, Black Survival Guide, or How to Live Through a Police Riot, c. 1960s (courtesy of the Delaware Historical Society)

Artist and alum of the NYU Tisch Department of Photography & Imaging Hank Willis Thomas and fellow artist Ebony Brown talked to Hyperallergic about interdependence and How to Live Through a Police Riot, an archival handbook that inspired his 2018 series of the same name.

"'IMPORTANT,' asserts the opening line of a pamphlet that contemporary conceptual artist Hank Willis Thomas found a couple years ago at the Delaware Historical Society. 'Because you are black, this booklet is important to you. It may help save your life.'

Thomas was doing research for a 2018 commission from the Delaware Art Museum (DAM) to mark the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination and Wilmington’s grief-stricken public response, followed by a nearly unprecedented nine-month-long occupation of the city by National Guardsmen. The artist had seen photographs of the 1968 occupation of Wilmington but was surprised by this 13-page handbook titled BLACK SURVIVAL GUIDE OR How To Live Through A Police Riot, typewritten on 8 1/2-by-11-inch office paper...

...Thomas transformed the pamphlet into a screen printed series on retroreflective vinyl called “Black Survival Guide, or How to Live Through a Police Riot” (2018), overlaying the complete text over images of the Wilmington occupation... The museum recently reinstalled 'Black Survival Guide' when it reopened to the public in early July, in response to the recent wave of Black Lives Matter marches and protests."