As I walked up the stairs and into the eerie old house known as Public Space One, I was handed a flyer and told, “This performance contains nudity, so no photos or videos are allowed.” I nodded and stepped inside, hearing the disembodied voices of racist bigots spewing hate before I could see anything at all.
When I first walked in the door, I saw spectators all the way up the staircase to my right, filling the two large doorways to my left. Eventually, I found a spot within the crowd and saw Christopher-Rasheem McMillan – a University of Iowa graduate student who studies both Dance and Gender, Women’s & Sexuality Studies – emotionally dancing across the floor amidst disturbing YouTube videos. A teenage boy spewing racist bulls**t on Snapchat repeated over and over.
McMillan wore a bland, navy blue sweatshirt. He had nothing on his legs aside from underwear and covered his face with a black mask. I felt that this was a way for McMillan to represent the black community as a whole, a statement that white supremacy is both a personal struggle and an attack on an entire population, though I am not confident in that assumption. However, I am confident in saying that the performance was incredibly powerful. I have to admit, in a way I felt uncomfortable. Interestingly, every spectator at The Mirror/The Reaping was white. I wonder if others felt the same.
Every once in a while, McMillan would respond emotionally. As the voice of a white slave-owner echoed through the room, he cried in anguish on the floor. At one point, he laughed loudly, but the laugh was ironic and devastating. For the last few minutes I was inside he lay on the floor, completely still, as the same videos repeated on the walls. As I walked back out the door, I heard a voice say, “You just have to wait ‘til they die.”