On the anniversary of Election 2016, we invite artists and neighbors to come together and reflect on any aspect of how we talk about politics and community today.
This project is partially funded through the Seattle Office of Arts & Culture smART ventures grant, and made possible with help from the Downtown Seattle Association. Thanks, Seattle!
On November 8, 2016, I voted for Hillary Clinton. That evening, as election results rolled in, a few friends and I sat together in a celebratory anticipation that dissolved into numbness and silence.
What buoyed me in the days after the election was the sense of community and vulnerability on social media. That silent acknowledgment that we needed each other for support felt so rare, and so nourishing, that I wanted to bottle it up—before routines, responsibilities, and simpler feelings smoothed it over for good.
I'd imagined a simple commemorative piece to the rawness of election night. Just American faces, overlaid with their social media posts from the election, woven into a tapestry that I'd share back one year later.
By sheer chance, a question flashed in my mind: what if the faces on the tapestry had spent the year talking to each other?
And that's how Into the Schism began, later renamed to Between Americans. In my initial vision, I would post two questions a month in a private forum, asking 24 participants to share their own political stories. The participants would respond to the questions, and if they wanted to talk more, they could call each other for one-on-one conversations, voice to voice.
That vision has changed quite a bit as the conversation has taken its own shape.
On November 8, 2017, the public will be able to hear clips from the participants' exit interviews, and see posts that participants agree to make public. The participants' identities will be obscured.
The project began with 12 people who voted for Trump and 12 who voted for Clinton, all referred through friends of friends. Most started the year as strangers. Participants were selected to approximate exit poll demographics along lines of race, gender, sexual orientation, and military experience.
The 24 voters live all over the map, from overseas to South Dakota to Seattle. Two identify as queer, two as Muslim, and eight are people of color, including one Trump voter. The Christian faith, military experience, careers in health care, and time spent in the Middle East can be found among participants on both sides.
Chris Lewis is the incredibly quick and intuitive web developer behind this site and the final web installation. An absolute gift.
I'm Bo (Boting) Zhang. I'd left my job in affordable housing development to work on independent projects, and got totally sidetracked by this in the meantime.
This project was helped along, especially in the first half of the year, by an incredible cadre of facilitators and advisors, whose names I omit out of respect for their privacy.
Here's a short list of other projects on dialoguing across the divide. There are plenty more out there!
I devoured a LOT of books in the course of facilitating this conversation, but one that I continue to think about is Dialogue: The Art of Thinking Together.
Join the Between Americans email list to receive very occasional updates about the project and the final installations.
If you have questions or suggestions, please contact Bo:
it has become impossible for me to ignore the fact that the world we are creating does not come close to fulfilling its promise.peter block, from community: the structure of belonging