the inconvenient dead project
created by Ariana Austin & Shirin Mozaffari
text written by Ariana Austin
The Inconvenient Dead Project is a video projection that went live at sunset on December 9th, 2012 at approximately 4:15 pm. The installation consisted of Phillis Wheatley’s name appearing on multiple graves at the Granary Burial Ground. The first person of African descent in the Americas to publish a book, she was put on trial to determine if she was indeed capable of producing the work.
The idea for the project is to highlight the multiple accounts of Phillis Wheatley’s burial site. There are three rotating theories: that she is buried in the tomb of her master in Granary Burying Ground, in Copp's Hill Burying Ground, or in an unmarked grave 'somewhere' in Boston. The questions driving this work are the following: Would this kind of multiplicity be allowed for other heroic figures? What would it mean to 'replace' the gravestone of Samuel Adams with Phillis Wheatley; reframing the patriot/revolutionary narrative with Phillis Wheatley at its center? Ultimately, how does a society honor its inconvenient dead; those who remind us of the destruction, violence, and darker pasts that national myths cannot include because they interrupt the collective good conscience.