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Exhuming My Father

2014 July 28
by fzine

Writing the Body_Color_image by Dawnell Smith

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With much thanks to the Rasmuson Foundation for their project grant, “Exhuming My Father” is underway. Beginning with our first installation at the International Gallery of Contemporary Art in Anchorage on August 1, 2014 as part of a collective called “In the Beholder” – our piece is titled, “Writing the Body”.

“In the Beholder” is a collective show curated by visual and performance artist Gretchen Weiss and with support from the Alaska Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired. Last winter, Weiss selected a dozen artists to create an installation of 10 pieces that would lend itself to those who could not see it. The pieces range from sculpture to the conceptual to audio.  All 10 pieces have been created to emphasize sightless exploration.

“Writing the Body”  is a sound collage comprised of anonymous stories that  were shared in our sound booth during the month of June at IGCA – contributors were asked to share their stories of being victimized and victimizing.

“Exhuming My Father” is a multi-media, multi-disciplinary art project co-created and co-directed by Teeka Ballas and Dawnell Smith. Inclusive of a literary memoir, an audio slide show that captures the project in process, and an art documentary about one woman trying to unravel the lies, secrets and traumas of her family, this project examines the details of the day-to-day, deep tissue and thematic outcomes of sexual abuse on survivors and the people who love them.

We will tell this narrative through the personal story of abuse, accusation and doubt, and the ensuing journey to learn the truth and come to terms with shame, rage, uncertainty, betrayal, detachment and unreliable memory. Throughout, we will dissect, through art making, the manner in which the survival tools employed while under threat can become the obstacles to intimacy, love and fulfillment.

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Many thanks to all who came out last night to the opening at IGCA – For those who missed it, you can still pay witness – until the end of the month.

Exhibit collage


Writing the Body

A community mixed media performance memoir

Materials: Audio montage, found objects, written work

Artists’ Statement:

The violation of the body writes its story. Trauma crafts its account.
Memoir told through the narrator of no choice, no voice, no power etches its record into skin, spine, genitals, amygdala, heart. To write as witness writes the body anew.

Project notes:

Writing the Body represents the first public art action within a larger project, Exhuming My Father.
In its entirety, this multi-disciplinary, multi-media project addresses childhood sexual abuse and the impacts – the ripple effects – it has on individuals – their health, relationships, families and communities. It includes a collaborative memoir, audio slideshow and documentary.Exhuming My Father is a recipient of a $7,500 Rasmuson Foundation project grant. This seed money will allow filming to commence this fall.
For information about the project or how to support it, contact Dawnell Smith at or text/call 903-9940.

Special thanks
We wish to thank Gretchen Weiss for inviting us into this show, the International Gallery for allowing us to build a makeshift audio booth in a storage room, and friend and artist Stephen Grey for letting Writing the Body share First Friday with him in June. Most of all, we thank the 50-plus anonymous collaborators who told their stories in our lemon-aid stand audio booth. We owe you our stories, too.

Teeka Ballas and Dawnell Smith






One Response leave one →
  1. Jenell Scherbel permalink
    July 29, 2014

    Brave project! I’m in awe & admiration.

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