Maya Mercer’s photo series “The parochial segments” is the starting point for her joint project “YUBA – Ring of fire” with playwright and author Albert Ostermaier.
Originally, Yuba County in California, like the entire United States, belonged to Native Americans. Entire indigenous communities (societies, peoples, tribes) were attacked by the gold prospectors and driven off their land.
Mercer’s protagonists are the descendants of white people who strayed here less than 100 years ago, fleeing the destruction (and drought) of their agriculture in the Great Plains. These “Okies” flooded California in waves that remind us of today’s migration movements, and encountered the same resistance, prejudice and cruelty – from their fellow American whites. This was not a racial conflict, but a class conflict, and it still is.
Maya Mercer has known this community since her youth and lived there continuously from 2012 to 2021. Mercer staged and photographed mainly local teenage girls and a boy with indigenous roots. The photographs are not a direct “reportage”, but rather see themselves as an artistic record of a “karmic debt” to the land, which is now characterised by extreme drought as a result of climate change.
Albert Ostermaier has taken up the mood of the photographs and written a series of poems. Thus a combination of two different art forms has been created.
In Göttingen, the project will continue to develop: Starting with the presentation of the photographs, the personal archives, diaries and pictures, the dreams and escapes of the protagonists will also be shown. They will be embedded in various sound and slide projections, contextualised by philosophical texts, discourses and interviews with politicians, scientists and artists. Ostermaier will develop a play on site, which will be repeatedly presented to the public in readings and public rehearsals through readings and performances by renowned actors. The idea is to make creative processes transparent in order to enable participation in what otherwise remains hidden and inexplicable. At the end of the hundred days, a book (books) is to be created, just like a play, which can then be performed elsewhere.