Congratulations to Cecil MecDonald, Jr. for receiving the 2010 Lucerne residency. The stipend awarded is sponsored by the Swiss Benevolent Society of Chicago. Cecil will be spending the month of July photographing in Switzerland. The selection committee selected Cecil over the other two finalists because of the interaction he proposed with the local Swiss population.
Here is Cecil McDonald, Jr.’s proposal:
“If it can be ventured that we are in a post racial society, then we must begin the process of revisiting and re-contextualizing history, if not only for reading, measuring and taking stock of just how far we have come. Artists are often cast in the role of interloper, interpreter and investigator of both the historical record and the contemporary condition.
James Baldwin’s A Stranger in a Village serves as my inspiration for the residency in Lucerne Switzerland. In this essay from Baldwin’s collected essays “Notes from a Native Son,” Baldwin uses his encounters with the villagers as an occasion to ponder the whole history of Western white supremacy, arguing that “the root of the American Negro problem is the necessity of the American white man to find a way of living with the Negro in order to be able to live with himself.” He weaves the narrative of how the stigma of being a Negro in the Unites States has followed him to the remote Swiss village, Loèche-les- Bains. This essay continues to resonate within me from my first reading in 1984 as a teen on the south side of Chicago, struggling to find and establish my cultural and artistic identity. To the present a man, artist and matured, but yet still searching, questing and questioning. If Baldwin’s idea that “people are trapped in history and history is trapped in them,” then I must consider the notion that people and their histories can both inform and free each other, in order to move forward to form and construct meaningful narratives and nuanced histories.
The recent radical transformation of the American political landscape forces me to consider the notion of a post-racial society, a post-racial self. And how might I use photography to see myself: a contemporized black man, in the role of a stranger in a distant land. Can I still be “a stranger” in a world considerably smaller than the one Baldwin encounter in 1954? I plan to roam the countryside, beaches and streets, venturing into homes, shops and restaurants, photographing and notating my interactions with the people and places of Lucerne. Playing the role of a fictitious tourist and a colorized artist, collecting bits and pieces of a constructed reality, both real and imagined.”
-Cecil McDonald, Jr.