I drifted into a nap at 3pm on Saturday, December 9th, waking an hour later to find all of Columbus covered in snow. I freaked out – it was cold, and I’m Californian, and I didn’t understand how the ground could disappear so quickly. But walking up to the entrance of Second Sight Project later that night, the snow felt like a perfect accompaniment to the art on display: a blanket of quiet interrupted by the bright vitality of the work inside.
Second Sight Project, founded by Mona Gazala in 2012, serves the Franklinton neighborhood by hosting “participatory public art projects,” funding residencies, and doing educative outreach. The impact Second Sight has had is visible to the naked eye – their “Faces of Franklinton” mural at South Green and Sullivant beams over the neighborhood, and inside the building their bookcases are overflowing with items for their residentiary book program.
The organization hosts exhibits, too, and on Saturday the gallery space was filled by a group show titled “Wrecka Playa – Album Art in 20 Years.” Though the exhibit was billed as a visual art installation featuring “album cover art as realized by visual and literary artists for music 20 years in the future,” once inside, I found that it was that and much more. Participatory artists built worlds of content for each album: backstories, liner notes, scandals, and celebrations.
Inside the gallery, the imagined album covers were diverse, ranging from traditional paintings to collage to digital art. Each was accompanied by written content, though the length and breadth of that content differed. Some, like local writer Hanif Abdurraqib, wrote entire essays – in Abdurraqib’s case, describing a future Future album, Sensational. Across the room, Eric San Juan asked the viewers if a Radiohead album was still a Radiohead album if it was created by just one man, and Beyoncé, tired of the upkeep that comes with constant performance, releases an album with Jack White. Prince and Micheal Jackson released a lost session of music (the making of which generated countless conversational gems), and Jay-Z made an album called 8:88.
Each piece imagined a world 20 years in the future, informed by contemporary music and conversation, but evolved by time. Looking to the future is a difficult task in any moment, but especially when artists are expected to grapple with centuries of power dynamics and systems of oppression with each creation.
Each of the artists highlighted by Wrecka Playa more than rose to the task. Wrecka Playa was a triumph of world-building applied to popular culture; music writing made magic. It was a genuine joy to experience each piece: moments of sharp and complicated racial discussion mixed with imagination and humor. Sitting in the adjoining gallery room, sipping on a drink made with homemade syrup, snacking on a goody-bag of candies, and enjoying a conversation about the possibilities of VR tech in art to come, I felt very lucky to be in Columbus, even if it was covered in ice. Second Sight Project shows that investment in local Columbus artists and neighborhoods can be done, and can be done well.