“Racism is worse than terrorism.”
James Sham is an artist currently based in Richmond, Virginia, by way of Gwelph, Ontario, and Hong Kong. He works in performance, video, and photography. Rather than staging happenings or orchestrating intricate, choreographed events, his work relies on rigorous field research, a method drawing equally on sociology and performance art. While Sham’s concerns are manifold, he tends to engage society at its margins, in a frank and guileless manner that is often both disconcerting and charismatic—for the artist, the viewer, and the people approached in his performances.
The following video documents To Displace and Redistribute Debris, in which Sham swept a pile of dirt and dust across Richmond. He began in Church Hill, a historic neighborhood downtown, near the site where Patrick Henry delivered his “Give me liberty or give me death” speech in 1775. He moved northwest as he swept, bringing the debris from poorer black neighborhoods in the city’s center toward more affluent white neighborhoods in Richmond’s suburbs. After nearly ten hours of sweeping, he ended the day at the elite Country Club of Virginia.
The performance took place on Remembrance Day, when a parade marches through downtown Richmond as residents mourn their countrymen lost in the Civil War.