A Teenager with Promise, Annotated by Alexandra Bell

Alexandra Bell: Counternarratives

Chalmers Hall, Haworth Hall, Watson Library, University of Kansas

Brooklyn-based artist Alexandra Bell presents the act of editing and reframing media narratives as public art. Bell earned her master’s degree in journalism at Columbia University before turning her attention to racial bias found in articles within her regular newspaper, The New York Times. Her Counternarratives series involves temporary, large-scale installations of revised Times articles on the sides of buildings. Bell’s work shares similarities with Claudia Rankine’s efforts in the KU Common Book Citizen: An American Lyric.

Bell installed three of her Counternarratives on the KU campus March 5-6.

On Haworth Hall, on a west-facing wall visible from Sunnyside Avenue, Bell installed the piece Venus Williams. In this work Bell suggests the Times should change its story on tennis star John McEnroe: “58 and Still Fussing” to one about Venus Williams: “37 and Still Winning.” This artwork draws strong comparisons to Claudia Rankine’s discussions of the media’s coverage of Serena Williams in Citizen. Bell’s critique in Venus Williams foregrounds discussion of gender, race, and sports in the media and contemporary society.

On the east side of Chalmers Hall, Bell installed the piece Charlottesville. In this work Bell reframes coverage of the 2017 Charlottesville protests, allocating more space for coverage and documentation of the deadly violence. Bell encourages viewers to prioritize discussion of the white nationalist rally in a college town and the violent aftermath of the counterprotests. Charlottesville supports discussions of race, politics, violence, and the prominence of Confederate murals and symbolism that already take place at KU.

On the east side of Watson Library, Bell installed A Teenager With Promise, Annotated. In this work, Bell radically edits media coverage of Michael Brown and Officer Darren Wilson of Ferguson, Missouri, creating a memorial to Brown rather than attempting to intertwine and legitimize a story of a policeman and his victim.

Bell’s visit and the creation of these murals is sponsored by the Office of First-Year Experience; Spencer Museum of Art; Emily Taylor Center for Women & Gender Equity; Department of African and African-American Studies; Department of American Studies; Department of Film & Media Studies; Department of Visual Art; The Hall Center for the Humanities; Kress Foundation Department of Art History; Office of Diversity & Equity; Office of Multicultural Affairs; University Honors Program; University of Kansas Libraries; and William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communications.

Selected images