The Writer Who Could Not Say (Pigs for the Ancestors – Eat Your Heart Out, John Deer)

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Detroit Contemporary is a performance space and art gallery in urban Detroit.  Gabriel Embeha’s  2-hour performance piece uses a part of the first floor and a part of the basement of this space.

On the first floor, in a 2 x 2.5 meter space that is like a nook, a figure dressed in a feed cap and orange camouflage hunting gear named John Deer paces back and forth. He is alternately reading from one of the original, less known versions of the Grimm’s tale of Snow White, and an ethnographic account of the Solomon Islands entitled Kwaio Religion, and a protocol for evaluating “cultural factors”  in conflict zones.

John Deer pauses when people come by to engage them in conversation and share his stories of what he is calling ‘the pacific war’ and, more specifically, stories of his training in anthropological methods via the protocol written by anthropologist Doug Walters. Deer explains the potential uses of anthropology in the pacific war and how he was able to come to understand and teach it to others in the military and intelligence organizations. He constantly refers what he and others in the military have come to call the “Schweinriters.”

In passing, Deer also tells people of ‘one of these things’ that is being kept in the cellar of Detroit Contemporary, the door to which is in the next room, but chained. There is a video feed in the basement, though, that visitors can watch on a screen near the basement door.  In the video feed from the basement, they see a strange, pig-like “Schweinriter” trying to meet a challenge set by Doug Walters to try and write Walters out of existence. Through the door, which opens a crack, they are also able to hear things coming from the basement.

If they have any more questions, Deer tells the visitors, they can come back and ask. He hands them a flyer before they go with his bio, some program information, and how to contact him.