Twin Findings Nag on UW is a site-specific sound installation created for FORGE inside the Madison Brass Works building. Inspired by the building's history as the site of fabrication for the famed "Sifting and Winnowing" plaque, and by contemporary activists who coined #TheRealUW hashtag, the work connects past-and-present narratives of academic freedom on the UW–Madison campus. The first is the case of Richard T. Ely (1894)—an economics professor who was censured for supporting strikes and boycotts, and for harboring progressive, pro-union beliefs. The second is Denzel J. McDonald AKA King Shabazz (2016), a UW student who was ambushed and removed from class by the UWPD for painting anti-racist graffiti on university buildings in response to repeated instances of hate speech on campus.
Ely was exonerated, prompting the famous “Sifting and Winnowing” statement from the UW Board of Regents while Shabazz was arrested on 11 counts of vandalism and one count of disorderly conduct. The work responds to these disparate episodes to raise questions about whose speech is truly free within the hierarchies of a university.
If students of color didn’t experience racism at UW-Madison, then King Shabazz wouldn’t have taken part in an act of civil disobedience in his graffiti. This is a long line of events through this nation’s history that shows us that property is valued more than black bodies, ever since black bodies ceased being property. — Matthew Braunginn