Henry "Box" Brown: FOREVER
Wilmer Wilson IV’s public performance art series 'Henry “Box” Brown: FOREVER' was inspired by the historic figure Henry “Box” Brown, a 19th century slave from Richmond, Virginia, who mailed himself to freedom in the north. Wilmer Wilson IV used his own body to examine what freedom means. Without telling a story, each performance had a narrative arc: a beginning where the artist spent an average of four hours applying the stamps to cover his entire body, a climax where he engaged with the public on the street and requested to be mailed in a post office, and a conclusion where he returned to an indoor site and, in an act of liberation, peeled off the layer of stamps. The site selections played a key role in how each performance unfolded. The curator and artist worked together to determine optimal locations in terms of diverse spectators for the interior and street portions of the performances. They chose institutions and neighborhoods associated with the black community and black history, which were sometimes in contrast with the surrounding neighborhoods. For the final, most symbolic performance, they chose the iconic, monumental core of Washington, which is also the stereotypical, touristic Washington. 'Henry “Box” Brown: FOREVER' was commissioned by the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities (DCCAH) as a part of the spring 2012 5x5 temporary public art project. 5x5 resulted in twenty-five groundbreaking temporary public art installations that were installed concurrently throughout Washington, DC. The projects activated and enlivened publicly accessible spaces and added an ephemeral layer of creativity and artistic expression to neighborhoods across the District of Columbia.