5.7.18 / New York / New York

‘Bring Down the Walls’ Combines Radical Political Ideas with a Weekly Dance Party

Countering systematic oppression with untethered freedom

  • [Photo: Monnelle Britt]

  • On Saturday, while fashion magazines and designers were prepping for their pre-Met Gala parties, Creative Time wanted to celebrate something else: educating the public on the prison industrial complex. Kicking off their new series Bring Down the Walls, Creative Time, in collaboration with The Fortune Society and Phil Collins (the visual artist) hosted a day of radical talks that explored why the prison system in America is in its current state. The ideas in the series are thought provoking. How are modern prison systems inexorably linked to racism and oppression? What do formerly incarcerated people return to society? How did our prison systems grow so out of proportion? What would happen if we abolished the prison system altogether?

    The free, weekly series offers insight into all of those questions and more, with a panel of rotating experts who want nothing more than to bring these topics to light and get the conversation started. Part societal observation, part philosophical query, and part political invocation, Bring Down the Walls is unique in that it’s bringing specificity to a cause in a time where it feels like there are too many problems to deal with. Prison reform is an issue many people are aware of, but it often gets swept op in the other discussions around politics, race, and gender. Bring Down the Walls brings all of those issues together, to showcase how our state of uncertainty has a systematic roots, that manifests itself with imbalanced power. By looking at our prison systems, our eyes are open to so much more, and with the level of human costs, we’re inclined to do something about it.

  • [Photo: Monnelle Britt]

  • [Photo: Monnelle Britt]

  • So how does this relate to dance music? The opposite of imprisonment is freedom, and so Bring Down the Walls offers that to guests through a dance party at the end of the night featuring DJs and performers from a variety of backgrounds. House music, despite its more recent connotations, has always served as a respite, and a place where progressive socio-political ideas could be shared. Collins, who spent time working with inmates, noticed the connection prisoners had to house music, and its rise as a musical genre at the same time of rising mass incarceration in the country. The event coincides with the release of Bring Down the Walls, a house compilation featuring artists like Larry Heard, Empress Of, Nguzunguzu, Honey Dijon, and MikeQ. The album is pay-what-you-wish on Bandcamp, and proceeds go to the organization Critical Resistance in support of ending the prison industrial complex.

    Bring Down the Walls takes place at the Firehouse, Engine Company 31 on 87 Lafayette Street every Saturday in May. It’s free and open to the public. Below is the upcoming schedule:

    Saturday, May 12
    2-9PM School for Radical Thought: The Carceral Continuum
    10PM – 6AM Nightclub: House of Vogue (+ MikeQ)

    Saturday, May 19
    2-9PM School for Radical Thought: Social Violence
    10PM – 6AM Nightclub: Brujas

    Saturday, May 26
    2-9PM School for Radical Thought: Radical Futures
    10PM – 6AM Nightclub: Papi Juice

  • [Photo: Monnelle Britt]

  • [Photo: Monnelle Britt]

  • [Photo: Peter Koloff]