project image
Alejandro Orengo

first performed on April 1, 2016
Penn Station Plaza, Baltimore, MD
performed once in 2016


Baltimore, MD


“Dark City” was a temporary public installation and performance that ruminated on the first anniversary of the tragic death of Freddie Gray while in Baltimore Police Department custody, as well as the subsequent city-wide uprising in the Spring of 2015.

“Dark City” took the form of a transparent house-like structure covered in black and brown vinyl, featuring sensationalized imagery that was popularized by media outlets during the time of the unrest. The accompanying sound piece considered the week-long, city-wide curfew-mandate, imposed by then-mayor Stephanie Rawlings Blake and intensified by Maryland Governor Larry Hogan’s declaration of a state of emergency—which saw the Baltimore streets occupied by the National Guard.

The transparent qualities of the sculptural structure juxtaposed with the dark silhouettes evoked notions of memory and trauma—momentarily functioning simultaneously as both a lighthouse and a shadow.

For the complimentary one night durational performance inside the sculpture, I stood in the center wearing a blue ribbon bottom, an American flag wrapped around my shoulders, and a bandana across my face. For over two and a half hours I spun in circles while a loud soundtrack played the familiar sounds of police choppers high in the sky—which have historically been used to survey Baltimore residents of color. The performance visuals juxtaposed with the audio were evocative of the domestic terror experienced by inner-city residents during the enforcement of the curfew mandate.

After this performance I fell ill and was bedridden for three weeks. It was during this downtime that I was reassured of the power of performance art and the very real effects it creates within the body of the enactor. Since then I’ve learned to use caution and developed new strategies for when I engage in the exertion of actions that arise from negatively charged instances.

The body never forgets—even when we can’t remember.