Critically acclaimed photographer and video artist Carrie Mae Weems combined her talents as a writer, producer and artist to present the multifaceted stage production Past Tense. This important work, says Weems, closely resembles the Greek Tragedy Antigone wherein a man dies unjustly and his sister fights to bury him honorably. The production therefore examines issues emanating from present-day race relations and racial violence visited upon black people at the hands of law enforcement. This moving performance has the solemnity of a funeral mass, gripping audience where it is being presented all across the country.
The production stopped at The Power Center in Ann Arbor on February 15 & 16 where the playwright answered audience questions. Weems said she was stunned by the escalation of violence on black bodies by the hands of law enforcement reported by television and print media. Weems cited a study concluding that a spike in deaths of black and brown men and women at the hands of law enforcement coincided with the eight years of the Obama presidency. Weems said she felt compelled to create Past Tense in order to use her visual art and prose to communicate the enormity of the toll violence takes on our society. “It divides us, it weakens us, it destroys us.