ArtPrize entry explores transgender rights, same-sex marriage

ArtPrize Eight The Bureau of Personal Belonging
"The Bureau of Personal Belonging" by Stacey Kirby, an entry at the 50 Monroe building. (Sept. 23, 2016)


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — An interactive performance piece in the ArtPrize Eight competition explores a number of current and controversial topics.

The piece called “The Bureau of Personal Belonging” is housed at the 50 Monroe building in downtown Grand Rapids.

Artist Stacey Kirby, of North Carolina, told 24 Hour News 8 she’s trying to spark conversation exploring things like transgender restroom rights and same-sex marriage.

Once visitors step into the “Bureau of Personal Belonging,” they’ll immediately notice the wood paneling she’s installed and the dated office décor.

The first stop is the desk of the identity officer where people will pen their name, the date, and their “identity.”

“Whatever identity that you want to list,” Kirby explained. “So, however you feel like you’re identifying in your life these days because this office is totally open for whoever.”

The initial task of identifying yourself could cause some confusion. Some people have written their gender, while others have written things like “doctor,” “human,” or even “taco eater.”

Though it could make some people uncomfortable, Kirby said that part of her entry is meant to bring light to the labels we place on ourselves and others.

Kirby has been collecting what she calls “declaration archives” for a decade.

Each person is asked to write down what personal belongings they have with them. Responses range from emotional baggage to the lint in a pocket. There’s no limit to what people can write down.

While exploring the artwork, 24 Hour News 8’s Marvis Herring randomly picked up one which read “a fresh divorce and a fresh layoff.”

Kirby said that she was surprised by the personal responses at first, but later heard from people who stopped by that they found relief in sitting down and writing.

Kirby’s personal search for belonging is what led up to her ArtPrize entry.

“When I began this project, I was really trying to deal with and grapple with my own sense of belonging as a queer female artist in North Carolina,” said Kirby.

One part of her entry hits especially close to home.

Inspired by the controversial transgender bathroom bill in North Carolina, Kirby is exploring Michigan Senate Bill 993 and House Bill 5717.

“You’re actually filling out an application for a permit to use the restroom,” said Kirby.

She calls the two state bills “divisive and discriminatory legislation.”

Once ArtPrize ends, Kirby says she is going to mail every response from a few different stations to Gov. Rick Snyder’s office.

There will be performers at her ArtPrize entry this weekend, but Kirby wants members of the LGBTQ community to volunteer as performers for the remainder of the art competition. Those interested can email Kirby at thebureauofpb@gmail.com.

For more information on performance hours, click here.

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