Lynne Sachs’ Citizen Second Class awarded NYSCA Support for Artists grant / Light Work – Urban Video Project

Lynne Sachs Awarded a New York State Council on the Arts Support for Artists Grant.

Brooklyn, NY – Lynne Sachs received a Support for Artists grant
from the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA) to support her creative
work. Sponsored by Urban Video Project, this award will fund Citizen Second Class.
Through New York State’s continued investment in arts and culture, NYSCA has
awarded over $80 million since Spring 2023 to over 1,500 artists and organizations
across the state.

Governor Kathy Hochul said, “Research confirms what we’ve always known here in
New York: arts and culture are a powerhouse, with a staggering return on investment
for our economy and our communities. Nonprofit arts and culture organizations and their
audiences generated $151.7 billion in economic activity nationwide in 2022 and New
York’s unparalleled arts and culture sector is leading the way to benefit our residents,
our students and our visitors every day. I commend these grantees on their
achievements and look forward to their contributions in the coming year.”
NYSCA Chair Katherine Nicholls added, “Thanks to the unwavering support of
Governor Hochul and our Legislature, NYSCA is so proud to support the work of
organizations and artists from all across New York. Spanning the entire breadth of the
arts and culture sector – from world-renowned performers to after-school programs,
from long established museums to community arts collectives – these organizations and
artists together are a powerful driver of health, tourism, economy and education for our
residents and visitors. On behalf of Council and staff, congratulations to Lynne Sachs and thank you for your perseverance, your creativity and your tireless service to
New York State.”

About the New York State Council on the Arts
The mission of the New York State Council on the Arts is to foster and advance the full
breadth of New York State’s arts, culture, and creativity for all. To support the ongoing
recovery of the arts across New York State, the Council on the Arts will award $127
million in FY 2024. The Council on the Arts further advances New York’s creative
culture by convening leaders in the field and providing organizational and professional
development opportunities and informational resources. Created by Governor Nelson
Rockefeller in 1960 and continued with the support of Governor Kathy Hochul and the
New York State Legislature, the Council is an agency that is part of the Executive

Lynne’s Project: Citizen Second Class

Almost 200 years ago,  a group of Central New York women gathered together to voice their opposition to the fact that women in the United States had no legal identity separate from their husbands, were unable to sign contracts, vote, own property, obtain access to education, or gain custody of their children after divorce.  Ever since those pivotal conversations were held at the first women’s rights convention in Seneca Falls, New York in 1848, women have been slowly but surely claiming their place in society in terms of their ability to make their own decisions about their own lives.  This sense of progress came to an abrupt ending on June 24, 2022, when the U.S. Supreme Court made a landmark decision which held that the Constitution does not confer a right to abortion.  Throughout the country, women were told that they no longer had control of their own bodies.

I come to the topic of abortion fully aware of its volatile place in our country’s story. Tensions between the role of the state and bodily freedom go back to the very earliest days of our nation’s history.  Just as the 1619 Project  reignited the conversation around race and the pivotal place of slavery in this country’s narrative in 2020, newly charged debates around the legality of abortion force us to recognize the precarious relationship that women in this country have to their own bodies.

With the support of Light Work through their Urban Video Project, I will create “Citizen Second Class”, a 15-minute film and two associated live performances which will bring people with uteruses and their allies together in an area of New York State that has long been known as a hotbed for feminist outrage and action.  In collaboration with a range of organizations from Syracuse and neighboring towns, I will work with approximately 20 experienced and emerging artists as well as other interested participants.  I will produce, photograph and record movements, gestures and spoken word poetry that emerge from our discussions around this disturbing and far-reaching shift in American society.  Each of us will come to this moment as a witness to a problematic moment in our collective history.

My creative process for “Citizen Second Class” will include connecting with organizations such as the Syracuse Community Choir and Sankofa Reproductive Health and Healing Center as well as student, art, religious, and activist groups in the area.  In addition, as part of my research, I plan to reach out to Syracuse-based artists and performers, including poet and chant performance artist Amarachi Attamah, as well as Syracuse performance and conceptual artist Sayward Schoonmaker, whose recent piece “Majority Opinion (Presented from the Majority Perspective)” uses the Supreme Court’s Majority Opinion from the Dobbs case as source material for a verbatim documentary performance.

On June 24, 2023, the one-year anniversary of the Dobbs decision, I returned to my own hometown of Memphis, Tennessee to produce one section of a collaborative film project about abortion clinics across the country closing their doors in the wake of the overturning of Roe v Wade. In “Citizen Second Class”, I will further develop the aesthetic experimentation I began in this collaborative project. I am including five images from this project in my proposal. In Syracuse, I will photograph all of the participants either from behind, out-of-focus or in silhouette, which will allow them to express their responses to the issues we are exploring in a more physical, less traditionally “dramatic” form. There will be no faces in this film. In this way, our participants – whether they are new to this kind of improvisational work or veterans from the stage or screen –  will work quasi-anonymously, as  performers articulating a collective yet diverse point-of-view.

During my residency in Syracuse, I will also draw from my experience as a poet and a filmmaker with years of experience working with groups in both of these art forms, most recently at the Flowchart Foundation and the Poetry Society of America (both in New York State). I will ask my performers/ participants to write short texts that we will then shape into song. By working with local choral groups, we will bring these words into the film as a whole, emphasizing the sensation of “a loud whisper” which will allow listeners to hear distinctive articulations as well as a collective, musical breath.  In this context, I would very much like to bring in internationally recognized singers Pamela Z and Josephine Foster (either in person or through video conference) to help us expand our relationship to the musical potential of voice and text. I believe that the vocal nature of this work will result in an aural experience that will be extremely moving for spectators (passers-by or attentive viewers) watching the film outside the Everson Museum.

My own interdisciplinary engagement with film and live performance includes two distinct projects created in New York City. In “Your Day is My Night” (2011 -2013), I blended autobiographical monologues, intimate conversations, and staged performances to explore the lives of Chinese immigrants sharing a “shift-bed” apartment in the heart of Chinatown. Working with seven performers over two years, we presented our piece in theaters and community centers in Manhattan and Brooklyn.  In “Every Fold Matters” (a live performance with film presented from 2015 -2018) and later “The Washing Society” (a 45 min. film, 2018), I explored the charged, intimate space of the neighborhood laundromat by bringing together the people who work there with professional actors. Both of these projects are included as work samples in this proposal.

The final version of “Citizen Second Class” will be a film and two live performances. I will direct both the film and the live component of this project. The film itself will be exhibited over three to four months during the 2024-25 program year as part of the Urban Video Project’s on-going architectural projection program.  The two performances will also occur outside the museum in conjunction with the film screening.

A few weeks ago, I shot outside a former abortion clinic in Tennessee, one of the states in the US where abortion is no longer legal for ANY reason. I’ve been making films for three decades.  I do not exaggerate when I say that this was probably the riskiest, most vulnerable film shoot I have ever directed.  We had sixteen participants : 12 young women of child-bearing age, one older woman and two men.    Everyone knew that it was potentially dangerous to make a film about abortion outside a building where these services had once been available but now are not.  I did not tell my participants where we would be shooting until two days before our production date. We had several volunteer marshals to help with security, waiting in their cars or behind windows in nearby buildings in case anything happened. As precarious as we all felt at the time, standing in the scorching summer heat in medical gowns performing before a large camera, we were all excited, nervous and absolutely committed.  While the stakes are not as precarious in New York, the issues resonate just as much. In Syracuse at the Everson Museum, I will work on these same issues, recognizing the long activist history of the region but also finding new ways to address the disturbing expansion of state control on women and their bodies.