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South Side Speculations

Youth Creators: C. Ayanlaja, D. Barrera, D. Bonsu, C. Chambers, S. Davis, A. Edwards, T. Ellis, L. Johnson, L. Julien, M. Lagundoye, Y. Lagundoye, S. Lee, A. Magana, N. Nobles-Vincent, M. Okwuedei, O. Olugbala, S. Peterson, S. Pettis, G. Rodriguez, J. Rubio, K. Thomas, M. Webb, K. Williams

Project Team: J. Ash, I. Bennett, J. Brier, J. Buckley, P. Jagoda, G. Kafer, M. Rhyne, C. Ridley, N. Scott, A. Thakkar, N. Versenyi, A. Yusuff, L. Wiltz, M. Wizinsky

April 4 - June 28, 2019 / AACC Gallery

South Side Speculations was produced by the Transmedia Collage Project, a collaboration between History Moves (University of Illinois Chicago). We received generous support from the Humanities Without Walls consortium, based at the Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The Humanities Without Walls consortium is funded by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.


South Side Speculations asks what is possible when young people investigate their neighborhoods’ histories and imagine how to build healthier and freer futures. Resisting progress narratives that promise things will always get better and nostalgic accounts of carefree pasts, this exhibition asks how economic, political and cultural structures evolve in the past, present, and future. We imagine alternative physical and social infrastructures for neighborhoods and communities, detail complex social determinants of health, and document ever present policing. Redirecting our scale of imagination, we seek to challenge the idea that all problems have solutions. The work you will see, hear, and touch should provoke questions about how we want the future of Chicago’s South Side to look, as it resists easy answers based on dominant representations of the city today.

South Side Speculations grew out of a two-year inter-generational collaboration among Chicago-based high school students, arts and humanities scholars, and practicing artists and storytellers. Initially called “Transmedia Collage”, we investigated the impact of structural violence on health and wellness across the South Side, with a particular focus on Englewood, Greater Grand Crossing, Washington Park, and Woodlawn. We created historically-grounded art and speculative media about what we discovered.

Infrastructure Heading link

How does structural violence play out at the level of a city’s infrastructure? How does it impact housing? How does it hinder transportation?

Infrastructure includes the foundations and facilities needed to sustain everyday life. These include-buildings, roads, railways, and energy supplies. Historically and at present, the South Side has suffered from inadequate infrastructure, racially segregated housing, health care deserts, and limited transportation options. Numerous political and social roadblocks keep material inequalities in place.

Speculate with us: How can we re-imagine futures in which South Side young people have the environments and resources needed not merely to survive but to thrive?

Health and Wellness Heading link

What does it mean to be healthy as an individual? As a neighborhood? As a city? How does structural violence impact health?

Structural violence is not a harmful action committed by one person against another. Consider instead how social, economic, and political climates disenfranchise entire populations of people. Looking to Chicago, we see how community resources have become substantially more unequal in the last 75 years. The South Side has the city’s highest rates of school dropout, obesity, commuting times, drug arrests, and incarceration. Across neighborhoods – from Woodlawn to Englewood – young people have been among the most heavily impacted.

Speculate with us: How can we reimagine futures in which young people across the South Side are healthier and freer from structural violence?

Policing Heading link

Cloning Masks & Protective Masks, Chicago, 2048

How can communities address policing that disrupts their everyday lives? What role can art and music play in stopping police injustice?

The police pervade South Side neighborhoods, residents’ school commutes, and family life. Most of the young people who worked on this project- all black and brown- have experienced some form of police surveillance in their short lifetimes. Police violence remains an ongoing threat across Chicago’s South Side. Conversations about the cases of Harith Augustus, Laquan McDonald, Rekia Boyd and others prompted visions of what a future without constant police presence might look and feel like. Students were inspired by Afrofuturist short films, including Wanuri Kahiu’s Pumzi and Janelle Monae’s Dirty Computer.

Speculate with us: How might Afrofuturism and science fiction help us shift to restorative practices that halt police violence? How might they help bring about a future of safer neighborhoods without policing?