Stacey L. Kirby’s Power of the Ballot explores the ultimate form of participation in our government - voting. Kirby advocates for political awareness and participation through voting in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s gutting of the Voting Rights Act of 1964 (2013) in Shelby County v. Holder and subsequent nation-wide state legislation limiting citizens’ rights leading up to the 2020 United States presidential election.
In its original form, Power of the Ballot established a site-specific voting precinct constructed of cardboard Banker’s boxes transformed into customized ballot boxes complete with paper ballots. (See image on clipboard.) Both box and ballot designs are drawn from research into state and national historical archives that document the evolution of the voting process. In this work, Kirby referenced her own childhood memories with a woven green curtain that provides privacy for casting ballots reminiscent of large mechanical lever voting machines.
For Rights and Wrongs at the Carroll Mansion, Kirby constructed a customized Baltimore City ballot box for self-guided voting within the exhibition to comply with COVID-related restrictions. Visitors are welcome to contemplate, “What obstacles do you overcome to vote?” and write in all candidates that come to mind on the ballots designed by Kirby. All ballots that are cast in the election are tallied by community volunteers and a ‘winning obstacle’ is announced after the mini-precinct closes in December. All ballots are then addressed and mailed to public officials that vote to limit voting rights. Through Kirby’s process in Power of the Ballot, she invites participants to contemplate the private and shared public experiences of voting that test our willingness to trust that each vote counts.
POWER OF THE BALLOT: BALTIMORE CITY
STACEY L. KIRBY
Kirby is a queer, self-appointed civil servant from North Carolina who creates socially-engaged interactive performance art. Her performative interactions set within site-specific installations utilize bureaucratic forms, postures and language in vintage office environments to engage participants and community performers in questions around civil authority. Through humor and satire, Kirby reinvents the bureaucratic process in alternative, private and public spaces to elicit diverse dialogue about identity, community and human rights in the United States. Developed over the past 20 years, in more than 200 performances, with over 300 community performers and 10,000 participants, Kirby’s work evolves with the physical and historical setting, political climate and participants’ involvement at each location.
Kirby's work takes place in traditional art spaces and alternative public spaces such as restrooms, billboards and protests as well as in locations suchs as 21c Museum Hotel (Durham, NC), Ackland Art Museum at UNC-Chapel Hill, Gibbes Museum of Art (Charleston, SC), Appalachian State University (Boone, NC), ArtPrize (Grand Rapids, MI), Meredith College (Raleigh, NC), the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art (Winston-Salem, NC), ArtPrize (Grand Rapids, Michigan), the Nasher Museum of Art and the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University (Durham, NC), Contemporary Art Museum (Raleigh, NC), North Carolina Museum of Art, the Mint Museum of Craft and Design (Charlotte, NC) and other venues.
Kirby is a recipient of numerous awards including the ArtPrize 8 Juried Grand Prize, a NC Arts Council Artist Fellowship for Visual Artists and nominated for the United States Artist Award, Anonymous Was A Woman Award and a finalist for the 1858 Prize. Kirby has also been awarded artist residencies at the Headlands Center for the Arts (Sausalito, CA), the Atlantic Center for the Arts (New Smyrna Beach, FL) and the Gibbes Museum of Art (Charleston, SC). Her work is represented in the Ackland Art Museum at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Duke University Rare Book Collection and other private collections. Kirby has a dual degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in Studio Art and Journalism and Mass Communication.