Bemis Center For Contemporary Arts

A Counting

On September 2, 2020, Artist Ekene Ijeoma and Poetic Justice at MIT Media Lab launched the Omaha edition of A Counting, a remotely accessible, participatory public art project reflecting on the linguistic and ethnic diversity of the United States by capturing “voice portraits” of major U.S. cities. Conceived as an ongoing series, the generative sound and video work features voices counting to 100 in the different languages spoken by locals, with a different voice speaking each number in a different language and with the number one spoken in an indigenous language, as available. Building off Ijeoma’s practice illuminating issues of social justice through works of art and marking the first project from Poetic Justice group, A Counting addresses the undercounting of oppressed communities by the U.S. census. The Omaha edition of A Counting is being developed with Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts and community partners including Lutheran Family Services of Nebraska and will be on view as part of the exhibition All Together, Amongst Many: Reflections on Empathy at Bemis Center March 25–June 5, 2021. All Together, Amongst Many: Reflections on Empathy is a group exhibition of artists exploring social and political issues that are presently defining the United States in 2020. In this polarized time, opening several months after the 2020 U.S. elections, the exhibition focuses on empathy, presenting works that aim to awaken shared beliefs in humanity and spark an immediate sense of connection between the viewer and the subjects of the artwork.

Beginning September 2, 2020, the Omaha edition can be accessed by visiting a-counting.us or by dialing +1-402-251-2426. Greater Omaha residents wishing to add their voice to the project can call the hotline where they are prompted to record themselves counting in their languages and invited to share more their language and backgrounds. Recordings submitted during the first 100 days of the project (September 2–December 11, 2020) will be included in a time-lapse video showing the evolution of work on view in the exhibition at Bemis. Additionally, individuals from around the world are invited to contribute to the project by helping with the transcriptions of the recordings by texting TRANSCRIBE to the same number or visiting a-counting.us/transcribe.    

The Omaha edition of A Counting expands upon an early version of the project presented as an installation at the Museum of the City of New York in 2019. Following today’s launch of the reimagined remotely accessible work, the series will continue to expand to include new editions for other major cities across the country through partnerships with museums and cultural institutions, inviting the participation of the broadest possible spectrum of communities within the U.S.

“Against the backdrop of the 2020 US Census, a global pandemic, and a nationwide uprising against racism, A Counting seeks to recognize the linguistic and ethnic diversity of this country,” said Ekene Ijeoma. “We’re excited to develop the Omaha edition with Bemis Center and Lutheran Family Services to welcome participation from both old and newcomers of Omaha, capturing the intergenerational tapestry of diversity.”  

About Ekene Ijeoma and Poetic Justice Group
Ekene Ijeoma is a conceptual artist whose practice encourages new ways of seeing and understanding social issues. Leveraging computational design and conceptual art strategies, Ijeoma translates research and data studies into multimedia and multisensory works of art. Recent exhibitions and commissions of Ijeoma’s work include Heartfelt at The Kennedy Center (2019), Who We Are at the Museum of the City of New York (2019), Landed at Neuberger Museum of Art (2016), New Americas at Annenberg Space for Photography (2016), Design and Violence at the Museum of Modern Art (2015), Design of the Year at Design Museum London (2015), and the Istanbul Design Biennial (2015). In 2019, Ijeoma was appointed as an Assistant Professor in the Media Lab at MIT and founded Poetic Justice, a group of critical thinkers and makers who are exploring new forms of justice through art. A Counting marks the first major public art project by the group. 

Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts
724 South 12th Street
Omaha, NE 68102
Admission and Parking: FREE
Phone:: 402.341.7130
E-mail: info@bemiscenter.org