Scott argued that the flag itself was actually a symbol of American sacrilege. As it promoted national fervor, it also encouraged oppression, both foreign and domestic (of the black community, in particular). “Some people see a flag and it brings a sense of pride and well-being,” said Scott during our recent conversation—noting that for millions of others, it represents police brutality and state aggressions. Scott’s artwork brought these tensions to the gallery, allowing visitors to contemplate their personal reactions to the flag and reconsider its meaning.
Scott first showed the work at a local alternative exhibition space without issue, but the presentation at the SAIC provoked national ire. Critics complained that the school received public funding, which shouldn’t be used to support such provocative art. (The next year, the government cut the SAIC’s funding.) Veterans in particular took notice, protesting outside the galleries; the school received bomb threats, and staffers suffered death threats.
In the ledger accompanying the piece, the audience at the SAIC wrote in more nuanced responses. They left messages that ranged from “I am a German girl. If we Germans would admire our flag as you all do, we would be called Nazis again.…I think you do have too much trouble about this flag,” to “There are many questions you have raised. For that I thank you. It does hurt me to see the flag on the ground being stepped on. Yet now after days have passed, I have realized tat [sic] this is the ultimate form of patriotism.” (Admittedly, even before the age of anonymous internet comment boards, these were mixed in with some truly nasty notes, such as: “You’re fucked—minorities get everything!”)