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William Morris’ New Video, 'The Protest Project,' Is Ripped From The Headlines

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William Morris
William Morris' new video explores what happens when pandemic meets epidemic.

William Morris works in video. The St. Louis native, a graduate of Washington University School of Fine Arts and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, has made an art of mashing up footage, often with music, to create something new.

His latest video debuts at the Bruno David Gallery this Saturday. He titled it “The Protest Project.” In his words, it combines “pandemic and epidemic” to explore how the coronavirus pandemic collided with an equally devastating problem this spring — racism and police brutality. Inspired by “Network,” a cover of Rage Against the Machine’s “Wake Up,” TV news and a heaping pile of toxic current events, the video includes a newscaster voicing four words that serve as a succinct summary: “I feel so angry.”

Morris explained on Wednesday’s St. Louis on the Air that he’s used “Network” and its totemic anchor, Howard Beale, as a touchstone over the years. He once dreamed of being a journalist but didn’t land the jobs he applied for in TV news.

William Morris
Durrie Bouscaren

He looks at the industry today with critical distance. His work in video, he said, gives him a perspective he wishes more Americans had.

“It makes me think that everyone should take the news that they receive from television with a grain of salt,” he said. “You have to do some digging and find out what the truth is for you, even though journalism and electronic journalism does all it can to bring you that truth. In times like these, you have to dissect it.”

The video shows a few moments in recent months when TV journalists, like Beale before them, couldn’t stay above the fray. CNN correspondent Omar Jimenez is arrested while reporting live on the air. An anchor cries as she watches footage of George Floyd with a boot on his neck.

“Moments like that give my video work some boost,” Morris said of the anchor’s tears. “I was absolutely shocked when I saw that piece of footage. I can’t believe she’s in a way stepping out of character to make this personal statement.”

Ironically, Morris said, he began the video as an expression of optimism during the COVID-19 pandemic. “I wanted to give people hope,” he said.

That feeling was overtaken by current events, as the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd became national flashpoints. “The more news I watched, the more despondent I became,” Morris said — and he switched to a different soundtrack even as he expanded the video’s focus.

“The Protest Project” will be on display at Bruno David Gallery through Oct. 24.

Related Event

What: Bruno David Gallery Opening Reception

When: Noon to 6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 12

Where: 7513 Forsyth Blvd., St. Louis, MO 63105

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill and Lara Hamdan. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.

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Sarah Fenske joined St. Louis Public Radio as host of St. Louis on the Air in July 2019. Before that, she spent twenty years in newspapers, working as a reporter, columnist and editor in Cleveland, Houston, Phoenix, Los Angeles and St. Louis.

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