Courtney Surmanek            



Object Permanence


Co-Director, Co-Writer

Object Permanence is envisioned as a series of traveling performance and dialogue experiments that explore and unpack what suburban identity is through questions like "Who gets to live in suburbia?" and "Why live in suburbia?”.

Working within suburban popular cultural storytelling forms, I will look at how white-identified people have used silence and stories to obscure our roles in the history and persistence of colonization. I will also go to these same forms and stories to ask how these traditions could be transformed and used in the service of decolonizing and in dismantling white supremacy.

Suburbia is a vision born of oppressive policies that have and continue to rip apart communities in the United States’ borders in favor of the white and wealthy. With this context in mind, Object Permanence is an action-oriented project that explores and unpacks suburban identity and how divided and segregated neighborhoods impact public health. Through performance and play, the project will attempt to support steps people (with an emphasis on the beneficiaries of these policies: people who are white-identified) might take to improve collective wellbeing across dividing lines of race and class. I'll be a Visiting Fellow at the Storytellers’ Institute this summer (2020) at Skidmore College to support the development of the project.

Suburbia is at once a device of racial segregation and a symbol of the American Dream. I seek to work within that complicated duality, where opposing deep stories—stories as “felt” rather than merely factual, as sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild frames it—place communities in opposition to one another. These deep stories that capture our hopes, pride, disappointments, fears, and anxieties must be engaged if we are intent on moving our communities forward towards equity. Calling for collaboration and collective inquiry on such a contested subject as belonging and who gets to call a place a home is dangerous territory. Speaking with white-identified people about white supremacy’s legacy and contemporary manifestations is dangerous territory. I also think it’s vital territory.