Blood Lines: Remembering the 1919 Chicago Race Riot

an installation for long wires, wood sculpture, and computer driven activators

Augustana Lutheran Church of Hyde Park, Nancy Goede, Pastor
September 3 – October 31, 2019

Christophe Preissing, concept and sound composition
David Sundry, sculpture and visual design
Hugh Sato, mechanical fabrication and programming

Blood Lines is a metaphor for the “deadline” that separated Chicago’s Black Belt from the white immigrant communities of Packingtown at the beginning of the 20th century. The installation remembers those who died in the uprising of that “red summer.” The 38 deaths attributed to the riot are represented by 15 long wires placed in the center aisle to separate Augustana Lutheran Church’s nave into two parts. Each wire is connected to a mechanical activation system, a wooden sculpture, and sound resonator. The sustained sound of the wires are tuned and timed to correspond to the distance in space and time from Eugene Williams’ drowning on July 27 to each subsequent death. The timing of deaths—from July 27 through August 5—has been compressed into one hour. Long silences reflect the rolling violence and lulls in the killings.

Blood Lines: A Reading of the Death Sequence in Time with the Installation
October 3, 2019, Augustana Lutheran Church of Hyde Park.

video by Carol Bedoy,

In addition to the installation’s wires, sculpture, and motors, each death is located on a street map of the riot area which is re-created on the floor of the nave. Cards near these locations identify each person by name, race, age, and the location, date and time, and manner of their death. On the walls of the nave are a timeline, tracing over 500 years of slavery and racism in America, and the sound composition and death timeline score. Binders located in the nave include contemporary newspaper reporting and the police report for each death reprinted from the 1922 report, The Negro in Chicago.

NON:op Open Opera Works thanks our sponsors and donors: Augustana Lutheran Church and Peace Camp, The Hyde Park and Kenwood Interfaith Council, The Baha’is of Chicago, Bill Brooks, Wade Wilson, Scott Johnston, Ed and Pat Bancroft, Carmen-Helena Téllez, Peter Cole, and Janice Misurell-Mitchell. Special thanks to Pastor Nancy Goede for her support and tireless efforts in support of this project.

• • •

Images from the 2019 Blood Lines installation at Augustana Lutheran Church

Blood Lines: remembering the 1919 Chicago race riot score and death timeline