Spectators will culminate in my thesis show this April. The final piece is a 3-channel video installation that is my response to the continued ongoing American crisis of racial inequality and violence. By coupling historic lynching photographs with contemporary audio clips, my work references the echo chamber where the audience becomes part of, and is surrounded by, the mob. Facial recognition detection technology attempts to identify the faces of the spectators in the historical lynching photographs, connecting them to the racist rhetoric in the audio.
This video features downloaded YouTube videos of people burning the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback, Colin Kaepernick’s, jersey. Kaepernick started a peaceful protest against police brutality, while the national anthem was playing during the 2016 NFL season. His protest was met with these YouTube videos of angry fans burning his jersey. While I was mining the videos I watched I started to notice parallels in the performances. They became these ceremonious spectacles that have a tone of patriotism. The gaze of the people who were participating, the children who were excited to participate and the language used by participants as they spoke to the camera reminded me of the rhetoric of lynching postcards.
“Maybe this is what most barbarians look like. (They look like everybody else.) That being said, one person’s “barbarian” is another person’s “just doing what everybody else is doing.” – Susan Sontag
Between the years of 1880 and 1930, approximately 4,697 lynchings took place in the United States, mostly of African American men in the South. White supremacists used the act of lynching as a system of enforcement. After a lynching, identifiable spectators would pose with the victim for a photograph. These photographs would then be sold as postcards and prints—as souvenirs—for spectators to take with them, to send to their friends or to hang on their walls as trophies.
This book is a collection of some of the identifiable men, women and children from various lynching postcards. Who were these people? Would they have been the people we grocery shop with or the people who educate our children? Maybe. Probably.
In a time, when the rhetoric of nationalism and xenophobia is presented by President Donald Trump, I cannot help but think about these people, whose hallow gaze infers how others should behave. Their legacy persists. It is now disseminated differently, and I fear that the majority of us watch and say, “it’s just what everybody else is doing.”
Traces explores American gun culture. Initially, I questioned, why I do not own nor had I ever fired a gun, when members of my family are rooted in this tradition. I wanted to know why people feel the need to protect themselves, what they are protecting themselves from and where the fear they feel was coming from. I started by visiting shooting ranges in Arizona and in my home state of Colorado, two places of the West, historically won with guns. What I have been finding are people who seem to be conditioned to live in fear of what could happen to themselves, their family or their communities. Invoked by the American media, these fears come from images, videos and sound clips, representations of events, creating tenuous relationships of an us vs. them culture thus creating a condition of fear.
In an attempt to understand my own predispositions of fear, rooted in societal disjuncture, my exploration has resulted in photographs of artifacts representing events from the past, a response to an artificial threat. Empty, fractured, peaceful landscapes covered in trigger trash. Abandoned targets of mutilated representations of the body. Still lives of trophies representing a mastery of skill. Land that is constantly being changed by people who are preparing to respond to danger.
#chickswithguns was inspired by the book Chicks with Guns by Lindsay McCrum. Her book features women in romantic poses while holding rifles. I wondered how women represent themselves on social media with a gun.