In a sense, I am both dreading and anticipating the volley of art, books, and tee shirts this whole Ferguson ordeal is going to inspire, and the billions of dollars in commerce that it’s sure to produce for both individuals and corporations. Art imitates life, so it goes. On one hand, the politically passionate have a way to make their voices heard, and the creative their ideas spread. On the other, financial majorities can get even more ammo to forge stronger alliances with their respective local governments. There is a sense of dirty, flirtatious cynicism in the whole cycle that I’d rather not condone, but cannot deny the effectiveness of. The essential problem is one of survival and emotional honesty. How can we artists and makers advance the spiritual, visual and intellectual power of our creations while reacting against participating in a process that increases our dependence on a corrupt system? It's a hard balance for an artist to strike, but as artists Molly Crabapple and Damon Davis show, it can be done.
Physically, I embody the alien presence that they in power are ideologically against, and at this moment of time, I do not enjoy the same respect and application of justice that their protected audiences do. Nor did Michael Brown. He paid for this lack with his life. As an artist, I ask myself- what can I and others like me do with our work to ensure that this doesn't stay the status quo? After a bit of reflection and online research on Furguson-themed art, I come up with two great examples.
Take a look at the picture below, of a black woman with her hands in "Hands Up, Don't Shoot" pose. The artist, Molly Crabapple, painted this in protest and in solidarity with the protesters in Ferguson- and even better, all proceeds of this image's tee shirt sales will go to the protesters' bail money fund (more info here). Another artist, Damon Davis, has made a fantastic street art project that evokes "Hands Up, Don't Shoot" in a vivid and literal way, taking pictures of individual protestors' hands and blowing them up on wheatpaste. One is a very established artist, the other just emerging. Their direct contrast in their physical and artistic descriptions gives me a ray of hope.
It's dramatic to say but true: In 1850, a black individual was ⅗ of a person, and in 2014, a black man or woman is still not counted a whole. This should not be the reality I live in, and I choose it not to be going forward. Unabashedly, I am still a proud member of a larger group- America- and I love all that my country has done and will do for artistic and technological progress. But my recognized government has made an illogical and collective assessment of justice for the poor, the marginalized, the male, Michael Brown- and this simple fact will have far-reaching consequences for us all. All that I, as an artist, am truly good at doing is documenting and visualizing the change in environment that I wish to see and praising others for attempting to do the same.