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Art

In ‘Forothermore,’ Artist Nick Cave Harnesses the Power of Beauty and Art to Inspire Change

May 17, 2022

Grace Ebert

Soundsuits. All photos by Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago, shared with permission

From floral Soundsuits and found-object sculptures to a multicolor web of millions of pony beads, Forothermore surveys the 30-plus-year career of artist Nick Cave. The retrospective, which draws its name from “forevermore” and “for others,” opened last week at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago and captures both the evolution and mainstays of the artist’s practice. Cave spoke with Colossal in an interview ahead of the show, saying, “Why now, why now this moment, why this exhibition, why this survey, and who is it for? Once I removed myself from it, I realized that it’s not for me. It really allowed me to take a course of action in terms of that movement and what will this look like, looking at three and a half decades of work.”

Arranged thematically rather than chronologically, the exhibition opens with an iteration of the metallic wind spinners that were part of Cave’s 2017 show at MASS MoCA. Guns, bullets, and teardrops are embedded in some of the kinetic pieces that hang alongside smiling faces and peace signs. These sinister symbols pervade the suspended installation, which considers how a desire to only see beauty can mask painful, life-threatening issues.

 

Detail of “Spinner Forest”

Heavily patterned vinyl wallpaper designed in collaboration with Cave’s partner Bob Faust runs through much of the show and creates a textured backdrop for the artist’s mixed-media assemblages of kitsch figurines, vintage furniture, and other trinkets. Dozens of his signature Soundsuits stand inside the fourth-floor gallery, including the mournful piece veiled in 929 black flowers that was created in response to George Floyd’s murder. Wall sculptures made of items sourced from flea markets—these include rusted tools, dominos, wooden boards, button-up shirts, and glittering orbs—date back to the 90s and surround the vibrant, armor-like costumes.

Cave created the first Soundsuit following Rodney King’s beating in 1991, and he’s never wavered from confronting racism in his works. “As I’m trying to imagine other ways of thinking and making, I’m constantly being brought back to this, unfortunately,” he says. The exhibition also includes a collection of bronze arms cradling sprawling, metallic bouquets with hands often clenched and raised in a fist, a reference to strength and solidarity in the face of rampant injustice.

Forothermore is on view in Chicago through October 2, when it will travel to the Guggenheim in New York City for an exhibition opening on November 18. You can read the full interview with Cave here, and find more from the artist on Instagram.

 

 

 



Craft

Interview: A Conversation with Social Justice Sewing Academy Explores Community Activism and the Power of Remembering Through Quilts

March 11, 2022

Gabrielle Lawrence

All images courtesy of SJSA, shared with permission

When witnessing inequity is like digging into an already numb wound and participating in surface-level social justice is as easy as recycling digital shares, the Social Justice Sewing Academy offers the power of touch. The organization works with kids and teens to make quilt blocks that express injustices in their lives, and Colossal contributor Gabrielle Lawrence recently sat down with program director Stephanie Valencia to discuss the project’s mission in a new interview supported by Colossal Members.

They speak about the work of honoring the victims of violence and their families through community art, supporting young entrepreneurs with creative or social justice-oriented businesses, and most importantly, giving people something to hold on to.

So often, when someone loses a loved one, you cherish their items for a while. And then eventually, their items end up in a box, in the back of a closet, or in an attic somewhere. This really does give the family something to hold on to and use every day. Beyond comfort, it’s reflection, as well as memory. Every time they see or touch that quilt, they can remember the good times.

Ultimately, SJSA empowers youth to use their voices and requires tactile processing of issues that often seem bigger than all of us. Every stitch is felt, and it is not a practice that participants must endure alone. From design to completion, each person is required to spend time sitting with these stories in a physical way, which creates room for grief, remembrance, education, and critique.

 

 

 



Art

This Is Not a Gun: An Interview with Cara Levine Explores Collective Trauma, Grief, and the Power of Ritual

November 16, 2021

Paulette Beete

All images © Cara Levine, shared with permission

In December 2016, Harper’s Magazine published a list of more than 20 objects that had been “mistaken for guns during shootings of civilians by police in the United States since 2001.” Artist Cara Levine found herself stunned then grief-stricken by the items, prompting her to launch the multi-faceted This Is Not a Gun project, which she discusses in the latest interview supported by Colossal Members.

I needed to slow down and understand what I was looking at because I don’t want to live in a world where someone can be killed eating a sandwich. We are getting this information so fast. I decided first to carve. I thought, “If I can carve a sandwich, somewhere in the process, from block of wood to sandwich I can understand how someone might think this is a gun. If I just spend all the time understanding its form, maybe I’ll understand how it was mistaken as a gun.”

As Levine explains in her conversation with Colossal contributor Paulette Beete, she wasn’t naïve about gun violence or how often it occurred in Black communities at the hands of police. What she found unfathomable, however, was how these everyday objects could be interpreted as threats. So she turned to her art as a way to understand the seemingly understandable. In this interview,  Levine speaks about how This Is Not A Gun has informed and evolved her practice, her understanding of both individual and collective grief and trauma, and the importance of ritual.

 

A This Is Not A Gun workshop

 

 



Photography

Dozens of Photographs Connect Racial Justice and the Symbolism of Flowers in an Exhibition by The Earth Issue

March 12, 2021

Grace Ebert

Denisse Ariana Pérez (previously), “Boys and Water” (2019). All images courtesy of the artists/The Earth Issue, shared with permission

An online exhibition by The Earth Issue, an artist collective interested in the intersection of environmental activism and social justice, centers on the symbolic power and precarious nature of the flower. Considered both a sign of love and an offering to make amends, plants in bloom are often sites of cultural contradiction, a theme that runs through the dozens of photographs in Strange Flowers—the show is titled in reference to Billie Holiday’s anti-lynching protest anthem “Strange Fruit.”

“Beauty felled in its prime. Taken without consent, their stems ripped from the earth, their connection to life severed, petals pulled and crushed underfoot. Just like George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and countless other innocent victims of racial injustice and police violence,” says a statement about the expansive collection.

The Earth Issue is selling prints of each of the works in its shop through April 11, and a portion of the proceeds will go to BIPOC communities. See some of Colossal’s favorites below, and peruse all the photographs on the collective’s site. (via Juxtapoz)

 

Emily Hlavac Green, “Bird In A Cage” (2020)

Chukwuka Nwobi, “Ore” (2018)

Chieska Fortune Smith, “Back” (2018)

Jesse Crankson, “I Can’t Breathe” (2018)

Joachim Mueller-Ruchholtz, Marathonas, Greece (2019)

Left: Kay Ibrahim, “Flowerboy” (2018). Right: Kin Coedel, “Sky” (2016)

Tom Johnson, “Denis The Dancer,” Rio (2019)

 

 



Illustration

Write for Rights: An Illustrated Campaign for Amnesty International Aims to Free People Who Are Imprisoned

February 17, 2021

Grace Ebert

“Writing Carries Their Voice” (2020). All images © Amnesty International, shared with permission

A new campaign for Amnesty International exemplifies the power of the pencil in a moving series of illustrations by Bristol-based Owen Gent. Led by creative agency Cossette, the initiative was was designed for Write for Rights, an annual effort striving to free people around the world who are imprisoned unjustly. In the last two decades, it’s proven highly effective and boasted a 75 percent success rate after helping release 127 people.

Set on bold backdrops, Gent’s illustrations each utilize an oversized pencil that stands in for a spotlight, camera flash, boat’s wake, and sound booming from a megaphone, representing the issues facing this year’s targets—read more about Melike Balkan, Özgür Gür, the El Hiblu 3, Khaled Drareni, and Nassima al-Sada on Amnesty International’s site. The poignant renderings serve “as a reminder that even the smallest gesture can have a huge impact—it can change lives,” Cossette says.

Write for Rights is the world’s largest human rights event that generates millions of letters sent around the globe each year. You can find out more about this year’s efforts and how to join on the organization’s site.

 

“Writing Defends Freedom of the Press” (2020)

“Writing Frees the Innocent” (2020)

“Writing Saves Refugees” (2020)

 

 



Art

Little Amal: An Enormous Puppet Is Traveling 8,000km to Shine Light on the Refugee Crisis

October 12, 2020

Grace Ebert

Photograph by Bevan Roos. All images shared with permission

To draw attention to the ongoing refugee crisis, an oversized puppet will traverse 8,000 kilometers on a route starting at the Turkey-Syria border. From April to July 2021, “Little Amal” will travel across Greece, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Belgium, and France on a search “to find her mother. To get back to school. To start a new life.” The international journey will end in the United Kingdom, with a celebration at Manchester International Festival. Good Chance Theatre, a London-based organization dedicated to humanitarian and social justice efforts, is helming the public project “embodying the urgent message, ‘Don’t forget about us.'”

The 3.5-meter tall character, which was created by Handspring Puppet Company, will stop in 70 cities across Europe to meet with locals and participate in celebrations and education programs. “At this time of unprecedented global change, The Walk is an artistic response: a cultural odyssey transcending borders, politics, and language to tell a new story of shared humanity – and to ensure the world doesn’t forget the millions of displaced children, each with their own story,” Good Chance writes in a statement.

Check out the official map of Amal’s international journey and planned events on the project’s site, and follow along with updates on her progress on Instagram and YouTube. (via It’s Nice That)

 

Photograph by Bevan Roos

Photograph by Bevan Roos

Photograph by Bevan Roos

Photograph by Bevan Roos

Photograph by Bevan Roos

Photograph by Bevan Roos

Photograph by Nick Wall

 

 

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