A participatory inter-media monument, it is conceived as nomadic and continually expanding, moving across the country year-to-year, “unveiled” at universities, museums, storefronts, community centers, and churches. The Beall Center installation will be the first full iteration of the project. The artwork provides a vehicle for analyzing the complex relationship between constructed race, material violence, structural power, and monumentality itself.
In 2018, American Monument initiated an extensive Freedom of Information Act request process. Close readings of use-of-force reports, prosecutor reports, witness testimonies, 911 calls, and body and dash cam videos revealed a consistent and disturbing problem: police use of white dominant cultural constructions and stereotypes of “Blackness,” mined from pop culture, to justify fatal violence.
The centerpiece of American Monument, Archive I, is an interactive sound sculpture. Encountering a grid of silently spinning black and white turntables on pedestals, visitors may choose to play an acetate record of audio materials gleaned from record requests, setting the apparatus and sound in motion. Each turntable represents one police murder. The sound is heard inside the interior space where the grid is located and simultaneously displaced outside the physical architecture of the monument, into locations unknown to the viewer.
Supporting the main sculpture are reflection spaces to ponder law as a culture. The main reflection space, Archive II, displays documents associated with each case represented in Archive I. The Beall launch invites scholars, lawyers, community activists, civil rights leaders, students, artists, and the general public to process and discuss issues addressed by American Monument through think-tanks and public forums. Thought production from these activities will generate expanded forms of critical engagement, which feed back into the monument. At the end of this collaborative production process in February 2020, the monument will be “unveiled” with a public symposium to signal the completion of this iteration.