Visual Artists Address Police Brutality And Government Surveillance In Powerful New Videos

Photo courtesy of NewHive

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Last month, we wrote about a powerful new project that NewHive is hosting, in which various artists use the digital platform to explore existing systemic problems within our society. The first round of projects included a chatbot which answered questions regarding police brutality and prison statistics and employed the voice and words of the late Sandra Bland, herself a victim of the state. 

Now, three new artists have put forth work which exposes and critiques state-sponsored programs like surveillance (weaponized and otherwise), as well as ongoing problems within our prison system, like the employment of solitary confinement. Each of the artists has used video as their medium to explore these themes of injustice and inequality, and have made the formats interactive, allowing all of us to participate rather than simply bear witness.

Mark Sabb aka Mark Digital created “Visions,” which, as explained in his artist statement, is a “3-D interactive website exploring the concept of mental deterioration due to solitary confinement in prisons.” The resulting visual puts viewers in the place of a prisoner; the accompanying, visceral sense of panic is familiar to anyone who has ever been trapped in an elevator for a minute too long. Of course, that type of momentary discomfort is nothing compared to what it really means to be in solitary confinement. Sabb’s video also includes the following, horrific information:

… in 1951 researchers at McGill University paid a group of male graduate students to stay in small chambers equipped with only a bed for an experiment on sensory deprivation… The plan was to observe students for six weeks, but not one lasted more than seven days. Nearly every student lost the ability “to think clearly about anything for any length of time,” while several others began to suffer hallucinations. “One man could see nothing but dogs,” wrote one of the study’s collaborators, “another nothing but eyeglasses of various types, and so on.

Stuart Grassian, a board-certified psychiatrist and a former faculty member at Harvard Medical School, has interviewed hundreds of prisoners in solitary confinement. In one study, he found that roughly a third of solitary inmates were “actively psychotic and/or acutely suicidal.” Grassian has since concluded that solitary can cause a specific psychiatric syndrome, characterized by hallucinations; panic attacks; overt paranoia; diminished impulse control; hypersensitivity to external stimuli; and difficulties with thinking, concentration and memory. Some inmates lose the ability to maintain a state of alertness, while others develop crippling obsessions.

Also featured in NewHive are works by Terrell Davis and Elizabeth Mputu. Davis (whose visual “Watching Over U I” can be seen above) made his Watching Over U series as an attempt to concentrate on “the inequity that police surveillance has on justice, inside and out of the prison system.” Mputu’s piece is called “Broken Windows“ and explores, via an interactive web browser, “the realities of a police state that has weaponized surveillance, as well as the reactions of a public that rebels against it.”

Check out all these artists’ works and more of what NewHive does on its website; in a time of demagoguery and rampant xenophobia and blatant racism, this is exactly the kind of work to which we should all be paying attention.


Photo courtesy of Balenciaga / Photo via @McDonaldsSverige Instagram

I'm cackling

Last year, Balenciaga released bright red square-toed mules which bore a striking resemblance to McDonald's french fry cartons. Now, the chain has fired back at the designer, threatening to release its own version of the shoes.

McDonald's Sweden posted a photo to its Instagram of a person wearing actual McDonald's fry cartons as shoes, and honestly, if there weren't yellow M's printed onto them, I'd have a hard time distinguishing them from the Balenciagas from a distance. Though the post doesn't directly reference the Balenciaga shoes, one can only assume that's who they are trolling.

McDonald's version actually makes for some pretty fly slip-ons, if you ask me. Good thing the Swedish branch of Mickey D's seems to be considering releasing the shoes if the post receives enough attention. The caption of the Instagram post translates to, "If we get 103042 likes we release these for real," though it only has about 17,000 as of publish time. These would likely cost much less than the Balenciaga shoes, which cost $545.

Internet, do your thing. I want a pair.



Photo by Gareth Cattermole / Getty Images.

It marks her third duet with Nas

Here are some words that I never expected to read or hear again: There is a new song with Amy Winehouse. But here we are in 2019, and Salaam Remi has granted me a wish. On Valentine's Day, the Grammy-nominated producer and frequent Winehouse collaborator (also responsible for hits like Miguel's "Come Through & Chill") released "Find My Love" which features rapper Nas and that powerful and haunting voice that I have come to love and cherish so dearly.

Representatives for Remi said that the Winehouse vocals were from an old jam session the two had. Remi was a producer on both of Winehouse's albums, Frank and Back to Black. "Find My Love" marks the third time Winehouse and Nas have done duets under the direction of Remi. They were previously heard together on "Like Smoke," a single from her 2011 posthumous album Amy Winehouse Lioness: Hidden Treasures, and "Cherry Wine" from Nas' 2012 album Life Is Good. Winehouse died of alcohol poisoning on July 23, 2011, before they could complete production on her third album. My heart is still broken about it as she is by far my favorite artist.

"Find My Love" is set to appear on Remi's Do It for the Culture 2, a collection of songs curated by him. Check it out, below.