American Monument

American Monument

University of California, Irvine

American Monument 22/2019. Installation detail. Photo: Will Yang. Courtesy of lauren woods, Beall Center for Art and Technology, and UC Regents.

February 20, 2020
American Monument
October 5, 2019–April 4, 2020
Think Tank Marathon: March 6–7, 12–7pm
University of California, Irvine
Beall Center for Art + Technology
712 Arts Plaza
92697 Irvine CA

In recent years, evidence of police violence has reached a new level of exposure, allowing increased public access to formal investigations of police brutality. In 2014, artist/cultural organizer lauren woods began to examine police records and court transcriptions in cases where a police officer killed an unarmed black civilian. She focused on officers’ claims citing “fear for their own lives,” ultimately used to justify the killings as lawful. This work grew into American Monument, an interactive sound sculpture, research project, and mode of public engagement and education.

American Monument’s first full iteration, 22/2019, launched at the Beall Center for Art and Technology at University of California, Irvine (UCI) on October 4, 2019 and is installed through April 4, 2020. The artist and her collaborator Kimberli Meyer are Black Box researchers in residence at the Beall, and have partnered with leading thinkers across disciplines at UCI, resulting in collaborations with the Schools of Law and Social Ecology and the departments of African American Studies, Art History, and Art.  During the Fall 2019 quarter, collaborators led think tanks on topics such as sound and the law, the fourth amendment, linguisitics in relation to racial bias in law enforcement, and community activist response strategies. 

For Think Tank Marathon, American Monument is inviting scholars, lawyers, community activists, civil rights leaders, students, artists, and the public to process and discuss issues addressed by the monument. Working inside the installation at the Beall Center, a chain of sessions will take up multiple threads raised by the artwork. The program is co-sponsored by UCI Law’s Center for Law, Equality, And Race (CLEAR).

Participants include: David Goldberg, Digital Media Theorist, Strategist and Developer / Kaaryn Gustafson, Professor and Associate Dean, UCI Law; Director, CLEAR / Sora Han, Professor of Criminology, Law and Society, UCI / Taylor Jones, PhD Candidate, Linguistics, University of Pennsylvania / Hamid Khan, Organizer, Stop LAPD Spying Coalition / James Lamb, JD Candidate 2020, UCI Law / Sara Mokuria, Co-founder, Mothers Against Police Brutality / Jasson Perez, Senior Research Analyst, Action Center on Race and the Economy / Jared Sexton, Professor of African American Studies, UCI / Aziz Sohail, MFA Candidate in Art (Critical and Curatorial Studies), UCI

Sign up for updates here. The event is free and open to the public; space is limited, reserve a spot here.

American Monument is a participatory inter-media monument conceived as nomadic and continually expanding, moving across the country year-to-year, “unveiled” at universities, museums, storefronts, community centers, and churches. The artwork provides a vehicle for analyzing the complex relationship between the construction of 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.  Supporting the main sculpture are reflection spaces to ponder law as a culture, including Archive II, which displays legal documents associated with each case represented in Archive I. 

American Monument and its Think Tank Marathon is made possible by the generous support of the Mike Kelley Foundation for the Arts, a founding and continuing grantor to the artwork; the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts; the University of California Humanities Research Institute; UCI Advance Program for Equity & Diversity; Leonardo Art Science Evening Rendezvous; and the Beall Family Foundation. Additional backing comes from Grand Central Art Center, Santa Ana. 

Special thanks to collaborators Sara Daleiden, Sora Han, Simon Leung, John Spiak, and Carol Zou

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University of California, Irvine
February 20, 2020

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