Wednesday, April 8, 2015

A Call To Cleveland: Artist Michael Rakowitz Wants Your Orange Objects

Artist Michael Rakowitz proposes that Clevelanders remove orange from their lives.

In the wake of the tragic police shooting death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, Clevelanders have been left with the burning question: What do we do now?

Michael Rakowitz, an artist known for bridging art with political activism through social experiments and a Northwestern University professor, is proposing a grand solution — that Clevelanders rid themselves of the color orange as a statement on the loss of safety. The removal of orange mimics the absent orange safety cap from the fake gun Rice had at the time of the shooting last fall.

"A color removed will challenge the city of Cleveland to have a wide range of uncomfortable discussions on race and violence in a city where people of color do not feel safe," said Rakowitz during a talk at Case Western Reserve University Tuesday night. 

The lecture was a discussion of art as activism and a public brainstorming session for this upcoming art project that would potentially remove orange from the city. Rakowitz is internationally known for controversial public artworks including an Iraqi meal served on plates once owned by Saddam Hussein and homeless shelters made from garbage bags and tape. 

One suggestion to remove orange is to activate spaces throughout the city — art galleries, restaurants, storefronts and community centers — that would act as repositories where citizens can donate orange objects to be displayed. Loren Naji has already signed on to have his Satellite Gallery on the East Side be one such repository, where he'll either donate a room to the project or set up an exhibit in the front yard.

Other options include painting orange traffic cones blue, replacing orange safety vests with yellow ones and having the Cleveland Cavaliers play with different-colored basketballs during their games — after all, LeBron James and Kyrie Irving sported "I Can't Breathe" shirts in December to stand in solidarity with New York police shooting victim Eric Garner.

"At the heart of this project is a question: How does it feel to live in a society where the right to safety is removed?" asks Rakowitz, who plans to meet with city officials in the coming months to jump-start this project that does not have an end date. "If we're talking about the absence of color, let's take it to the next step and actually make a grand gesture about redacting the color of orange and redacting safety from Cleveland as a whole as an act of solidarity."

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