Targeted is a site-specific interactive video installation that aims to make the invisible visceral by making the experience of being targeted felt by everyone, not just the usual suspects.
This two channel interactive video installation has components both outside and inside the gallery. Outside the gallery, which is to say, on the street, speakers blurt out police scanner audio as people walk by. When the viewer turns towards the gallery windows they see video of themselves with a target sign affixed to their chest.
Inside the gallery is a monitor that shows a live feed of people being targeted, which effectively transforms the viewer from the one who is targeted into one who surveils others being targeted.
The accompanying audio is taken from NYPD scanners in precincts 1, 5, 7 in Manhattan (Chinatown, SoHo, Little Italy, Lower East Side, Tribeca, World Trade Center, and Financial District) and precincts 72, 76, 78 in Brooklyn (Red Hook, Carroll Gardens, Park Slope, Greenwood, and Sunset Park). This piece measures 8' x 4' and is built with OpenFrameworks and uses an open source library by Elliot Woods.
Shown for the first time at one of New York’s oldest art institutions, the Camera Club of New York, Targeted is the institution’s first interactive artwork in its 132 year history.
Photographs derived from the original installation in Chinatown (NYC) were shown in Photography as Social Conscience: Impassioned Portrayals of Race in the United States. Prints are life-size measuring 36”x72” and are affixed directly to the wall with staples.
From left to right in the slideshow above: Targeted 2016-09-15 14:35:09, Targeted 2016-09-15 13:45:58, Targeted 2016-09-15 13:58:49. This show took place at the Lore Degenstein Gallery of Susquehanna University from January 28th to March 5th, 2017.
Targeted was shown in the group show Nothing To Hide? Art, Surveillance, and Privacy at Real Art Ways. This show also featured work by Trevor Paglen, Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Eva and Franco Mattes, and Julian Oliver.
In 2018 Targeted was shown as part of Illuninus Boston, an nighttime art installation festival in the heart of downtown Boston.
In the summer of 2016, the day after Philando Castile and Alton Sterling were shot by police, I had an appointment with a curator to discuss an interactive work for an upcoming exhibition. The blank slate with which I normally approach site-specific projects was no longer possible as thoughts inspired by Black Lives Matter became unavoidable. As I joined in the chorus of “how horrible,” I began to question my place in that chorus. As a white male who grew up in a fairly privileged environment, did I really feel the pain of African Americans at that moment? Could I? The answer is of course, no.
So I set out to make work to address that empathy gap. Of course no piece of art could replicate the experience of another, or in this case, get a white person to know what it feels like to be black in America, but I hoped it could help make the empathy gap less wide.
The goal of this project is to provide a framework for those who are not routinely targeted to feel what it’s like, if only for a moment, to be targeted while innocent. That said, I am fully aware that this piece also targets those who are routinely targeted; namely African Americans and all other minorities, who will naturally experience this piece differently.
I am not normally the kind of artist to seek counsel from others when making new work. Normally I have a napkin sketch idea and fly solo as I fill in the details. However, with this piece my overarching goal—more than creating a good work of art—was to make sure I wasn’t doing more harm than good; to not rub salt into existing wounds.
More than any other work I’ve ever made, I sought counsel. Whether I was out at a party or sharing a ride with someone, I would seek counsel from any minority who would give me the time of day to see if this piece was offensive, insensitive, or otherwise undesirable. And to my relief (and to my knowledge), the hundreds of people from many different walks of life who saw the piece in New York, Hartford, Susquehanna, and Boston were not offended.
When I give talks about this piece I try to take its criticisms head-on and the one I hear most often goes, “oh great, another white artist profiting from the suffering of African Americans and other minorities.” As it so happened, I didn’t profit financially or professionally from this work (though of course I didn’t know that would be the case when I created the work). The one time I had the potential to profit financially (from a juried award at Susquehanna University), I promised to donate the winnings to Black Lives Matter, however the work was not chosen for award.
To make art about race in America is to willingly step into a minefield. Better, I think, to face it and try to make one’s way through rather than walk around.