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‘Make them look twice and think twice’: billboard campaign aims to inspire change with art

‘Make them look twice and think twice’: billboard campaign aims to inspire change with art


I am Amanda D King. I am the founder and
creative director of shooting without bullets. I’m a visual artist and activist
based in Cleveland, Ohio. The billboards explore issues of redlining
instructional racism, gender oppression, disparities in the
arts, state sanctioned violence and spirituality. For the gender and racial
disparities billboard, we imagined what it would be like if two of the artists
in shooting without bullets, Shatara and Leigh Leigh treated the
steps of the Cleveland Museum of Art as their You know, when I think of,
you know, when I was younger or summertime, you think of you and your
friends just hanging out on your front porch. So, thinking of this institution
where historically, African-american females have not been able to really be
a part of or be represented for them to kind of like take this space as their own. I felt like it was really … we felt like it was
really strong and powerful and an image worth creating
and then putting out there. When you look at our faces and the stuff
and you look at our persona, it’s really like, us really owning
where we are and who we are, where we’re at. It also shows how much of a people we
are, like, how close we are all together and just being there for each other. Like, I mean, if I need my hair done,
I need my hair done. Something as simple as that. So, the state sanctioned violence
billboard features Ezra who is a young photographer. Ezra is in an apartment and
he’s looking into the bathroom mirror and there are red and blue lights behind
him and in the reflection and this was a statement about police
terror in our homes. I don’t necessarily fear the police but I
feared their fear of me more so. They get too intimidated by me, they might just see me and,
‘he’s kind of like, tall’ and I might look mean. What it means to me is like, the average
day of a black man and more so, looking at my son,
do I really look that mean? Do I look that intimidating? I had this face since I was a kid, so … The image for the Four Freedoms
billboard, like, I hope people see it and are at the very least, like, a little
perplexed by the phrase on it –[un]do gender. Gender is only a set of actions. I think a lot of people take their gender and their gendered behaviour as given,
as just a part of them and something that they really can’t help. I’m hoping that people who see this
who are open to being changed by something that they’re seeing right in a split second
as they are driving. Having work like this
in front of Cleveland and America generally right now is
incredibly important. In Cleveland alone there were multiple murders of black
trans women this year already. Cleveland has one of the higher murder rates. If people can continue to pretend that the trans community is non-existent, you know, and doesn’t deserve a voice and we’re not
real people or any of those things, like, that violence is only allowed to just spread, you know? There’s no challenge against that. So, this is where you Yeah right about, right about here. About a 150ft of red nylon tablecloth that
we ran between the swing set and then situated the children on either side of its kind of graphically illustrate the divide that this, you know, artificial line caused. We chose one African-american girl and
one white girl because redlining really primarily impacted black communities
more than anything else and we situated the white girl
facing away from the camera and the African-american girl
facing the camera because it was this sort of like outside looking in thing, we
thought that that would have much more impact. We thought about this one video. There’s a video where a black boy and a
white boy are in New York and they like, run towards each
other and everybody is like, you know, on CNN, MSNBC, all the
newspaper media outlets, like, ‘wow look at this video’. ‘This is so inspiring’,
‘this is what America should be like’. We thought about how many times this video
was shared and celebrated but how many people aren’t ready and willing to
address issues like redlining that are preventing this connection
from happening. This project was kind of a surprise for
me because when I learned that it was a billboard, it was like, oh, wow a billboard,
I’m thinking like an advertisement or whatever. And so, when it was explained
that this was exploring the idea of community and the church and the faith
and a pastor doing his, you know, expressions of, you know, holiness and
embracing the laws of Jesus and God, I’m thinking, oh yeah, I grew up with all that
because I grew up as a Baptist kid, and I’ve been to many different churches. It’s a man who is praising God and the billboard says, ‘joy is a form of resistance’ and if we are truly going to transform society
or at least resist these systems that are oppressing us, we have to find joy. To me that is a part of resistance, I mean,
happiness to me is resistance If you are feeling good about yourself and
feeling good from where you come from and you’re proud about it
and you’re trying to give the common purpose and the common good to
spread it to the masses, that to me, that is resistance. That phrase along with
that face, the expression, is going to just make them look twice
and think twice. I mean, I think it’s a really great opportunity to maybe turn a mirror toward Cleveland itself to kind of say, that this is the reason that
we are the way that we are. Our landscape which is pretty depressed, we don’t get to see a
lot of things that are engaging that sort of speak to our soul. I think that,
we can go through our daily lives and be very closed and not really aware of
what’s happening around us and these billboards are going to disrupt that. I feel like it’s going to bring a sense of hope and a sense of ownership and a sense of
I belong, and hopefully just have a sense of pride. Yeah. Yeah!

5 thoughts on “‘Make them look twice and think twice’: billboard campaign aims to inspire change with art

  1. 'State sanctioned violence' is where I turned off.
    There's literally whole processes, procedures and oversight committees, as well as the law, to protect the individual. To pretend otherwise is vile, deceitful and dishonest.
    Racist and ideological bigotry masquerading as intellectualism.

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