Sat 7/14-Sun 9/30
SPACES‘ new exhibit A Color Removed asks the tough question: What does it look like when the right to safety is removed?
For example, when an orange safety tip removed from a pellet gun leads to a child’s death or in a larger sense how the presence of orange, as a symbol of safety, encourages complacency. The new exhibit examines the right to safety by asking community members to deconstruct its symbols and create solidarity for a more peaceful city.
SPACES is a presenting partner of FRONT International: Cleveland Triennial for Contemporary Art, which is an exhibition comprising artist commissions, performances, films and public programs in collaboration with museums, civic institutions and alternative spaces across Cleveland, Akron and Oberlin that examine the ever-changing and politically urgent conditions of an American city.
CoolCleveland talked to SPACES executive director Christina Vassallo about A Color Removed, which is on display Sat 7/14-Sun 9/30 in the Detroit Avenue venue in Ohio City.
CoolCleveland: What’s the origin of A Color Removed?
Christina Vassallo: This project was actually born in 2014 when Tamir Rice was shot. Michael Rakowitz was invited by Case [Western Reserve University] to deliver a biennial lecture. He decided to disrupt that format and use it as a call to action about repairing community — police relations, specifically — in response to the Tamir Rice shooting. SPACES immediately took up the call. We told Michael we wanted to work with him. So it had been on a simmer for quite some time before FRONT was even a thing and really kicked into high gear with its artistic decision-making. A Color Removed was a living, breathing project, and when we entered into discussions with FRONT about participating, we proposed this project because we think it really fits the theme of an American city. It’s an essential project that continues the conversation that we all need to be having in this city.
CC: Last year SPACES publicly debuted A Color Removed with a series of letter-writing workshops. Can you elaborate?
CV: Michael Rakowitz came into town a bunch of times and conducted these workshops to get people to think about safety here and how they may or may not be contributing to shared safety for everyone in the city. Then we started collecting orange objects. We have these collection bins installed throughout the city. They’re going to be all displayed here at SPACES. The sort of final leg of it is that, during the three months of FRONT, we’re going to be having a series of events that are specifically about everything that comes up through this exhibition. Tamir Rice’s mother is going to be hosting some dinners here in which she cooks some of her and son’s favorite foods. That’s the context through which we can have these really difficult conversations. The final sort of leg to this is this project has to be responsive to community feedback if it’s about a Cleveland tragedy.
CC: What type of feedback have you received?
CV: We’ve heard from some cultural leaders of color in this city that we needed more buy-ins in this project. So we invited some of them to participate. We’ve commissioned them to create new works that specifically deal with the sort of fracturing of safety here, the intersectionality of oppression.
CC: Tell us about the involvement of RA Washington and Guide to Kulchur Learn House.
CV: He’s creating a sort of a resource library where there will be shelves of books. He’s going to place every book he read since the night Tamir Rice was shot to the announcement of the verdict in the police trial. Then he’s going to create this really gorgeous piece where he’s taking the footage from Cudell Commons where you see Tamir Rice playing and the police roll up. He’s going to reverse it so they back away and Tamir continues to play. It’s showing the speculative future. What this could be, if only we made the right decisions in two seconds.
CC: How does A Color Removed fit into the SPACES universe?
CV: This was absolutely up our alley. The work we’ve been showing here, especially since my arrival, has been more overtly political and it’s extremely socially aware. If you look back at our history, really, you see exhibitions that are seeking alternate viewpoints and the multiplicity of voices but that really ask the viewer to engage and to become a more informed citizen.
CC: Finally, what do you hope people take away from A Color Removed?
CV: I hope that participants and visitors will become more aware of the causes of individual and systemic racism, and how we might continue to counteract those forces through artistic activism.