Saturday afternoon brought another Ferguson, Mo., protest at the iconic LOVE Park statue, this time in the form of performance artist Keith Wallace portraying Michael Brown, murdered and motionless on the ground. The tourists snapping selfies in front of the LOVE statue, however, didn't seem to notice.
The silent protest, planned by Wallace and Juilliard theater student Lee Edward Colston, centered around the "#CallUsByOurNames" meme that's built a presence on social media in the wake of Brown's death in Ferguson. Adorned with fake blood and bullet holes to call up Brown's image, Wallace hopes that his performance will "make an impact on what I perceive as the Civil Rights movement of my generation."
As per his artist's statement:
"I am racially charged. Not because I want to be but because I HAVE to be. I am racially charged because in certain instances that hyper awareness might ensure that I make it home to my family alive at the end of the day. I am racially charged because I am not afforded the luxury to wander through life with my head in the (nonexistent) "post racial America" clouds. I "SEE color" because MY COLOR IS SEEN and dismissed and devalued and implicated as a threat everywhere I go. I am racially charged. And if my speaking about it, my calling attention to it makes you uncomfortable, then I implore you to do something to eradicate the ugliness I see every day in the world."
Instead, though, viewers of Wallace's protest didn't appear uncomfortable so much as oblivious to the performance at all.
Rather than taking in Wallace's meaning, or beginning a deeper discussion on the events that have devastated Ferguson recently, most LOVE tourists simply ignored the exhibit—or, worse, mocked it. As Tumblr Ra's Al Ghul is Dead, a friend to Wallace and Colston, notes:
I don’t know who any of these folks are.
They were tourists I presume.
But I heard most of what everything they said. A few lines in particular stood out. There’s one guy not featured in the photos. His friends were trying to get him to join the picture but he couldn’t take his eyes off the body.
"Something about this doesn’t feel right. I’m going to sit this one out, guys." "Com’on man… he’s already dead."
And, of course, many went right on taking selfies, some of which left Wallace's bloodied body in full view. But as Colston told Phillymag's Victor Fiorillo, there was at least once instance Saturday that gave him some hope:
Not all the interactions were so negative. "There was a Latina woman with two young boys. She held her boys' hands and said to them, 'I want you to see this. This is important. Never be afraid to tell the truth.'"