Last July, about a year ago, I stumbled out my front door one morning, lack of sleep and coffee slowed my brain so that it took s few steps before I mentally processed a body being carried out in a stretcher. My neighbor Mitchell had been shot in the back while in his apartment next door. Already America’s unquestioned murder capital, New Orleans saw homicides jump by 14 percent last year, ending the year with 199 killings. New Orleans has the highest per-capita murder rate in the country by a comfortable margin. As of May 2, 2012 there are 64 murders that have occurred in New Orleans. While numbers and statistics are important in raising general awareness, each bullet changes the future course of history by taking out a person before their natural time. This installation, “ Assume Every Gun is Loaded” presents the question: How would the future have changed if a person was not murdered?
Mirrors will be hung floor to ceiling and tubes of neon will criss-cross the room. These neon tubes will have white shots of light bouncing back and forth, representations of gunshots. The mirrors will echo these lights so that an infinite number of points of light will be echoing throughout the room. Oral stories will be collected by family members of the murdered victims and turned into a composition for a sound installation by Philippe Landry, a local composer. These oral stories will also be collected and published online, unedited for the general public to access. Gris Gris Lab in Central City (a neighborhood ripe with violence) has been approached as a potential site to house this exhibit.
How would your project engage the community? What will it accomplish?
This projects aims to actively engage art, culture, and creative practice to explore methods of social transformation. Storytelling allows people to present ideas about place and experience and to define their roles in their own terms. Additionally, telling stories can act as a healing process for families who have lost loved ones. I plan on contacting community leaders from local churches and organizations and allowing them to guide me in contacting local residents who have been affected. From this I will create this installation piece as well as publish online each recorded history. This method of digital storytelling combines technology and voice to make storytelling collections more available to the public. I will complete two oral history interviews per month until next May, 2013.
What is your timeline for completion?
July, 2013 the installation will be completed and the website will be active.