Controversial Exhibit Depicting Michael Brown's Death Draws Criticism
By aaroncynic in News on Jul 15, 2015 7:00PM
A life-sized portrayal of the fatal shooting of Michael Brown by police in Ferguson, Missouri on display at a South Side art gallery has stirred up controversy among family members, activists and others viewers.
Last week, Confronting Truths: Wake Up! an exhibit created by Ti-Rock Moore, a white female artist from New Orleans, opened at Gallery Guichard, a black-owned Bronzeville gallery. It features a life-sized recreation of Brown’s dead body, surrounded by police tape and numbered cards police use to mark shell casings. The exhibit also contains a confederate flag with the names of the victims of the shooting in Charleston, a hanging noose and a black Statue of Liberty.
Michael Brown Senior, the victim's father, called the piece “disgusting.” I really, really would like for them to take that away,” Brown told KTVI in St Louis. “I think it’s disturbing, disgusting that picture is still in my head.”
Brown Sr. was not the only one offended by the exhibit. “The artwork was atrocious,” said Johnetta “Netta” Elizie, an activist and leader with the group We The Protesters. Elizie live-tweeted many of the demonstrations that took place in Missouri after Brown’s death, many of which became violent when police, outfitted with paramilitary hardware, attacked protesters with tear gas and clubs. “I definitely didn’t want to go [at first],” she said in an interview with The Guardian. “I felt it would do me no good to go there as far as my spirit is concerned.”
Many say the exhibit exploits both the tragedy of Brown’s death and the countless other people of color killed by police, and those who still face systemic and institutionalized racism on a daily basis. The confederate flag, with a price tag of $4,500, sold over the weekend.
According to KTLA5, Ti-Rock Moore said her creation represents white privilege in America and how it has negatively affected the black community. In a 2014 interview with the New Orleans Times-Picayune while she was working on some of the pieces now on display at Gallery Guichard, Moore said:
"I'm not pretending that I'm coming from a point of view that I have experienced racism. I'm coming from a point of view of completely being able to view privilege, white privilege, all the time in my world. And the power and the entitlement.
Others say the visceral artwork, created by a white woman, smacks of its own privilege. Over at The Root, Kirsten West Savili writes:
Moore’s “art” is not original; it is a crude plagiarism of Darren Wilson’s brutality, nothing more. Memories of Brown’s desecrated body are already emblazoned across every home and every hood and every heart of every black person who has ever realized that this country never loved us at all.
We do not need a “courageous” white artist to sign her signature on the body of our dead to understand that.
Though they say they’ve received hate mail and even threats, the gallery owners have no plans to take the exhibit down. “When you really think about racism, racism can be bold and blunt and right in your face, too,” Andre Guichard told the Guardian. Frances Guichard defended Moore, saying:
“When you have people who are trafficking young ladies across the globe and the people speaking up for them aren’t the people being trafficked. The people are those who care about making sure that it’s just based on humanity and that’s Ti-Rock.”
Brown’s father said he has no problem with Moore, but that both sides of the family should’ve been consulted before the opening. Sheila Morgan, Michael Brown’s great aunt, praised the exhibit, telling KMOV “His story needs to be told. I think the world and the community need to understand what happened to Michael.”
Brown’s mother reportedly saw the exhibit on opening night, but asked the mock body of her son be covered up, which the gallery complied with. Confronting Truths runs until Aug. 10, a day after the one-year anniversary of Brown’s death. The gallery is located at 436 E. 47th St.