Exploring new forms of social justice through art

Ekene Ijeoma

“This is precisely the time when artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal.

I know the world is bruised and bleeding, and though it is important not to ignore its pain, it is also critical to refuse to succumb to its malevolence. Like failure, chaos contains information that can lead to knowledge — even wisdom. Like art.” – Toni Morrison (2004)

Poetic Justice is a group of critical thinkers and makers exploring new forms of social justice with art through collapsing content and form. We research intersectional issues, such as racial and environmental justice, and develop artworks about or with communities. Our participatory public artworks, including phone and online accessible sound and video streams, have been presented by the Contemporary Art Museum of Houston, Contemporary Art Museum of St. Louis, Bemis Center for Contemporary Art, and Museum of the City of New York.

Current projects question, if “Artists need to create on the same scale as society has the capacity to destroy,” as S… View full description

“This is precisely the time when artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal.

I know the world is bruised and bleeding, and though it is important not to ignore its pain, it is also critical to refuse to succumb to its malevolence. Like failure, chaos contains information that can lead to knowledge — even wisdom. Like art.” – Toni Morrison (2004)

Poetic Justice is a group of critical thinkers and makers exploring new forms of social justice with art through collapsing content and form. We research intersectional issues, such as racial and environmental justice, and develop artworks about or with communities. Our participatory public artworks, including phone and online accessible sound and video streams, have been presented by the Contemporary Art Museum of Houston, Contemporary Art Museum of St. Louis, Bemis Center for Contemporary Art, and Museum of the City of New York.

Current projects question, if “Artists need to create on the same scale as society has the capacity to destroy,” as Sherrie Rabinowitz suggested in 1984, then how can we scale social practice through conceptual art and computational design strategies? We’ve been thinking through this question by developing a series of generative sound and video portraits of linguistic and ethnic diversity in US cities, Black thought and expression in the US (TBA), and liberty and equality across multiple countries (TBA). These digitally-distributed artworks feature oral histories from crowdsourced phone and webcam recordings or internet archives remixed into evolving poetic collages. Next year we’ll be announcing our first physically-distributed artwork, including a series of monuments and sound portraits for Black lives lost to COVID-19 in the US.

Our seminar courses create spaces for discourse around how Black and Brown lives are affected by racism in the US and by the climate crisis in and outside the US. Guest lectures co-sponsored by the Arts, Culture and Technology (ACT) program have included artists John Akomfrah, Garret Bradley, Hugh Hayden, Tricia Hersey and Hank Willis Thomas; journalists Topher Sanders and Linda Villarosa; environmental activist Marcus Franklin; anthropologist Dr. Ashanté M. Reese; public health specialist Professor Arline T. Geronimus; sociologist Professor Elijah Anderson; historian Dr. Cooper Owens; chef Omar Tate and more.