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“Built into this project is an ‘open-source’ approach to participation […] social media becomes a tool that turns individuals into more than just audience members observing a piece of artwork: They become participants, artists, revolutionaries”
Mallory Nezam, organizer, in Forecast Public Art
For decades, activists have stenciled bodies on sidewalks and streets in order to remind us of violent acts that state institutions often attempt to quickly usher out of sight and out of mind. Besides its low cost, chalk tagging is also easy, fast, and unlikely to be seen as illegal. #ChalkedUnarmed began in 2014 as a way for people to raise awareness of police brutality. Participants use chalk to draw outlines of bodies, along with the names and dates of death of unarmed black men and women killed by the police. They then post images of these drawings to social media with the hashtag #ChalkedUnarmed. In this way, the project combines a tactic that is accessible, physical, and local with the networked reach of social media.
The physical chalk outlines serve as a visible reminder of oppression, and of communities’ commitment to remember and combat acts of violence; they annotate spaces as sites of both loss and resistance. Online, #ChalkedUnarmed documents the pervasiveness of police brutality across the country, while linking communities in solidarity.
Header images from St. Louis Magazine.