Witness Perspectives on Police Violence

Civic Installation: audio testimony, photography, video, sculpture

1999

McCallum & Tarry

In 1997 thirty year-old Abner Louima was assaulted, brutalized, and forcibly sodomized with a broken-off broom handle by officers of the New York City Police Department after he was arrested outside a Brooklyn nightclub. Eighteen months later, four New York City plain-clothed police officers killed twenty-three year old Amadou Diallo, an immigrant from Guinea, after they mistook him for a rape suspect from one year earlier. The officers fired a combined total of 41 shots, 19 of which struck Diallo, outside his apartment in the Bronx. He was unarmed.

Witness is a response to these traumatic incidents that took place in New York City, a place the artists call home, and the installation is based on the perspectives of witnesses and survivors, family members, activists, police officers, court documents, autopsy reports, and criminal records.

First installed in the iconic Cathedral of St. John the Divine in Manhattan’s Morningside Heights neighborhood, Witness juxtaposes photographs, legal documents, and oral testimonies in audio, video, and projections. The installation transformed the Cathedral from a site of worship to a site of alternative address: one that allows different perspectives, addresses the needs of all affected, and created conditions in which the social trauma of these incidents could be processed though acts of witnessing, sharing, and accountability.