‘A Color Removed’ by Alumnus Michael Rakowitz

Michael Rakowitz, A Color Removed. Image: Andrew Spear for The New York Times.
ACT at MIT

Michael Rakowitz, an ACT alumnus, has made headway in helping a city heal from its wounds through a local community art exhibit.

Cleveland, Ohio was home to twelve year old Tamir Rice until November 22, 2014 when he was shot by a police officer who mistook Tamir’s toy gun to be real when it did not have the plastic orange safety tip. This concept is the main premise behind Rakowitz’s exhibit at SPACES presented as part of FRONT International, An American City:11 Cultural Exercises in Cleveland, running from July 14-September 30, 2018.

Rakowitz uses this exhibit to examine our idea of safety, specifically the association with the color orange. If this color were to be removed from Cleveland, would people still feel safe? To find out, Rakowitz installed collection bins throughout the city and asked locals to contribute any orange items they had. Items included tennis rackets, stuffed animals, safety vests, and road signs, amongst other paraphernalia. This was meant as a way for the community to work through the emotions and pain felt with the untimely death of Tamir Rice.

The exhibit’s focal point is a poster of orange toys created by Samaria Rice, Tamir’s mother. Other noteworthy pieces are a poster with twelve toy guns, to represent the twelve years Tamir was alive, and hand written text of “Ohio is an open carry state.” Many local artists and local art programs are also part of the exhibit: Amber N. Ford, Amanda King and her Shooting Without Bullets youth photography group, M. Carmen Lane, RA Washington, Jeremy Bendik-Keymer, Amir Berbic, Christopher Horne, Elaine Hulihen, Kelley O’Brien and Anthony Warnick, and the Tamir Rice Foundation.

Rakowitz’s thoughts can be seen in the exhibit, “When I think orange, I don’t think of red and yellow, I think of black and white” is on a bin where visitors can contribute orange items to be added to the exhibit. He is asking the people of Cleveland to take this opportunity to explore the concepts of social justice, the meaning of color, police brutality, and creating an artistic space to heal and talk.