About the work

Rituals of Commemoration, a memory legacy

2014-ongoing

Rituals of Commemoration, a memory legacy is an ongoing work ignited when police killed Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, on August 2014. This work serves as a space holder, a memory legacy that will ensure that Black, men, women, and youth killed by police are not forgotten, giving the lives lost dignity and respect by creating a physical space of remembrance and a symbolic acknowledgement of a difficult present. 

Research is a crucial and time-consuming part of this work.  As an artist researching is both creative and systematic. A studious inquiry and examination. It is an investigation aimed at discovering and interpreting of the facts, a revision of the accepted police versions of what happened in light of new information, by family, witnesses, neighbors, autopsy reports. It is work undertaken to increase our cumulative knowledge, it involves the collection, organization, and analysis of information that I hope increases our understanding of this issue. It is crucial information we need to know about the human beings that were killed, how they were killed, why they were killed?

The online research resources include newspaper articles, writing by scholars, museum archives and the Washington Post’s data investigation which relies primarily on news accounts, social media postings and police reports. I balance hours of research with the process of spray-painting and distressing each brick after centering the names and aligning each letter, there is layering, and drying time in addition to the final glaze. The colors are Reddish Brown, Burnt Umber, Chocolate, Indian red, Carmine, and Black. The process is ritualistic, repetitive, numbing; it helps me cope with the overwhelming number of instances of tragedy and horrific violence.

According to the Washington Post’s data collection, as of Dec. 1,  2020, 5750 people have been killed by police. Of those, 24%, 1403 are Black men, women, and youth. Rather than taking a “this too will pass” attitude, this endeavor focuses on chronicling the names, and fatal events of over 1,499 lives lost. This documentation effort begins with Arthur Lee McDuffie, an unarmed black motorcyclist that was beaten into a coma by four police officers on Dec. 17, 1979, and up to Oct. 26, 2020 when Walter Wallace Jr., a 27-year-old mentally ill black man, was shot fourteen times and killed by two Philadelphia police officers.

 

The installation includes 500 Pavestone bricks, each measuring 4” x 8” x 2.25”, designed in column formations that include a wallpaper background with a brick design. The bricks are painted and individualized by inscribing and recording each name and year of death. The material is durable dry-cast concrete, a readily available, non-precious material. In earlier iterations, the bricks are stacked reminiscent of a wall formation and include a projection with photographs and facts about the atrocity and the human beings killed. 

I am interested in creating work that is relevant to the conversations nationwide addressing the systematic and historic racism that promotes inequality, poverty and a school to prison pipeline, the role and history of policing and U.S. foreign policy. It is an invitation for viewers to participate in a project that features reflection, social interaction, objects, and action.  My fundamental unwavering belief in justice fuels this desire to use these markers as permanent tombstones meaningfully marking lives lost. I believe this is an act of disruption that will provoke conversation, hold memory, and interrogate our own unconscious biases.

Rosa Naday Garmendia 

Creativity / Activism / Social Change

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