Does art imitate life, or is it the other way around? In Spike Lee’s legendary 1989 film Do the Right Thing, one of the lead characters, Radio Raheem, suffocates to death when a cop places him in a chokehold. It’s a vivid, chilling scene — and it played out in real life this week when NYPD officers killed a 43-year-old man named Eric Garner, who was asthmatic, by placing him in a chokehold.
The NYPD actually banned chokeholds in 1994, after a cop killed a man named Anthony Baez, 29 at the time and also asthmatic, by putting him in one. It wasn’t the first time that had happened; in 1983, graffiti artist Michael Stewart died in the same way. Stewart’s real-life death was the impetus for Radio Raheem’s fictional one, which now eerily resonates once again in real life with the killing of Garner.
The difference this time is that today we all have cell phone cameras, which allowed a bystander to capture Garner’s killling on video; it is a horrible, extremely fraught thing to watch. In response, Spike Lee has taken this footage and spliced it with clips of Radio Raheem’s death from Do the Right Thing. The resulting video isn’t the most artful, but it is powerful.
On the surface, despite the shared circumstance, the two scenes seem quite different: in the film, Radio’s death happens in the midst of a riot, with people screaming and fighting all around; in Staten Island, Eric Garner was killed on a sidewalk so quiet and empty you can hear him plead for his life (“I can’t breathe”). Yet both show the terrifying ease of committing police brutality, and manslaughter, in plain sight. The only real distinction is that one is fiction, while the other only feels like it.
Join Hyperallergic for an online conversation with cultural organizer and curator La Tanya S. Autry on February 1 at 7pm (EST).
This week, the Tonga eruption as captured from space, Boston gets a big gift of Dutch and Flemish painting, 30 years of New Queer Cinema, an important Marcel Breuer house is demolished, and much more.
At this free online summit, hear from architects Tadao Ando and Lesley Lokko; artist Himali Singh Soin; author Amitav Ghosh; design studio Formafantasma; and more.
Being bowled over by an unknown artist’s first one-person show does not happen often but when it does, it renews your faith that the art world is not just about buzz and hype.
Surrealist images of a Rice Krispies box or Yukon Gold potato explore how data is transformed into the visual language called art.
This immersive video installation utilizes waterscape scenes to speak about concepts such as existence, intimacy, healing, and aquatic ecology.
What is wonderful about the online photography exhibition What Have We Stopped Hiding? is that one is given entrée to the internal monologue of the artists featured in the show.
Self-taught artists were invited to exhibit, and sell, their fuzzy stacks of pancakes and tasseled tapestries.
Curator, educator, and transdisciplinary artist Jova Lynne is coming from MOCAD to lead Temple Contemporary exhibitions and public programs.
Our culture seems obsessed with the artist/model relationship, portrayed in countless movies and narratives as a relationship that is lustful and scandalous.
Creator Art Spiegelman said he was “baffled” by the decision and called the school board’s behavior “Orwellian.”
The winners of this year’s Ocean Art Underwater Photo Contest prove that life is indeed better under the sea.