Present Absence

Salome Chasnoff shares clips from a video installation recording the impact of police-involved killings in Chicago on the victims’ families and communities.

A still from Salome Chasnoff and Meredith Zielke’s Present Absence, 2016–ongoing. Five-channel installation. Courtesy the artists.

Editor's Note

In “Mutual Support,” which was on view March 10–April 23, 2017, at Pelican Bomb Gallery X, we presented a panel from Rachel Wallis’ Gone but Not Forgotten, 2015, a large-scale quilt memorializing 144 people killed by the Chicago Police Department or in police custody between 2006 and 2015. Wallis’ work, created in partnership with activist group We Charge Genocide, was collectively sewn in restorative justice circles publicly held throughout Chicago in art and community settings. Alongside this project, Salome Chasnoff and Meredith Zielke created a video installation, and the three artists imagine their continued work as small parts of the larger fight against police brutality.

Present Absence, 2016–ongoing, is a five-channel video installation making visible the lives of individuals killed by Chicago police or in police custody. Meredith Zielke and I recorded intimate one-­on-­one interviews with family members of the victims to share the impact and reverberations of the killings on their families and communities. Five family members are interviewed for each victim represented, and Present Absence expands and humanizes victims’ identities beyond corporate-media accounts of their deaths, and creates complex narratives that challenge one-­sided police records. We invite viewers to experience the victims not as cases or statistics but as people who are loved and missed.

In the installation, five intimate single-shot interviews are rear-­projected on translucent vellum walls, positioned in a listening circle to simulate an imagined conversation between the five on-screen family members. As each person shares stories about the one they’ve all lost, the other four listen and react. The groups of five rotate as the subject of the conversation shifts from one individual to another. These virtual dialogues form physical and narrative spaces that viewers can enter, immersing themselves in a surround experience that proffers a path to radical empathy.

A selection from Salome Chasnoff and Meredith Zielke’s Present Absence, 2016–ongoing. Five-channel installation. Courtesy the artists.

Category:

Artist Project