At 3AM on a brisk November morning with a surveillance team in place, the now off limit public space that was designated over a century ago to commemorate General P.G.T. Beauregard of the Confederate States Army and his contentious flag were claimed by artist Ti-Rock Moore. Despite the City of New Orleans’ heightened regulation of the space and risk, Moore chose to reimagine our country’s past, present and future with the work “New Wars, New Stories, New Heroes”. New Wars is a time-based piece that utilizes the power of space and insignia to ignite new dialogue and deconstruct a representation that continues to impede the intended ideals of this nation. Through the reclaiming of this land and the literal dismantling of the Confederate face of oppression, the work seeks to combat the illegitimate foundations of a paradoxical nation.
Tough Under Fire
Tough Under Fire, mixed media, 2017
Six clear acrylic columns mimic the antebellum architecture characteristic of the 19th-century plantation home. Focusing on linkages between the enslavement of Africans and contemporary capitalism, this work interrogates the history and symbolic implications of the “Master Lock,” which was originally created to protect military equipment post-World War I. The very name of the padlock company and their one-time slogan “Tough Under Fire” conjure both the trajectory of how slavery established the precedent for the societal mechanisms that strengthen capitalism, as well as the enslavement to capitalism that contemporary Americans must endure to achieve even a tenuously minimal standard of living.
Like indigo before it, sugar cane and cotton are staple crops of Louisiana’s economy, and collectively these plants are nearly synonymous with a history of enslaved labor in the United States, from the Middle Passage through the current abuses of the prison industrial complex, which exploits its captive labor force for profit. Sugar cane stalks harvested near Thibodeaux, Louisiana, on the privately-owned Melodia Plantation are suspended and inverted, turned upside down in a symbolic gesture of reversal, one that metaphorically upends and thus makes right centuries of economic exploitation and injustice.
Performance featuring Nic Brielle Aziz, 2017
French sculptor Auguste Rodin originally conceived The Poet, inspired by Dante, to sit atop The Gates of Hell. But when an enlarged version of the work was exhibited separately as The Thinker, it was transformed into a singular work of monumental humanity. Deriving inspiration from the original, contemporary curator and writer Nic Brielle Aziz is positioned high above the audience, forcing the onlookers into the position of admirer looking up at this literally elevated subject, while allowing Aziz as the subject of the gaze to actively engage with the expectations placed upon him by the spectacle. That this thinker is a young black intellectual further complicates the assumptions within contemporary society made about youth, gender, and ethnicity as it relates to aspirational thought and the potential for leadership.
Mixed media, 2017
The United States imprisons more of its citizens than any other nation; Louisiana incarcerates more of its residents than any other state; and New Orleans contributes the highest number of bodies to its prison industrial complex. Economies of cotton, sugar, and indigo harvested by enslaved men and women built Louisiana and the U.S.; now, imprisoned bodies are forced to perform the virtually free labor that maintains these industries in an unending cycle of poverty, imprisonment, and death. “Sick and tired of being sick and tired” is an oft-repeated phrase referencing the persistent fatigue of unrelenting struggle not unique but certainly endemic to the African American population. The exhausted tension between the desire and need to find rest from the weight of oppressive forces, and the inability, either literally or metaphorically, to achieve that repose on the thin, prison-issue mattresses, is the central focus of this work.
…a deconstructed cotton Ku Klux Klansman robe and hood, and a silk antebellum dress, which have literally and figuratively been taken apart at the seams. The fragile, unstitched threads are preserved as an entangled metaphor of interconnectivity that alludes to the myriad ways in which we are all implicated in a system of belief which privileges white over black, male over female, and violence over nurturance.
Representing how deeply embedded white supremacy is in law enforcement culture and why African Americans are disproportionately incarcerated and murdered by police, three suspended, parallel bullets memorialize the daily victims of police violence. Instead of the victim’s body, however, the viewer sees the white-originated bullet that put the black body on the ground, hung thus as a reference to this ubiquitous mode of contemporary lynching and the destruction to which unchecked police fire grounded in white terror leads.
Alluding to the Holy Trinity, three suspended white crowns of thorns explore the ways in which Christianity and white supremacy are mutually reinforcing. While not inherently supremacist, so-called Christian values are used to incite xenophobic, homophobic, and racist violence. The white crowns explicitly reference Christ’s crucifixion at Golgotha (Hebrew for the place of the skull) while also symbolizing the ahistoric whitewashing of a Middle Eastern Jesus as a blue-eyed blond.
Mixed media, 2016
The public water fountain has long been a passive symbol of separatism in the United States, one of the more visible manifestations of the Jim Crow era which was ushered in with the Supreme Court’s decision in Plessy vs. Ferguson (which originated in New Orleans) and de facto ended almost seventy years later with the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The environmental racism underlying the systemic poisoning of the drinking water in Flint, Michigan, with its majority African American population, is poignantly emblematized by the endless stream of fouled fluid which emanates from the whitewashed source.
White on Black
White on Black is Moore’s rendition of the Confederate flag, a classic symbol of white supremacy and therefore white hate. The white and black clearly and simply represent the racial tension and injustice that result from white supremacy in the United States.
Cracka Please asks the viewer to inject humor into the absurdity of racism. The display of the Premium crackers is a wordplay poking fun at one of the few derogatory phrases used to describe Caucasians. The placement of the cracker boxes reference the work of pop art icon Andy Warhol and are a disapproval of American consumerist and capitalist priorities.
Protect and Serve
Protect and Serve equates the history of lynching black bodies in the United States to modern-day violence against innocent black community members in the form of police brutality. It specifically references the unjust verdict for the 2014 case of Eric Garner, who was choked to death by a New York City Police Department officer.
In Profile This , Moore refers to racial profiling as a direct extension of slavery in the United States. The iron neck ring and chains that would have been worn by African captives is displayed and likened to a trophy to depict the horrific and common police practice of irrationally targeting black people for arrest andmurder.
Just Sayin’ is a tongue-and-cheek response to the lack of acknowledgment of white privilege in the United States. From afar, the white neon sculpture is intended to resemble the Ku Klux Klan cross.
Possession is an overt criticism of the prison industrial complex in the United States. It is a depiction of the present-day treatment of black males as commodities in the American capitalist structure.
Separate But Equal
In Separate But Equal the juxtaposition of the log chain used to drive slaves next to a gold chain, is Moore’s bold claim that the treatment of black men in America today, has made little improvement since the time of slavery
Fly Over addresses the American government’s poor handling of Hurricane Katrina relief efforts in 2005. The well-known media image of President George W. Bush flying over New Orleans on Air Force One, observing the post-hurricane damages on the Gulf Coast, is collaged with a 19th centuryimage of slaves working on a cotton plantation in the American South. His calm facial expression in the photo paired with 452 racial epithets in the background, suggest that there was deep racism embedded in the strategy behind relief efforts; racism that stems from the early colonial period in the United States.
Commissioned by the Arts Council of New Orleans and executed by New Orleans muralist, Brandon "B-Mike" Odums, Damaged is an iteration of the world-famous sculpture Winged Victory of Samothrace. The mural, conceptualized by Ti-Rock Moore, is a reflection on Moore's experience post-Katrina in New Orleans noting that despite the devastation and corruption in relief efforts, the city while marred, stands tall and powerful.
This piece brings under scrutiny the conservative right wing’s unrelenting support of the second amendment, the right to keep and bear arms. The whiteness of the painted objects on display: the vending machine, hand rifles, and bibles, denotes the culture of white supremacy and Christianity, both ideologies often closely linked to these objects. Equally, the placement of lethal weapons inside of a vending machine is a criticism of how readily available firearms are across the United States. Here, Moore insists that if the National Rifle Association’s power continues to successfully push against gun control policy, mass shootings such as the 2016 Pulse Night Club massacre, will continue to occur. In pairing guns and bibles together, Moore brings to light the irony of holding such contradicting values as enabling hate crimes and violence while claiming allegiance to a faith that insists upon compassion, humility, and so-called tolerance for your neighbor.