AMERICAN ARTIST (based in Brooklyn, NY) is a multimedia artist who uses video, installation, new media, and writing to explore how anti-blackness operates within labor relations, networked life, and digital systems. Artist’s contributions to Barring Freedom respond to the language and logic of racial justice movements that have been co-opted by the Blue Lives Matter movement.
Blue Life Seminar, 2019
Written by American Artist with text by Christopher Dorner, performed by Christopher Grant, animated by Matthew Mann and Tommy Martinez, and music by Greg Fox Courtesy of the artist and Koenig & Clinton, New York
In American Artist’s computer-animated video Blue Life Seminar, the monologue spoken by the blue figure combines the words of Dr. Manhattan, the blue omnipotent super-being from Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’s graphic novel The Watchmen (1986–87), and Christopher Dorner, a former Los Angeles Police Department officer.
In 2013, a manifesto Dorner wrote denouncing police racism and violence was widely circulated after he killed four people and wounded three others, including police officers and their families. In Blue Life Seminar, the combined dialogue offers a critique of the Blue Lives Matter movement, which police officers started in response to Black Lives Matter activism. The Blue Lives Matter movement has promoted a series of bills that penalize crimes against American law enforcement officers, similar to hate-crime legislation. This wrongfully equates “Blue lives,” a chosen occupation, to “Black lives,” a racial identity.
Blue Life Seminar is shown alongside I’m Blue, a sculpture of a school desk with a riot shield, and blue are the words i say and what i think, a blue-coated chalkboard. The three works compose a fortified classroom space that calls into question the ideologies and doctrines taught by law enforcement. According to Artist, the artworks draw attention to the “performative vulnerability” of a group that enforces state power.
Courtesy of the Artist
School desk, hardware, ballistic shield, navy blue fabric, and books
blue are the words i say and what i think
Courtesy of the artist and Koenig & Clinton, NY. Photo by Jeffrey Sturges.
Aluminum, wood, hardware, and navy blue fabric
American Artist’s work is also featured in the following Barring Freedom study guide: Carceral Visuality
AMERICAN ARTIST (b. 1989 Altadena, CA, lives and works in Brooklyn, NY) is an artist whose work considers black labor and visibility within networked life. Their practice makes use of video, installation, new media, and writing. Artist is a 2021 LACMA Art & Tech Lab Grant Recipient and a resident at Smack Mellon in Brooklyn. They are a former resident of Red Bull Arts Detroit and EYEBEAM, a 2018-2019 recipient of the Queens Museum Jerome Foundation Fellowship, and completed the Whitney Independent Study program as an artist in 2017. They have exhibited at the Museum of African Diaspora, San Francisco, the Studio Museum in Harlem, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, and Koenig & Clinton, New York. Their work has been featured in The New York Times, Artforum, and Huffington Post. They have published writing in The New Inquiry and Art21. Artist is a 2021 Regents’ Lecturer at UCLA and teaches at the School for Poetic Computation.