In 1992, Diane Aoki (BFA 1982, SAIC) received a RAP grant to fund her project March Against Murder. In response to the escalating murder rate in 1991 and 1992, Aoki organized a mock funeral procession of about 40 people who carried coffins through the Garfield Park and Lawndale neighborhoods on the west side of Chicago, in memory of those who were murdered. In 1991, there were 927 homicides in Chicago – in 1992, there were 941(more than half were people age 15-30). To give some perspective to that figure, in 2012 there were 506.
The marchers were residents of these neighborhoods, family members of murder victims, and artists. They were led by a motorcade of two hearses and a van filled with 100 coffins. When they reached Douglas Park, the hearses were unloaded and the coffins were lined up, temporarily transforming the park into a cemetery. Rodney Cozart, pictured with Aoki, was a co-organizer of the march; as a mortician and owner of a local funeral home, he was all too familiar with the effects of violence in the area. In reference to the march, he was quoted in the local news that he hoped the march would “serve as a visual whipping for people with a conscience.”
These images speak to a specific time in social and cultural history. As powerful reminders of Chicago’s (and America’s) violent past, they are especially resonant now, a month after the F.B.I. reported that Chicago had more homicides in 2012 than any other U.S. city, giving Chicago the stigma of the “murder capital” of the country. This project embodies artistic modes of working that emerged in the 1990s, especially social practice and activism, and in a form that challenged the traditional gallery structure and the monumentality of public sculpture. The intersection of social issues and cultural activity is what makes March Against Murder such a poignant work of art. Its engagement with the specific time and place of its creation has much to offer to a new audience.
- Rebecca Cooling, BFA, MLIS InternPhotographs by Bill (WC) Turck