about objects

Police assault on an unarmed individual is ruled permissible if the officers “mistook” a cellphone, or a wallet, or a toy, as a weapon; the story is sadly familiar. But how often does this actually happen, and under what circumstances? The Objects Project is the attempt of artists and activists Cheyanne Epps and Kyle Lane-McKinley, to find their own answers to these questions, and to share those answers with communities affected by such violence.

The Objects Project grows out of a series of drawings by Cheyanne Epps of the objects that were supposedly mistaken by the police as weapons, and out of her experience working with the Groundswell Community Mural Project in Brooklyn. In collaboration with Kyle Lane-McKinley, Epps has transformed those drawings into a website that presents users with a world map, on which Epps's drawings appear, marking the location where each known incident occurred. Users click on those markers to read a synopsis of the incident at hand, or click through to a linked newspaper account of that incident.

By producing flyers for the purpose of posting near the physical location where these incidents occurred, Epps and Lane-McKinley offer a form of annotation of the everyday environment that is informed by traditions of community murals and street-art – but whose form, on the internet, is potentially more difficult to white-wash away. When users download, print out, and post up free flyers from the site, they leave a trace in physical space of the sorts of state violence that institutions generally prefer to make invisible. Passersby, intrigued by the cryptic simplicity of the flyer, might be compelled to scan the accompanying QR code, and begin learning about the incident referenced by the flyer. In this manner, Epps and Lane-McKinley hope to grow a community dedicated to extending this research, and, hopefully, extending beyond research into new forms of political engagement.

While far from comprehensive, the site presents a visual argument about the prevalence of this sort of “mistaken” object and about structural imbalances between the capacity of police for violence and the capacity of, say, a candy bar for violence. Further, users who read about many of the incidents begin to observe what so many of us knew implicitly: that such police violence is disproportionately visited upon poor and working class communities, and, especially, on communities of color. In the wake of uprisings against racialized police violence in Missouri and around the country, it is important to contextualize the critique of police violence here within larger struggles for social justice. As Alicia Garza has said, “When we say Black Lives Matter, we are talking about the ways in which Black people are deprived of our basic human rights and dignity. It is an acknowledgement Black poverty and genocide is state violence” (Garza, 2014). In this sense, The Objects Project calls into question a system of authority that not only mis-recognizes objects, but fails to recognize human life.

"objects" is an on-going project, and we would love your help. if you know of other such incidents, or if we got something wrong, please contact us at contact_objcts {at} googlegroups {dot} com

the map of objects was built by lane-mckinley using leaflet.js , cloudmade styling, and open street maps tiles.

see more of cheyanne epps's work at http://cheyanneepps.tumblr.com/ or at http://cargocollective.com/cheyanneepps

see more of kyle lane-mckinley's work at http://www.kylemckinley.com/ or at http://buildingcollective.org/


Garza, Alicia. “A Herstory of the #BlackLivesMatter Movement” The Feminist Wire. Available at: http://thefeministwire.com/2014/10/blacklivesmatter-2/ (accessed 27 March 2015).