In cities across the US, empty pedestals are what remain after statues memorialising the Confederate side of the American Civil War were toppled or removed in recent months. Thus, the question has come of what to do with those empty plinths, but Color of Change has created The Pedestal Project, a temporary AR fix to what they hope will become a long-term solution.
John Lewis, the late Civil Rights leader and former US congressman; Alicia Garza, co-founder of the Black Lives Matter Movement, author, and Principal of the Black Futures Lab; and Chelsea Miller, co-founder of the Freedom March NYC are each honoured through The Pedestal Project. AR statues of the three racial justice leaders can be viewed on Instagram as a filter that is shown against the sounds of speeches made by Lewis, Garza, and Miller.
Where memorials to the Confederacy and those with contentious pasts, including Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, once stood, anyone with an Instagram account can now envision a world where those who have fought and those who are fighting for racial justice and positive change are honoured.
Color of Change, which is the largest online racial justice organisation in the US, worked with artist Spencer Evans to create the AR statues. CGI brought to life the drawings Evans created with great intentionality and detail. Clothing, textures, facial expressions, and poses were all meticulously thought-through by Evans to “reference shared experiences rooted in identity and culture within the Black community.” The result is a series of powerful statues that create a impactful vision of what will be.
“In their time, white nationalist officials erected statues of Confederate leaders for a reason – to send a message about who should dominate this country, and to put Black people in our place,” Rashad Robinson, president of Color Of Change, said in a press release for The Pedestal Project. “In our time, Confederate statues continue to encourage white nationalists who are hell bent on resisting progress. It’s not enough to remove them, we must replace them with symbols of a just vision of America. But most importantly, every statue we change must go hand in hand with a statute we change. We cannot allow symbols like monuments to be a consolation prize — they must accompany real efforts to change laws and outcomes for real people, which is why we’re focusing on three of the many heroes fighting for concrete, anti-racist policy changes that will transform our country for the better.”
The Pedestal Project launched on the first day of February, which is Black History month in the US, and will be available indefinitely on Instagram (search @colorofchange in the filters section). If you aren’t near one of the plinths highlighted by the organisation, you can use the filters in your own city or even in your own home to experience the initiative. However, as more Confederate symbols are removed, leaving behind voided plinths, The Pedestal Project will update the map to include new pedestal locations. Color of Change is involved in the fight to remove such symbols as well, having spearheaded a petition that demands Confederate monuments be removed and replaced with “symbols of equality and progress.”
For the time being, these AR statues are temporary experiences, but Color of Change hopes that one day, these monuments will be made permanent in the places that once uplifted Confederate symbols. “Each city and state has its own laws about public monuments,” a spokesperson for Color of Change told Art Critique, “so the team will look to work with the right folks to get activists front and center in modern day history.”