Monday December 9, 2019
Home Indian Diaspora Hands Up: Ind...

Hands Up: Indian-American artist generates empathy for US police gunbattles victims

0
//
"Hands Up," an interactive digital video project by Roopa Vasudevan and Atif Ateeq in New York sparks discussion of encountr killings of minorities in the United Sttes. Credit: Humai Mustafa
"Hands Up," an interactive digital video project by Roopa Vasudevan and Atif Ateeq in New York sparks discussion of encountr killings of minorities in the United Sttes. Credit: Humai Mustafa
“Hands Up,” an interactive digital video project by Roopa Vasudevan and Atif Ateeq in New York sparks discussion of encounter killings of minorities in the United States.
Credit: Humai Mustafa

New York: An Indian-American digital artist and educator has produced an interactive multimedia installation to explore the problem of killings in police gunbattles in the US. according to a media estimate these gunbattles result in at least two deaths every day.

The “Hands Up” digital exhibit is about “generating empathy”, said Roopa Vasudevan, who created it with fellow Pakistani American artist Atif Ateeq.

“Obviously, there is no way to fully understand what a confrontation like this is, unless it happens to you,” Vasudevan said. “We hoped to allow our visitors to get a degree of understanding of how charged and emotional the situation actually is.”

“Hands Up” simulates the high-adrenaline gunbattle situation in a cacophony of shouts, commands and sirens in a dark scenario ripped by sudden flashes of blue, white and red police car beacons, invoking a sense of dread and foreboding.

As the intimidating voice of the law orders “Hands up,” and a visitor responds, bursts of light simulate gunfire and sounds of explosion ricochet. The viewers are plunged into the virtual reality of split second decisions that become the arbiters of death and life.

It was on display recently at Flux Factory, a community of artists in the city’s Queens borough, an area that is home to a large number of Indians and South Asians.

Asked if she saw police brutality as an issue for Asians and Indians in the US, Vasudevan said: “Absolutely.”

“This is an issue of an imbalance of power,” she explained. “Obviously, most of the focus in the media recently has been on interactions with African American men, but it’s worth noting that this speaks to a larger story of how minorities are looked at and treated in this country.”

In February a visitor from India, Sureshbhai Patel, was left partially paralysed after being roughed up by police in Alabama, although he was not shot.

Last February, an Indian American who had served in the US Army in Iraq returned home to California only to be shot dead by police. Police claimed that Parminder Singh Shergill had charged at them with a knife, but eyewitnesses asserted that he was unarmed.

The Washington Post reported recently that its analysis found that 385 people have been killed in police shootings so far this year.

A disproportionate number of those killed were minorities. Among the unarmed victims, two-thirds were African Americans or Latinos, the newspaper said. When adjusted for proportions in the population in the areas of shootings, African Americans were three times as likely to be killed as other ethnic or racial groups, its analysis found.

Vasudevan said that after grand juries refused last year to indict the white police officers involved in two separate incidents – the choking death of an unarmed man, Eric Garner in New York, and shooting death of a teenager, Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri – she and Ateeq wanted to see “how we could productively contribute to the conversation and movement for change.”

“As artists, both of us strongly felt that generating empathy for someone placed in the situation of being confronted by the police was key to the path to understanding, and that the best way to do that was by creating a large, immersive art piece,” she said.

Facing mounting criticism over police conduct, Pat Lynch, the head of the New York City police union, denounced the exhibit, saying “it perpetuates a falsehood about police officers and their use of force”.

The atmosphere of chaos and tension created in the exhibit, however, also illustrate the conditions that police operate under.

Vasudevan, denying it was anti-police, said: “It’s not such a cut and dry thing, so-and-so was right and so-and-so was wrong. There’s a lot happening in the moment. It’s our hope that our work can add to the discussion of what can be done to change things.”

Vasudevan has been a director for MTV’s Emmy award-winning series, “True Life,” and her digital work has been featured by the American Museum of Natural History, National 9/11 Museum, and The New York Times. She also teaches at Fordham and New York universities.

Asked about artists of Indian and Pakistani descent working together, she said: “The piece was more about being a minority in the United States than anything else. We didn’t necessarily keep the specifics of our backgrounds in mind when collaborating.” (IANS)

Next Story

Black Friday Impacts Online Sales

Many stores offer deep discounts to attract customers

0
Black Friday Shopping
Hundreds of shoppers wait for the doors to open at Best Buy, in Mayfield Height, Ohio. VOA

The Friday after Thanksgiving is traditionally one of the biggest shopping days of the year. Black Friday is viewed as the start of the holiday shopping season, a time when U.S. retailers rake in a significant portion of the year’s profits.

Many stores offer deep discounts to attract customers, and shoppers often line up early for a chance to grab a great deal before supplies run out.

“I think it is a very good sales gimmick,” says James E. Schrager, professor of entrepreneurship and strategy at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. “And what’s been happening for a few decades now is that retailers are very worried about when they get the customer into their store for this huge seasonal buying season. And they know it comes and goes very quickly … so this is a very good idea, so that they make sure they get their time — that is, the customer’s time — in their store to show off what they have.”

Macy’s, the department store, is believed to be the first retailer to advertise after-Thanksgiving Day shopping during their Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York in 1924. Black Friday shopping grew more popular in the 1930s.

Black Friday Shopping
A traffic jam is negotiated in the aisles of Toys R Us, in San Rafael Calif. which was crowded with Black Friday shoppers. VOA

“Black Friday was a way to make sure that, for the season, they would make their number,” Schrager says. “ ‘Make their number,’ in the retail business, means sell more than you did last year. So every retailer loves to grow. Every retailer wants to get bigger and have better market share than it had the year before.”

Legos, cameras and a high-end backpack were among the hot online searches going into Black Friday 2019, according to Google, the online search engine. But where people will actually shop on the day after Thanksgiving isn’t clear.

“I can’t speak necessarily specifically to that because, of course, you don’t necessarily know what any one person is doing,” says Molly VandenBerg, a Google trends expert. “When we look at search behavior, people do certainly come to Google to search for things like where to buy a particular item.”

Schrager says online shopping hasn’t diminished Black Friday’s significance to the nation’s brick-and-mortar retailers.

“I think it’s more important than ever,” he says. “Online retailing is new, it’s new and it’s newsy. But if you look at the numbers … 89 percent of everything bought new is sold in regular stores.”

Walmart's Black Friday event
Customers continue to use their phones – and the Walmart app – as a shopping tool during Walmart’s Black Friday event in Bentonville, Arkansas. VOA

Online sales accounted for just 11.2 percent of total sales in the third quarter of 2019 — the months of April, May and June — according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. Over the past 10 years, there’s been a little under 1 percent growth per year in online retailing.

Online shopping sales are expected to grow 18% this year, according to a recent Deloitte holiday retail survey.

The same survey finds that nearly two-thirds of shoppers plan to look online for gift inspiration. However, more than half of the consumers surveyed still plan to head into the store to see and touch a product before purchasing it.

ALSO READ: Online Shopping Giant Amazon makes Customers pay more for Popular items

But there are other ways to incorporate technology into the holiday shopping season.

“If you’re heading out into the stores, you might want to know how crowded they’re expected to be before you get there,” says VandenBerg, the Google trends expert. “And you can do this with the ‘Popular Times’ feature. If you’re looking at a particular store, or even like a grocery shop, you would be able to see an estimate of how busy we anticipate it would be, or how long you might wait.” (VOA)