The mixed media installation renews calls to address the racism and violence prevalent in the criminal justice system.

Downtown Brooklyn Partnership (DBP) and Dumbo Improvement District (Dumbo) today unveiled Witnessing (2022), a new public art installation created by artist Bradley McCallum and presented by Conjunction Arts, the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Art (MoCADA), and the Burchfield Penney Art Center at The Plaza at 300 Ashland, with support from Two Trees Management Co. (Two Trees). One of the projects funded through the Downtown Brooklyn + Dumbo Art Fund, under New York State’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI), Witnessing transforms the emergency call boxes that were once a fixture on city sidewalks to memorialize victims of police brutality while bringing attention to the ongoing fight to end racism, violence, and the abuse of power within the criminal justice system.

Witnessing remasters a project McCallum created two decades ago in collaboration with Jacqueline Tarry — Witness: Perspectives on Police Violence (1999-2000) — which was created in response to the city-wide protests following the police abuse of Abner Louima in 1997 and Amadou Diallo in 1999. It featured the classic call boxes with audio testimony from victims, witnesses, and police officers; each placed at various sites of police brutality around the city. To recast the project in light of the Black Lives Matter movement, McCallum revived the call box concept and the old testimonies to underscore the fact that, despite the significant amount of time that has passed between the two projects, there has not been a considerable reduction in death rates of people of color at the hands of police.

With six, 7-foot-tall call box structures placed around the Plaza, Witnessing offers viewers a place to honor victims and survivors while considering society’s role in advocating for systemic change. The audio-visual elements displayed through the call boxes draw the viewer in, creating an intimate experience that allows for observation and reflection. Witnessing was created with support from curator Scott Propeack, fabricator Fja’h Salehi, and video editor Efe Ozmen.

“Building on the mission of the Downtown Brooklyn + Dumbo Art Fund, Witnessing will not only activate our shared spaces but also offer our community a place to connect, reflect, and interact,” said Regina Myer, President, Downtown Brooklyn Partnership. “We’re proud to showcase Witnessing in the heart of Downtown Brooklyn’s thriving cultural district and look forward to seeing residents, visitors, workers and students engage with this important piece of public art.”

“This is an important work – it will be encountered by the community in a way that only public art can achieve,” said Alexandria Sica, President, DUMBO Improvement District. “We are so proud to be presenting it through the Downtown Brooklyn + Dumbo Art Fund.”

“Witnessing engages with the lived experiences of suffering and how people are affected by abuses of power daily,” said Bradley McCallum. “I hope the public climate has shifted enough for people – especially the authorities, politicians, and policymakers – to understand Witnessing as a monument to our shared humanity. As the father of a mixed-race son who is now 19 years old, I appreciate first-hand the fear that comes with systemic racism and the challenges we face in policing our democracy.”

Witnessing is presented in memory of the following New Yorkers that were killed by police and features testimony provided by their family members: Anthony Baez (1994), Nicholas Heward Jr. (1994), Anthony Rosario (1995), Hilton Vega (1995), Yong Xin Huang (1995), Anibal Calderon (1995), Frankie Arzuaga (1996) and Nathanial Levi Gaines (1996). The installation also features testimonies from the following survivors, activists and police officers: Charles Billups, NYPD Officer; Lisa Figueroa, Youth Force member; Sha-King Graham, Youth Force member; Susan Karten, attorney for Baez’s family; Gerard Papa, survivor (1996); Desmond Robinson, NYC Transit Officer; The Reverend Al Sharpton, activist; Graham Weatherspoon, NYPD and NYC Transit Officer and Tasha Williams, Youth Force member.

Witnessing and Witness: Perspectives on Police Violence were developed with a host of organizations working on police reform and advocating on behalf of victims and their families. These organizations include the New York Civil Liberties Union, The Center for Constitutional Rights, The National Action Network, Parents Against Police Brutality, 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care, The National Congress of Puerto Rican Rights, The Anthony Baez Foundation and Youth Force.

Witnessing is funded by a grant from the Downtown Brooklyn + Dumbo Art Fund, a partnership with Downtown Brooklyn Partnership and Dumbo Improvement District as part of New York State’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative, and the Burchfield Penney Art Center. The installation would not be possible without the generous support of public art initiatives by Two Trees Management, the permission of Jacqueline Tarry and the support of curator Scott Propeack.

To further activate the site and add context to the themes underlying Witnessing, a series of associated programming will take place in partnership with the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Art (MoCADA).

About the Downtown Brooklyn + Dumbo Art Fund

The Downtown Brooklyn + Dumbo Art Fund, a partnership of Downtown Brooklyn Partnership and Dumbo Improvement District, provides grants for eligible public art, performance, and accessibility projects that serve to enhance public space, increase access to cultural programming, and connect the neighborhoods of the Downtown Brooklyn area. Funding for these transformative grants has been provided by New York State through its Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI). Part of New York State’s approach to create vibrant neighborhoods and boost local economies, DRI investments are a crucial part of the State’s strategy to revitalize communities.

About Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Art (MoCADA)

MoCADA centers art as a vehicle for social change, while celebrating the shared history, values, and futures of Africa and the diaspora. Through exhibitions, education, and community, MoCADA provides a platform to artists and other “voices” who create work that is essential to Black lives; fosters dynamic safe spaces to incite dialogue on pressing sociopolitical issues facing Africa and the diaspora; and advocates for equity and access on every level.

About Conjunction Arts

Conjunction Arts supports collaboration around compelling, socially progressive art within the public sphere, and broadening the creative community’s participation in building a more just and equitable society by raising awareness and collaborating with artists working for social change. Conjunction Arts produces artist-driven projects that inspire action, impact public discourse, and influence decision makers. In 1998-2001 Conjunction Arts produced the multi phased project Witness Perspectives on Police Violence, by Bradley McCallum in collaboration with Jacqueline Tarry.