As gun violence rages, along with the explosive battle over gun control, a compelling online video “Cure Violence: Portrait of an Epidemic” offers very personal stories of individuals working to prevent shootings in their communities.
The two-part video portrait, filmed by Chicago artist Lincoln Schatz in some of that city’s most violent neighborhoods, could not be more timely.
In President Obama’s State of the Union speech Feb. 12, he noted that “more than two dozen Americans whose lives have been torn apart by gun violence” were in the audience.
They included the parents of 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton, killed by a gunman who opened fire on the teen and her friends in a Chicago park “just a mile from my home”, only a week after she marched in the President’s inaugural parade. First Lady Michelle Obama attended the Feb. 9 funeral.
President Obama received the loudest applause and cheers when he said that the teen’s parents “deserve a vote. Gabby Giffords deserves a vote. The families of Newtown, the families of Aurora, Oak Creek, Tucson…and countless other communities ripped open by gun violence deserve a vote.”
Schatz’s video gives them a “vote” by giving a voice to the causes and consequences of gun violence. He was far ahead of his time, having filmed “Cure Violence” in 2009.
“They’re all dying around me; bullets flying…”, says one of more than 50 Chicago men and women in the video composite portrait.
“When I got out of prison, I went to his grave and cried,” says another about his victim.
“People do want to change; they don’t know how to do it,” comments another.
In Part Two of “Cure Violence”, a man says, “Buying a gun is like buying a pack of cigarettes. It’s just that easy.”
“A pregnant woman was shot. She and her baby died, and she left three children,” a woman says.
One man tells gang members, “I’ve been there, I’ve done this, I’ve lived this…” Another urges, “Think of the consequences…”
Schatz created the work in conjunction with CeaseFire (now called Cure Violence), an Illinois nonprofit.
As one of its volunteers — a former gang leader — explains, “We identify conflict and interrupt violence before it erupts.”
Schatz and his team filmed interviews with the “violence interrupters” and community members, and then processed the footage through his custom software.
His pioneering way of storytelling is called “generative video portraits” (randomly generated through metadata tags, instead of looped like regular films).
Schatz’s innovative works are at the Smithsonian, the State Department’s Art in Embassies program, the Art Institute of Chicago, among others.
To view other video portraits by Schatz, who studied at Bennington College, click here.
His most recent generative video portrait, “The Network”, is his second work at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, and also is at DC’s CONNERSMITH Gallery.
“The Network”, 89 interlinked interviews with power Washington figures including House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Republican strategist Karl Rove, former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, and lesser-known but key Washington players, will be at New York City’s Armory art show March 6-10.
Most important, subscribe to Schatz’s “Cure Violence” podcast — click here.
For more info: Lincoln Schatz, www.lincolnschatz.com.