Society's Cage – A Statement on the Forces of Systemic Racism
Society’s Cage reminds visitors that the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor are not anomalies, but rather the latest examples in a 400+ year historic pattern of unmitigated, unbound, systemic anti-Blackness in the United States. The installation provides an opportunity to acknowledge and reckon with the severity of the racial biases inherent in the institutional structures of justice and creates a space for collective reflection, contemplation, sharing and healing.
The pavilion is a series of bars which are hung to form a cube with a cavernous void that symbolizes our imperfect society and justice system. The void is shaped by historical data and serves as a visual metaphor to represent the primary institutional forces of racism that embody the Black American experience.
The Exterior Experience: Educate
Wrapping the edifice of Society’s Cage is an interpretive educational experience about racist lynchings, police terrorism, mass incarceration and capital punishment as the primary institutional structures of anti-Black state violence. Visitors are directed to additional educational resources through QR codes.
The Interior Experience: Empathize
The interior of the installation offers the visitor an emotive experience. Enveloped in a soundscape commissioned for the installation, beneath a constellation of lights, this second interpretive experience is designed to build empathy and understanding. Inside the pavilion is an opportunity to participate in a universal exercise of holding one’s breath for as long as one can. This exercise is inspired by the indignities performed on George Floyd in the 8:46 in which his life was tragically and unnecessarily stolen. The visitor is then encouraged to record a video on their own smartphone state how long they were able to hold their breath and provide brief reflections to upload to a social media platform with a unique hashtag specific to this installation.
The initial installation was timed to coincide with the March on Washington in support of Black Lives, and was located on the National Mall at 12th Street and Madison Drive NW from August 28 - September 12, 2020.
Experience Society's Cage Digitally
To extend the Society's Cage installation online, this text document features all the educational and interpretive content from the physical installation, paired with additional resources. The augmented reality simulation below allows anyone to interact with a digital twin of the pavilion from anywhere.
Immediate donations are needed to fund the installation and its ability to travel to future locations. Sponsors who are invested in fighting for justice for Black lives, in uplifting the voices of Black artists and designers, and in bringing awareness to the historic continuum of anti-Black state violence are desired. Download the donation information package.
We are partnered with The Architects Foundation on this project, and whose mission is complementary to ours: to attract, inspire and invest in the next generation of architects who will create inclusive spaces, places and communities. Funds raised beyond the total needed for the installation go to the Foundation’s Diversity Advancement Scholarships program.
The Architects Foundation is a registered 501(c)(3) organization, EIN 59-3819154. Make your tax-deductible donation in support of Society’s Cage and learn more about The Architects Foundation at architectsfoundation.org.
Individual donations and corporate sponsors are welcomed.