Witness Cathedral Installation 1999

Civic, public installation, video, audio testimony, photographs, New York, NY

This project is the first portion of a work that explores the continuing problem of police violence toward civilians. For the entire work, McCallum and Tarry created a series of installations in the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine, NY, as well as call box tours on the streets of New York and an installation at the Bronx Museum of Art featuring video, audio testimony and photographs.

Context: McCallum and Tarry conceived of Witness following Abner Louima's torture while in police custody at the 70th Precinct Station House in Brooklyn on August 9, 1997. The incident induced shock, fear, and indignation in citizens throughout the world. Eighteen months later, New York was once again thrust into the center of this issue when four New York City Police officers shot and killed the unarmed Amadou Diallo in a hail of forty-one bullets.

Description: Witness (Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine) was installed in the sanctuary of the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine in New York during November and December of 1999. Viewers’ perspectives were transformed as they entered corridors of the central nave and listened to the audio testimonials of police officers, activists, grieving parents and other witnesses of police violence. A looming 25-foot high video projection slowed to the point of near immobility confronted the viewers with witness testimony projected on the granite walls. Factual court documentation, autopsy reports and criminal records were juxtaposed with the projected images in a series of light boxes in the archway of the space. The various elements of Witness synergize when viewed together, enabling you to consider issues of police violence, brutality and misconduct in experiential rather than didactic terms.

Acknowledgements: McCallum and Tarry gratefully acknowledge the following persons for their contributions to this project: Andrei Kallaur, web design; Pawel Litwinski, citywide installation photography; Matthew McGuinness and Morgan Sheasby, graphic designers; Adam Litwinski and Liz Canner, video editing; Hugh Cosman and Encore Metal Arts, fabrication; Luc Demers and Michael Crockford, photography; Lois Henry, Sheilaja Rao and Tracy Gilman, development; Onika Abraham and Carrie Phillips, public relations.

Witness testimonials given by: Iris Baez & David Baez, Lilian Flores Muniz & David Muniz, Mary Gaines, Anthony & Margarita Rosario, Carmen Morales, Nicholas Heyward Sr., Joyce & Qing Lan Huang, Reverend Al Sharpton, Ron Daniels, Susan Karten, Michael Hardy, Gerard J. Papa, Milta Calderon, Graham Weatherspoon, Desmond Robinson, Charles Billups, Francisca Martinez, Sha-King Graham and Tasha Williams.

Witness is presented in association with: The Center for Constitutional Rights, The Bronx Museum of the Arts, The National Action Network, Parents Against Police Brutality, 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care, The National Congress for Puerto Rican Rights, The Anthony Baez Foundation and Youth Force.

Funding for this project was provided by: The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, The Jerome Foundation, The New York State Council for the Arts, The Institute on the Arts & Civic Dialogue, The Gunk Foundation, The Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, The Deborah Foundation, The Nathan Cummings Foundation and The New York Civil Liberties Union.