#Black Lives Matter: The power of a hashtag
The BlackLivesMatter movement was born in 2013 after the acquittal of George Zimmerman, the coordinator of a white neighbourhood watch who shot and killed Trayvon Martin, an unarmed 17-year-old black teenager.
It was launched by three African-American women involved in community movements Alicia Garza, Partisse Cullors and Opal Tometi.
To make the virtual exhibition, the students collated video footage of BLM from all over the globe. Then using Adobe Premiere Pro software, they created a montage by assembling the different videos collected on the internet. Then with Illustrator software, they created a model of the world map with the aim of using this infographic as a transition to allow the visitor to understand the structure and orientation of the video. Once the artwork was finished, they had to upload it to a website they created in order to share the link on social networks.
This exhibit documented the massive swell of indignation that swept throughout the world after the brutal racist murder of George Floyd. The rise to prominence of the BlackLivesMatter Movement in the US, the persecution of the Roma people in Europe or of the Uyghurs in China, the racist and systemic police violence in France, to name only a few examples, have heightened social and political awareness all over the world in recent years. Although many resolutions and constitutions from countries and organisations all over the world condemn systemic and everyday racism, this evil still thrives in our societies.
Students in this group created a powerful video montage of Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests from all over the world. They explained how the BLM movement, in its complexity and systemic nature, mirrored Wiener’s cybernetics. Cybernetics is the science of control and communication in man, animal and machine, thus it is concerned by the interactions between living and non living organisms. They recalled that the concept of feedback put forward by Norbert Wiener was revolutionary because communication was no longer seen as linear, but as circular. Feedback can be positive or negative. Their objective for the visitor at the end of this virtual exhibition is that they go from being indifferent to joining the Black Lives Matter movement to fight racism. The students also correctly analysed that by adopting a decentralised horizontal model of organisation rather than a hierarchical top-down model, the BLM founders enabled their movement to gain momentum and to metastasise into a powerful global movement. The BLM hashtag could then easily be appropriated by people all over the world who adapted it to their own local contexts, realities and experiences. In this sense, #BLM is consistent with the "surround effect" inherent in the Bauhaus philosophy. It is also consistent with the decentralised architecture of the Internet and of the web. This ensured that no one organisation can take control of it for propaganda purposes. The horizontal model is seen as fostering democracy through multiple information sources on the web and the social media. The top-down communication model is seen as facilitating indoctrination and subjugation of people by fascist and autocratic regimes who control the mass media.
The video montage contains very moving images and evocative music that captured the solemnity of the protests. It is a testimony and in memoriam of what happened and that many have already forgotten as the world cameras and projectors have moved elsewhere.