Killing Season Chicago, 2010
Inkjet prints & paint, 120" x 780"
On May 5th of 2010, a man killed himself and his two sons in his yard just a few blocks from my house in Chicago. I became obsessed with walking on that block to see if I could figure out where the killings took place. I thought that when I walked by, there would be an aura of sorts that would let me know that this was the spot, but that never happened. A few days later, the CEO of Metra threw himself in front of a train, there was a shoot out on the Dan Ryan Expressway that left one dead and several people injured, and a man walked into the Old Navy in the Loop and killed his girlfriend and himself. When I talked to people about what happened, the common response was, “It’s not even summer yet.” That statement simultaneously disturbed and intrigued me. What did that mean? Things would get worse? This was just the beginning? It was these questions, coupled with my interest in the lack of being able to identify where my neighbors were killed, that inspired an exploration of the breadth of violence in Chicago. Beginning on Memorial Day and ending on Labor Day, I tracked homicides within the city limits. Once the crime scenes were processed and the red tape was taken down, I visited and photographed the site of each murder. There were 172 homicides within that time period of roughly 3 months. As I documented the sites, I recorded my experiences on a blog (killingseasonchicago.blogspot.com), listing the names of the deceased with information about the incident that lead to their death and a map of the location. As I processed the images, the maps were replaced with those photographs. The blog started to take on a life I could not have anticipated. People began to comment on the images, treating them as memorials to the dead, thanking “whoever did this,” and posting gang slurs. Additionally, each of the images is geolocated through Google’s Panaramio application. Once Google approved the images, they became visible within Google’s mapping system, which anyone could easily stumble upon. Each mapped image is titled with the name and age of the deceased and the comment section is used to tell the story of the incident. This interaction with the public became one of the most important aspects of the work.The resulting physical piece is a 65-foot long installation of the photographs against a caution-orange background placed in a chronological graph. The form draws attention to the homicides and their frequency in a schematic way. Moving left to right in the piece, there is one column for each day the project spans. Stacked photographs in each column reflect the number of homicides that day as well as document each crime scene. From afar, the arrangement mimics a city skyline and begs the viewer to consider whether this violence is part of the fabric of the urban environment. The sheer number of images coupled with their small size (5.5” x 8.25” and 5.5” x 3.67”) forces the viewer to come in and take a closer look. What they find are quiet, peopleless images of sites that all look vaguely familiar; sidewalks in front of two-flats, garages in back alleys, gangways, playgrounds and street corners. What they will also find is the occasional scraps of red or yellow tape, RIPs scrawled on walls, piles of stuffed animals, impeccably arranged empty liquor bottles and a metal cross nailed to a tree. These small clues indicate that these are not just arbitrary locations, but the settings of murders. Their familiarity takes on a whole new meaning and challenges the viewer to be able to turn a blind eye on the violence that could be right outside their door. At the closing of 2012, Chicago logged 513 homicides, the most of any city in the United States, garnering both national and international attention. This physical manifestation of those numbers brings attention to the statistics we gloss over in the news every day.