Visualizing accountability and seeing solidarity.
By Michael Shaw
When you look at this shot by David Guttenfelder, taken at the start of jury selection in the George Floyd murder trial, the physical alignment, the sense of solidarity, and the suggestion of a group portrait is remarkable. It’s like the demand for justice for Floyd, Taylor, Arbery and the others represented in the mask fans out and is amplified by the crowd. Power to the people, indeed–at least outside of the Hennepin County Government Center where the officer who murdered Floyd is being tried.
More mindful of the camera, this photo by Christian Monterrosa shares that demand for accountability. The civil rights leaders and members of the Floyd family are transitioning out of a prayer on the eve of the trial into a similar gaze of accountability.
What the three photos also document is the present art of the mask–and how terribly ironic it is in relation to negation in general and the extinguishing of a man’s breath. One more thing that’s remarkable at the moment is how the mask, and the mask as signage, has become so familiar as to be unremarkable. With the end of Covid in sight, we will also look back on these events and images in wonder that the martyrs; the 8:46 time stamp–the length of time Floyd was pinned; and the visage of Floyd himself (in that wonderful duet of this face on the mask and the cameo on the man’s chain) were literally born on the fabric of precaution and the faces of those aggrieved.