#thetimeisnow

Project EMERGENCY McMaster alumnus sounds the alarm on social change

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Photo c/o Christopher Mcleod

By Olivia Fava, Contributor

Democratic art. These are the two words that I would use to describe “EMERGENCY Pt2., Structures of Action”, a 2019 Supercrawl installation that built off of its 2018 predecessor to focus on the perspectives of the everyday person. 

Christopher McLeod, a McMaster studio art alumnus and the creator of this exhibit, was originally inspired by the general apathy he perceived from those around him. This informed part one of his project. 

“Looking at things that happen around us in our communities, our cities, our countries, around the world…I’d say to myself, ‘Is no one paying attention? What do people care about?’ I didn’t know,” said McLeod.

McLeod’s only solution was to ask the people exactly what they did care about. A tall “emergency” beacon invited passersby to share their greatest concerns on any scale, from political to personal. According to McLeod, he and his team heard from about 1,400 people over three days during last year’s Supercrawl festival.

The top three issues that were brought up in 2018 were safe streets, health and the environment. These formed the core of this year’s installation. While McLeod’s initial question dealt with what Hamiltonians were worried about, part two of his project asked a graver question: what are Hamiltonians willing to do about the core issues they had identified?

“Are we all just going to sit around and sort of watch what’s happening, or are we going to step up and try to make a difference?” asked McLeod.

This year, levels of action for each of the three issues were ranked one to five, from least to most involved. Like many others, I chose my level of action, signed my name on the corresponding colour of sticker, and stuck it to the beacon. Hamilton Youth Poets also performed spoken-word pieces on these issues, which were based on public submissions.

A high degree of public involvement in this project was very important to McLeod, as a way of drawing in those who might normally ignore these issues.

“I’m like a tool for society…my role [as an artist] is not to dictate. My role is: how do I create spaces, opportunities and experiences that allow a community to come together to have these conversations in a non-standard way?” said McLeod.

As I observed my sticker on the overflowing environmental side of the beacon, voices swirled around me. Kids were asking about road safety and friends were challenging each other to volunteer for the issues they were motivated to address. McLeod’s beacon stood in the middle of it all, literally and metaphorically shedding its light.

 

 

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