9.26.18 / New York / New York

The Museum of Broken Windows Wants You to Demand Reform

Not your flavor of the month pop-up museum

Recently we’ve seen a surge in the ‘museum pop-up’ concept, taking a niche interest like ice cream or pizza and creating a silly experience for those seeking something frivolous and Instagram-friendly. The New York Civil Liberties Union is offering something different with their take on the pop-up exhibit. At their new pop-up, The Museum of Broken Windows, the NYCLU flips the joviality of the concept and instead takes viewers on a reflective journey through police brutality, racial discrimination, and ‘broken windows’ policing. The theory of broken windows is that visible signs of crime begets more crime; unchecked disarray—a literal broken window for instance—alludes to disorder or lawlessness, enabling further criminal behavior. The police respond in kind, employing tactics like stop & frisk in areas that are perceived to be crime-friendly, and those are often occupied by minorities who become subject to scrutiny and hostility.

The exhibit seeks to raise awareness about these issues by displaying stark artwork that don’t mince the impact of broken windows policing. Beside a portrait of Amadou Diallo hang 41 wallets, one for each time he was shot when reaching for his own. A painting of a parents talking to their son as news of a shooting is on TV in the background harkens to a conversation many families are forced to have. A neon sign reading ‘Choke Hold’ with the letter ‘o’ replaced by a noose takes an Instagram trope and makes it unsettling. At the back of the exhibit hang scores of body tags, each for a person killed by police in 2016—a harrowing display considering it’s the biggest piece in the show, other than the actual cop car right at the entrance. It’s no surprise that it takes place in the heart of the Village, one of the more safe and prosperous neighborhoods in the city, where it creates a stark contrast to the experience of locals to those at the hands of violence and incarceration. Communities, especially in New York, are well aware of the issues of police brutality, but the exhibit insists that viewers take a more proactive stance, and take it upon themselves to advocate for reform.

The Museum of Broken Windows is open through September 30th at 9 West 8th Street

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