I have been to many exhibitions and many galleries, but none have made me so sad like Re-claim. The whole experience was so profound. As I entered the school, I was greeted by three boys, who were all wearing forensic crime scene suits.
The boys did not make a sound, all they did was look at me and gave me a rose. It was at this moment; I knew that this exhibition was going to be different from any other. As I made my way to the entrance of the exhibition, I was greeted by more boys who were also wearing forensic crime scene suits. The second group of boys were carrying torch lights and umbrellas which had faces of knife crime/street crime victims imprinted on them. Eugene said the torch lights symbolized the children seeking clarity in dark times, and the umbrellas symbolized protection.
Before I entered the exhibition, I could see vast amounts of yellow tape and written on them was “DO NOT CROSS”. As I entered the exhibition, I was instantly hit with sounds of loud crying. Plastered across the wall was a variety of pieces all ranging from different colours consisting of white, black and red, and I saw multiple faces. Other elements of the work included written text which can be interpreted as a message of hope or warning to the living.
Moreover, if we go back to those photos, they too tell an interesting story. Eugene states, that the photos with children covering an eye are a reminder that we should not turn a blind eye to children. In addition to this, all the photos serve as a warning against the choices people make, especially young people. These photos were also on the floor, and by deliberately doing this, we the visitors are forced to not step on them. However, the inevitability of this holds us accountable for some guilt, and this guilt is a representation of our interaction with today’s children.
All in all, Eugene did not pull any punches. I entered a school, but I felt as if I left a forensic crime scene and a memorial. Re-claim reminded me of the preciousness of life. Compounded with the death of Kobe Bryant, this exhibition drove home that life is short and can be over in a second. From my eyes to ears, all my senses where attacked, I was not allowed to ignore this harsh reality.
All my life, I have been minding my own business. But all this time, my city’s children have been suffering. Every child in this city deserves a hero and I believe Eugene is that hero. For an artist to explain to children the impact of knife crime is one thing but to develop their understanding through art is powerful.
Re-claim is an immersive experience that truly surpassed my expectations. When I met Eugene, I saw that his red blazer had the words, “A Psychologist with a Brush”, and after this exhibition, I now know that to be true.