On an eerily appropriate dreary day, the art installation, “One Million Bones” was preparing to be packed up from where it lay on the front lawn of the USA, a.k.a. the National Mall in front of the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.
As the title suggests, the art installation is of one million replicas of human bones created by artists around the world from mediums such as clay, plaster, paper-mache, wood, glass, metal, and paper pulp, among other materials. Actually, the exact number is 1,018,260 bones collected over 3 years by the organization The Art of Revolution.
The developer of the project, New Mexico artist Naomie Natale, wanted to use the massive art installation to raise awareness about genocide, trying to get people to visually understand the numbers of mass atrocity. The project is focused on raising awareness about mass atrocity currently taking place in Sudan, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burma, Somalia, and Syria. It however, recognizes all genocides, inviting representation of other groups, including the Guatemala Human Rights Commission-USA (GHRC). GHRC’s volunteers and staff participated in laying bones in recognition of the genocide in Guatemala that took place during the internal armed conflict from 1960-1996.
“Natale hopes that viewers will not only confront a powerful, if morbid, symbol of faraway suffering, but recognize the fragility of our own lives, and our connectedness to victims we only hear about on the news. “We belong to each other,” she says.” – Washington Post
Art as activism has got to by my favorite kind of art. Art where the beauty is beyond just the physical elements of the piece, but the meaning and power behind the idea and purpose.
I have to say, this piece of art activism was moving, especially the image of so many bones laying in front of the Capitol Building. It was kind of like saying, “hey, US government, look at this!” I felt like it was also suggestive of the role that the US can take in choosing to prevent, ignore, be complicit in or perpetrate genocide and mass atrocity. It is immense power and responsibility that needs to be addressed in past crimes, current violence, and future decision and policy making.