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A strength of designers is often taking complex information and translating it for greater legibility. Here, I am asking viewers to question what gets lost in translation. This short video, about two minutes with no sound, shows white hands methodically wrapping books about intersectionality, race, oppression, and state-sanctioned violence in white paper. The books—including Frantz Fanon’s Black Skin, White Masks; Joy James’ Resisting State Violence; Angela Davis’ Women, Race & Class; and Andrea Smith’s Conquest, among others—are then stacked in a neat pile where the content remains intact but sealed off, foreclosed of possibilities for further interaction. This foreclosure yields tidy, presentable packages that are ripe for display, but not engagement. Erasure is not just an omission, but also an action.

Some projects have greater consequences for reduction than others—particularly those projects operating under the guise of social impact design. There may be a gesture toward a deeper engagement, but all too often, the time is not spent to engage with the larger systemic issues and histories of struggle in favor of a clear, efficient, and glossy project.

As part of the show how to listen, this video was exhibited in 2015 at the Visual Arts Center in Austin, Texas.

Video. 2 min. 6 sec. 2015.

/ 2023