Beyond Memorial

Engaging Artists Projects

Beyond Memorial

Immanuel Oni’s Beyond Memorial prototypes unconventional methods of remembrance, re-imagination and resistance in public space.
Artist
Immanuel Oni
When & Where

Workshops took place in East Harlem and Brownsville in the Spring, Summer, and Fall of 2023.

Public Programs

October 11, 2023, Brownsville, Brooklyn.
Beyond Memorial: Site Walk with Immanuel Oni.

Immanuel Oni, Beyond Memorial. Installation of a street light memorial prototype.
  • Project description
  • About the artist
Immanuel Oni, Beyond Memorial, Street light memorial prototype in Brownsville, 2023.

Immanuel Oni’s participatory public artwork Beyond Memorial is an art, design and healing justice response to the invisible—yet palpable— scars left in community spaces after gun violence and loss.

Creating space for remembrance and memorializing, Beyond Memorial supported youth and community members in addressing ongoing tensions at NYCHA developments through a series of workshops from Spring through Fall 2023 that focused on designing prototypes for re-envisioned methods of remembrance, re-imagination and resistance in public space. Coupled with commemorating lost loved ones and marking particular street elements that carry on memorial themes the workshops explored ways to incorporate media and messaging curated by youth participants within several negatively-perceived areas and hotspots.

Common in the aftermath of shootings, impromptu candle memorials often follow such harrowing incidents. Ephemeral by nature, once these memorials have taken place, the candles themselves are often removed. Community members hold onto negative perceptions and residual trauma associated with these sites, which contribute to the sense that these public spaces are both unsafe and stigmatized. Very little is done within the sites themselves. In addition, NYCHA housings typically suffer from poor street lighting, and a lack of infrastructure, any natural elements and cultural markers, making them rather unwelcoming environments. With the surge in gun violence in our communities, residents and local leaders have become increasingly interested in responding more creatively and productively to these sites of trauma and loss.

Header image: Light Post Memorial, Dr. Green Playground, Brownsville. October 11, 2023 site walk. Photo by Destiny Mata.

Immanuel Oni

Immanuel Oni is a first-generation Nigerian-American artist and spatial designer living in New York City originally from Houston, TX. He believes art is not about what he is making, but who he is making it for. His work explores loss and its deep connection with space. He utilizes spatial justice design and visual storytelling to unearth narratives related to trauma, healing, and ritual. His canvas consists of repurposing existing public space infrastructure such as light posts, fencing, underutilized green areas or mobile spaces to prompt community dialogue and connection. He has led and participated in international art and urbanism workshops in Venice, Hong Kong, and Lagos. He has been a Fellow for the Design Trust for Public Space, Culture Push, New York for Culture and Arts, More Art Engaging Artist Commission NY, and received awards from Naturally Occurring Cultural Districts NY, Youth Design Center, Architectural League of New York, and the New York State Council of the Arts. He is a former Director of Community Design at the New York City’s Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice and Adjunct Professor at Parsons the New School for Design. He is the co-founder and Creative Director of Liminal, a non-profit that works at the intersection of art, unity, and space.

Immanuel Oni's project Beyond Memorial was selected as More Art's 2023 Engaging Artists Commission.

  • Community Engagement
  • Public Programs
  • Collaborators, Partners & Supporters
Beyond Memorial, Space Bingo activity, community workhsops in East Harlem, 2023.

Programs included sessions with youth from three East Harlem public housing developments to address tensions between them. Subsequently, workshops also took place with the Brownsville Keepers at the Brownsville Community Justice Center to build on one of the three site themes highlighted from Oni’s engagement with the Brownsville Keepers the previous year.

Last year the (10 total) Keepers completed the first round of the Beyond Memorial process co-organized with Alexis Takahashi, BCJC Program Manager. For resistance, youth participants developed a sacred sites tour and highlighted 3 different areas: Pitkin and Junius, Dr. Green Playground, and Rockaway ave 3 train stop on Livonia.

Immanuel Oni, Beyond Memorial, Brownsville Keepers of BCJC presenting AI activations envisioning revitalizations for the Rockaway Train Stop, Brownsville. October 11, 2023 site walk. Photo by Destiny Mata.

Beyond Memorial: Site Walk with Immanuel Oni

When: October 11th, 2023 from 6:00pm to 8:30pm

Where: Brownsville, Brooklyn; Rockaway Avenue 3 Train Station

More Art hosted a guided walking tour of Beyond Memorial street light prototypes installed in Brownsville, Brooklyn, led Immanuel Oni and youth participants from participatory workshops at the Brownsville Community Justice Center (BCJC).

The walking tour was followed by an outdoor film screening hosted by BCJC which reanimated a former movie theater, The Pitkin, that was once a community hub. The outdoor screening took place where the Pitkin roughly stood, and is meant to prefigure a movie theater experience for the Brownsville community which otherwise has none.

Collaborators

Destiny Mata, Alexis Takahashi, Eugene Rodriguez, Rev. LF Shannon

 

Partners

Youth Action YouthBuild and the Brownsville Community Justice Center (BCJC).

 

Supporters

Beyond Memorial was selected through an open call as More Art’s 2023 Engaging Artist Commission. Proposals for the 2023 commission were reviewed and selected by a jury composed of Floor Grootenhuis (artist and Engaging Artists Fellowship alumnus), Kendal Henry (Artist, Curator and Assistant Commissioner, Public Art at the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs), Elizabeth Masella (Senior Public Art Coordinator at NYC Department of Parks & Recreation), Prerana Reddy (Artist & Community Fellow at Recess), and current More Art staff.

This project was supported in part by the Mattise Foundation.

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