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YI Artists worked with artist in residence LaToya Ruby Frazier to create photographs that documented their changing neighborhoods, selves, and a variety of public spaces in New York City. They examined the effects of advertising on society and the ways that individuals make every day choices. Teens also watched and discussed excerpts from the documentaries Century of the Self and the British series 7 UP to further understand the links between propaganda, advertising, and the ways in which social class affect an individual’s future.
Commercials and advertising have not only shaped the way we perceive the world; they have caused the world itself to transform into what they portray it as. How people interpret things is how the world interprets things.
Race has been manipulated to stand as one entire classification describes only certain characteristics—the individual person has been destroyed and replaced by a mass categorization which infiltrates everyone’s minds, even if only subconsciously. Gender has been replaced by a sexist approach. Women are subjected to a weaker, lesser role, while men obtain the superior position and strength.
Those in higher classes immediately acquire higher chances of a better future, while those in lower classes are left to hopelessly dream of a thought placed in their mind by the media. The thought: that they can be rescued. That they will become as rich as the richest. This aspiration keeps them going. The harsh reality? The poor stay poor while the rich get richer. Injustice. Corruption. Discrimination. They roam the earth like a plague without cure.
My self-portrait. I tried to transmit the message of who I was without displaying any of the features that define my face. We always think about appearance first when we meet someone. We judge. We create a second skin which envelops the person in a cocoon. Only when we’ve been proven wrong does the skin diligently peel off to reveal the truth. I never cease to wonder—what if all we saw was a shadow? A shadow which spoke, walked, and talked. But you can’t make assumptions based on the exterior appearance of a shadow, and so racism, low self-esteem, and fear of being judged would draw to an end. The next time you meet someone, let the shadow consume you before the face.
Because the shadow is composed of the truth. Who we really are. It holds our deepest secrets, fears, and faults. And yet it also contains our greatest virtues, strengths, and qualities. Let the shadow stand behind you. Become the person in front of you.