Ghana ThinkTank has been “Developing the First World” since 2006. We collect problems in the so-called developed world, and send them to think tanks we established in Cuba, Ghana, Iran, Mexico, El Salvador, and the U.S. prison system to analyze and solve. Our network continues to grow …
We then implement the solutions they come up with—whether they seem impractical or brilliant. The “Black Lives Matters” signs trace their roots to a project dated to summer 2011 with Creative Time and Queens Museum of Art, in which problems that we collected in Corona, Queens, New York were sent to our network of think tanks to be solved. As part of this process, we produced official-looking municipal signs in order to establish “Legal Waiting Zones” along Roosevelt Avenue to address police harassment of immigrants in Corona, Queens.
Four years later, the Ghana ThinkTank “Black Lives Matter” guerrilla street signs are a series of “official” street regulation signs that point to the difference between the law as stated and as implemented; they ask people to consider the ways they may be complicit in the unequal application of laws according to race. These signs were designed in the workshop Ghana ThinkTank ran with students at the State University of New York (SUNY), Purchase College School of Art and Design, as part of the “I Serve Art” exhibit at the Richard and Dolly Maass Gallery, curated by Sara Reisman.
The original signs were about revealing something in a social and legal blind spot. They emerged from conversations on the street about racial profiling and individuals’ interactions with local police. These most recent signs also emerged from conversations about what is missing from the debate around police abuse of power, racialized privilege, and a racist legal system. We asked participants to talk to each other and to question themselves about how they might be contributing to the propagation of an abusive system along a spectrum from inadvertent ignorance to willful complicity.
One very important thing about the signs is the private conversations that they provoke. This invisible groundswell of ideas is the stuff of change.
Ghana ThinkTank was founded in 2006 by Christopher Robbins, John Ewing, and Matey Odonkor. Maria del Carmen Montoya joined in 2009. Ghana ThinkTank’s work has been featured in major international exhibitions such as the Venice Biennial of Architecture; the National Museum of Wales; Hong Kong/Shenzhen Biennale in Shenzhen, China; ZKM | Museum of Contemporary Art, Karlsruhe, Germany; New Museum Festival of Ideas; the Foundation for Art and Technology, Liverpool, UK; and Eyebeam Center, New York. The Ghana ThinkTank was awarded a Creative Capital Grant in 2013, and was an invited speaker at the 2014 Creative Time Summit.