All Hands on Deck

Damon Davis' project All Hands on Deck came about after the tragedy of Michael Brown's murder at the hands of a police officer. Not only an uplifting artwork, it's also one that you can get involved in wherever you are!

 image c/o The Brown Boi Project

image c/o The Brown Boi Project

Davis, who spoke to Arts.Black about the project in 2016, said

"I was really passionate and pissed about the situation in Ferguson and St. Louis. It is something that has been apart of all my work for years, maybe because I grew up in the St. Louis area. TheHands Up project was a collaboration with my friend and contemporary, Basil Kincaid. Basil had an idea to do mannequin arms sticking up out of the ground... It was a clear reference to and reminder of Michael Brown and the “Hands Up’ chant that was used around in the wake of his death. What was perhaps less overt was that those hands reaching up were also an ode to our ancestors reaching up from the grave for justice. It looked like a graveyard, and we didn’t shy away from that association.
All Hands On Deck was later in the game. People were getting fatigued from constantly being out in the cold, and the anxiety of waiting on the ruling was beating us down. The businesses were boarding up in preparation for the announcement, and the overall scene on West Florissant was heavy. So, I began taking pictures of people’s hands. My homies and I hit the street the next day and wheat-pasted the images up and down West Flo. We got a lot of positivity back from the community, so I think it played a role in lifting morale."
 image c/o of  IB Times

image c/o of IB Times

As part of the project, the All Hands on Deck site has instructions and posters so that people can post their own hands (or the ones available) in their own cities! We're going to be doing this and encourage you to do the same.


When asked about the value of art in political movements:

"I think the role of art in social movements is two fold. It can be “The Great Empathizer,” meaning that it can confront the oppressor with the point of view of the oppressed in visual and visceral ways. It can provide a push toward the conclusion that that an unwitting oppressor is wrong or hasn’t considered all the angles—that there are real people on the other side who are deserving of dignity. That shit rarely happens. It can be a propaganda tool to mobilize one side again the other, which is the more common usage. I’ve been exploring a third alternative lately—using art as a tool to fortify the oppressed. I’m interested in speaking directly to those without a voice and giving them the “soul food” they’ll be needing for the really hard moments. My newer work wants to give the invisible something to feel good about—it wants to show them themselves instead of a ubiquitous focus on whiteness and the oppressive power structures that come with it. It’s important that we center ourselves in the conversation so that we keep our spirits up during the fight."

The entire interview with Damon on Arts.Black is worth a read; he has really interesting thoughts on the role of art, public space and the shifts he hopes for in the art world.

Featured image c/o Art in Print