By Sarah Brown
On October 14, 2017, I created and performed a solo performance art piece in which I wrote the names of victims of mass shootings over the past 51 years in sidewalk chalk in a local park. Starting with the victims of the Las Vegas shooting on October 1, 2017, and ending with the victims of the University of Texas clock tower shooting on August 1, 1966, there were a total of 948 names. It took a total of six hours of almost nonstop writing to complete, and was worth every second. The project was written about in a News Press article, which can be found here.
My intention was to go downtown, quietly write the names, and then leave. My mother decided to start publicizing the project, something that I had not even considered doing, and, thanks to her, the project has been able to touch far more people than I ever thought possible. I did not expect this piece to garner as much attention as it has, and though I am frankly baffled by that, I am very glad that it has had such a large impact.
I was inspired by a fellow artist and dear friend of mine, Willie Filkowski, who in July 2007 wrote the names of soldiers killed in Iraq, only to be stopped by police claiming that the chalked names were graffiti (you can find posts about that project here, here, here, and here).
Though I am a supporter of gun control, in no way was that the motivation or message behind the piece. The goal of my piece was to bring attention to the sheer number of people who have died in mass shootings. Of the 948 victims, 560 of them have been killed during my 17 years of life, and all of them have died during the lives of my parents. The sheer number of people killed in mass shooting events is frankly mind blowing, and becomes even more so when one can see all of the names written out. The names remained for about five days, which was much longer than I expected, but have now been washed away by rain.
In 2012, when the Sandy Hook shooting happened, I was in 7th grade. It was all anyone could talk about for a grand total of two days, and then we went back to worrying about math tests or whatever else we had going on at the time. We didn’t forget, we just stopped remembering. That’s what people do we process and move on. It’s an important, healthy, and normal part of grief, but I believe that it takes away much of the staggering effects of the event and its aftermath, and that is what I wanted to draw attention to.
The name of the piece is Memento Eorum－ Remember Them.