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← LaToya Ruby Frazier Takes on Levi's | "New York Close Up" | Art21

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Showing Revision 4 created 05/10/2013 by JoeArt21.

  1. [New York Close Up]
  2. [Whitney Independent Study Program--Lower Manhattan]
  3. I am a citizen and an artist from Braddock, Pennsylvania.
  4. I had decided when I was a teenager
  5. that I had to make work that was socially and
  6. politically conscious.
  7. ["LaToya Ruby Frazier Takes On Levi's"]
  8. I had all these questions.
  9. I always questioned the authority.
  10. I always questioned the government.
  11. I always questioned what the media was showing.
  12. I never really believed what I was seeing
  13. because I was experiencing something that was
  14. totally different.
  15. [LaToya has been making pictures of Braddock, PA since she was 16 years old.]
  16. Making the work on Braddock is really me
  17. talking about American history and
  18. the impact of the Industrial Revolution
  19. the part that people won't tell.
  20. You know, people, always, are very proud of
  21. America being the creator of steel, but they don't
  22. ever highlight the backside to it or what
  23. happened once the steel mills left the country
  24. and closed.
  25. Braddock is one of the most toxic places
  26. in America.
  27. We're all dying there from cancer,
  28. asthma,
  29. illnesses like lupus.
  30. The CEO of Levi's
  31. decided that they wanted to use Braddock for their
  32. new denim campaign
  33. and they decided to use it because it has this
  34. gritty realism and it could be hip and it could
  35. be profitable to sell their jeans.
  36. And it's really insidious when you put a black man
  37. in a photograph and then you slap on top of it
  38. "everybody's work is equally important"
  39. especially when you know the history of the
  40. steel mills in Braddock.
  41. They didn't want to employ us.
  42. They barely employed us.
  43. Levi's went with the idea that Braddock is the
  44. new frontier.
  45. And to call Braddock the new frontier,
  46. that's like cowboys and indians,
  47. slavery, this brings up a lot of things
  48. that resonate in the darker side of
  49. American history.
  50. [As part of its "Ready to Work Go Forth" campaign, Levi's opened a public photo studio in SoHo.]
  51. [LaToya created a performance in response.]
  52. [sound of denim rubbing against the sidewalk]
  53. [Liz Magic Laser--Artist]
  54. I think it's funny that the Levi ads came out
  55. across the world saying "everyone's work is
  56. equally important" when
  57. University of Pittsburgh Medical Center
  58. decided to abandon our town because it said
  59. that it wasn't making enough profit off of us.
  60. Like, I'm watching my mother wither away while
  61. the hospital is being torn down and she lives
  62. right next to the hospital.
  63. Like, does the American public know that?
  64. While everybody's work is equally important
  65. that our top employer, Braddock UPMC Hospital,
  66. abandoned our town and fired over 600 people.
  67. So we... Not only do we not have health care,
  68. we don't have jobs, but we do have the Levi's
  69. ad campaign that says,
  70. "go forth."
  71. And I would like to know,
  72. go forth where?
  73. You know, it's my job as an artist,
  74. I can ask those questions.
  75. It's my job to ask those questions--
  76. that's what an artist should do.
  77. What I feel an urgency to do at this moment
  78. is to really return back home and to really do
  79. something--not as the artist, LaToya Ruby Frazier,
  80. but as the citizen of
  81. Braddock, Pennsylvania, LaToya Ruby Fraizer.
  82. As a citizen, do something about what they've done
  83. to my community.