Eyes on the street: art and policing

Fiona Anderson, Newcastle University, fiona.anderson@newcastle.ac.uk

Al Hoyos-Twomey, Newcastle University, A.Hoyos-Twomey2@newcastle.ac.uk

2022 marks forty years since criminologists James Wilson and George Kelling named the ‘broken windows’ theory of social disorder, arguing that visual evidence of ‘decay’ – graffiti, sex work, abandoned buildings – encourages crime and should be prioritised by police. The theory was adopted by NYC police commissioner Bill Bratton and underpinned ‘quality of life’ strategies in the 1990s and ‘stop and frisk’ policies in the 2000s. Broken windows tactics are still deployed routinely across the USA and inform policing globally, from SARS in Nigeria to Prevent in the UK; resistance to them has shaped contemporary anti-racist and abolitionist movements. Broken windows theory has taken on what Rachel Herzing calls ‘a magical life’, diverting attention from policing’s ‘capitalist and white supremacist legacies.’

‘The magic of policing’ more broadly, Herzing argues, ‘rests in its ability to appear as the remedy to the very harm it maintains.’ Broken windows tactics, like all policing, depend on methods of visual analysis: deduction, close looking, surveillance. Perhaps unsurprisingly, then, police and policing have appeared as themes in work by artists in countries across the world. Artists have found themselves subject to suspicion or arrest as a consequence of racial profiling, obscenity laws, or in the context of authoritarian political regimes. As sites of display, care, soft power, and protest, museums and galleries have complex relationships with police. For this session, we invite papers which explore the relationship between art and the police, the visual culture of policing, and art which envisions a police-free future, in any time period and place.

Information about the speakers and papers on this panel will be posted shortly.



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