…Or Does it Explode?, is a public art project that was originally installed in Philadelphia. It features 12 life-sized photographic portraits of Philadelphia inner-city teenagers in illuminated light boxes laid on the ground, coffin like. The vibrant photographs are brought to life by audio of voices of the adolescents articulating their hopes and dreams living in a society that often silences their aspirations and lives.
There has been significant media coverage of …Or Does it Explode? Links to a selection of the articles are below.
Scott said he wanted the art to provoke thought about the American Dream as well. “There are all these people that are promised ‘look, you can do anything; if you work hard, you can succeed’ – but for millions of kids, all society can offer is a life of crime.”
— St. John Barned-Smith, Philadelphia Inquirer
Experiencing the piece made me stop and spend time listening to a group that normally feels neglected and ignored. The only other reason these students might be in this neighborhood is to appear before the court – as accused or as victims. They are the future of Philadelphia and they deserve to be heard. The message may be obvious, but it’s worth repeating.
— Andrea Kirsh, TheArtBlog
When an artist decides to confront complex social issues and express them publicly using a visual platform, we can’t help but be pushed out of our comfort zones and face the troubling aspects of our society, which we inadvertently shelve away from our lives.
— Baldev Duggal, Digital Photo Pro
Each box is wired with audio that allows visitors to listen as the young people, who range in age from 14 to 19, discuss their goals and the various obstacles—including sudden, violent death—that might make reaching them impossible.
— F.H. Rubino, Philadelphia Weekly
This work does focus on a very sharp divide in this society and depicts people this system has written off. And it is unusual for a public project in that it doesn’t depict them in an idealized way—book in hand, reaching for the stars, or becoming a doctor or lawyer. The piece is quite beautiful, but it should make viewers a bit uncomfortable.
— Dread Scott interview, BOMB Magazine Blog