“1-800 Happy Birthday” is a new exhibition, commemorating Black and Brown lives due to police brutality. It appears at WORTHLESSSTUDIOS in Brooklyn, NYC. Mohammad Gorjestani, an Iranian-American artist, filmmaker, and Even/Odd founder, collaborate on the project; with curator Klaudia Ofwona Draber and art director Neil Hamamoto.
The exhibition’s roots come from a project that took off in 2020. First, as an online voicemail project with visitors leaving messages for those who were unjustly killed by law enforcement on their birthdays.
A 1-800 Tribute
The exhibition is an extension of the same concept. It includes twelve up-cycled NYC pay phones across an 8,000-square-foot warehouse of WORTHLESSSTUDIOS in Brooklyn. By turning “the reference point emotionally from death to life,” Gorjestani tells The New York Times, he wants the viewer to view the subject as “someone that was living,” rather than “someone you saw in a headline that died.”
Each installation is a dedication to a “celebrant” from the families of a number of those killed by law enforcement. These individuals include Dujuan Armstrong, Sandra Bland, Philando Castile, Stephon Clark, Fred Cox, Eric Garner, Oscar Grant, Xzavier Hill, Donovon Lynch, Sean Monterrosa, Tony Robinson, and Mario Woods.
Each payphone is put together with help from the families of the deceased. These tributes serve as a shrine full of photos and ephemera commemorating their personal achievements and goals in life.
“My goal for this project since we started it three years ago was to transcend the subject matter to new channels both physical and digital and have it live in aesthetic and community in places born from the culture it represents,” Gorjestani tells Hypebeast.
Along with the installations, there is a newsstand where visitors can pay tribute by purchasing balloons and birthday cards. All proceeds benefiting the Family Impact Fund. The exhibition “1-800 Happy Birthday” will be on display in Brooklyn until January 16, 2023. Those who are unable to attend in person can still leave messages on the project’s website.
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