58. Kalief Browder: The Box at Pioneer Works

Coby Kennedy's installation, Kalief Browder: The Box. Courtesy of Juan A. Ramirez (Cultural Counsel).
Coby Kennedy’s installation, Kalief Browder: The Box. Courtesy of Juan A. Ramirez (Cultural Counsel).

On display until September 19 at Pioneer Works, artist Coby Kennedy’s new installation Kalief Browder: The Box draws inspiration from the tragic story of Kalief Browder. Imprisoned in 2010 at the age of 17 for a robbery he did not commit, Browder spent three years at the violent Robert N. Davoren Center on Rikers Island. Here, he was subject to physical and mental abuse from prison guards and inmates and over 700 days of solitary confinement. Although released from prison in 2013, the long-lasting trauma from Browder’s experiences and his ensuing depression would lead him to commit suicide in 2015. To convey this injustice, Kennedy created an 8-by-10-by-6-feet glass box sculpture that replicates the exact dimensions of a solitary confinement cell.

The sculpture’s glass surfaces feature line renderings of the bed, barred window, and toilet found in confinement cells. Additionally, the walls include texts about Guantánamo Bay and the country’s carceral system — critiquing the gross abuses of civil liberties suffered by individuals whose crimes are unfairly or never tried. Lit from below, Kalief Browder: The Box shines throughout the night, serving as a testament to the endurance of Browder’s family — whose civil lawsuit against the city was settled in 2019, though no one was held accountable in the end. In addition, Kalief Browder: The Box will be paired with a four-part Town Hall series co-presented with For Freedoms and Negative Space. The remaining third town hall meeting, HEALING through Community Collaboration, will take place on August 22, with the fourth and final meeting, JUSTICE for Our Future, taking place on September 19, both at Pioneer Works. Ultimately, for Kennedy, “It is [his] hope that, when viewers happen upon this sculpture, they can emphatically feel the weight of being put into a box and having it become your life for a long, unknowable future.”