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Mirror Shield Project (2016)

I first found out about the Mirror Shield Project on a class field trip to the National Gallery of Art. We were led to the Native American exhibitions, where we had a docent who explained to us a few crucial artworks from the entire exhibit. One that stuck with me for the longest time was the Mirror Shield Project, and unlike a normal artwork/sculpture exhibit, it was displayed in the form of a video.

The Mirror Shield Project was used for Native Americans to fight back/protest about being moved from their lands for oil digging in Standing Rock, North Dakota. The mirror shields that Luger created from basic materials that could be made easily were given out to all the Native Americans, and they performed a water-like dance which was recorded by drones above. The mirror shields were especially useful for countering police arrival, who carried weapons with them, to show the police a reflection of themselves which made them reconsider firing attacks at the Native Americans.

To me, this is one of the most effective social artworks because it utilizes art in the actual form of protest instead of an engaging display or broadcast. These mirror shields were used for being able to physically defend the Native Americans while also creating beautiful performance art on video.

The image above was displayed in the National Gallery, and one thing I noticed about the mirrors shown was that it wasn't entirely reflective (as can be seen by this image). Our group picked up on that and theorized the possibilities why. I think a pretty obvious one was that it just simply wasn't made out of glass, and there was no deeper significance. But whether it was intentional, the original purpose of the mirror still stands, which was to reflect the nasty actions that the police officers were doing and humanize the Native Americans.

I'm also learning about the Native Americans in my school's history class, and the amount of injustice that they went through after the Civil War without any representation or victories was intolerable. I'm glad that I stumbled upon this exhibit around the same time that I was learning about the Native Americans, to truly put in perspective how long-lasting this issue is. As of now, this is one of my favorite social art pieces, and I think it stands as the most effective one that I've posted on my blog.

I'm hoping to keep up with the Mirror Shield Project and think of the different possibilities on where it could be expanded. With the idea originating from Ukrainian women, it's spread to North Dakota in the U.S. makes me wonder where else these mirror shields can be applied for protest.

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