“1-800 Happy Birthday,” a voicemail project created by Mohammad Gorjestani, has transformed into a large-scale exhibition, reports Bushwick Daily. The once-digital project is now located at WorthlessStudios, a 10,000-square-foot community-based exhibitions space in the heart of Bushwick.
Gorjestani’s exhibition was inspired by the long-documented pattern of police brutality faced by Black and Brown people. In questioning how art can be used to honor a life properly, “1-800 Happy Birthday” envisions a safe world for people of color.
The piece is made of 12 upcycled New York City pay phone booths. The repurposed phone booths are meant to honor the lives of 12 people Gorjestani identifies as victims of police brutality: Philando Castile, Dujuan Armstrong, Sandra Bland, Stephon Clark, Fred Cox, Eric Garner, Oscar Grant, Xzavier Hill, Donovon Lynch, Sean Monterrosa, Tony Robinson and Mario Woods.
Each booth stands 7 feet tall and weighs over 500 pounds and was designed in collaboration with the families of the identified victims to feature portraits of the subject, their family and friends. In addition to this, the exhibition features several short films and a large mural that work to capture the essence of each of Gorjestani's subjects.
Gorjestani’s piece clarifies how sharp the divide is between how the public remembers victims of police brutality and how their families remember them. In doing this, “1-800 Happy Birthday” forces us to question the true complexities of public and private mourning.
“We want to remind folks that these celebrants are much more than a headline — they were friends, fathers, brothers, sons and neighbors who had their own dreams and aspirations,” Gorjestani stated.
“1-800 Happy Birthday” will be displayed at WorthlessStudios until January 5, 2023. The studio is open Thursday — Sunday.