New York Daily News

Updated: May 17, 2015, 2:30 AM

  

 

NYPD union slams 'Hands Up' art installation in Queens

BY THOMAS TRACY, ANDY MAI

BYRON SMITH/BYRON SMITH
Artist Atif Ateeq at Queens installation, which invites patrons to suffer a simulated death at hands of the police.
BYRON SMITH/BYRON SMITH
Daily News reporter Andy Mai walks through the "Hands Up" installation during the opening at Flux Factory, Friday, May 15, 2015, in Queens, New York.
BYRON SMITH/BYRON SMITH
Guest Allison Ye checks out the "Hands Up" installation during the opening at Flux Factory, Friday, May 15, 2015, in Queens, New York.

The city's largest police union tore into a controversial art installation in Queens that invites patrons to suffer a simulated death at the hands of police.

The exhibit, called “Hands Up,” drew a crowd on opening night Friday as, one by one, patrons were blasted by a camera flash and the sound of gunfire — triggered by motion sensors each time a participant raised his or her hands.

“This so-called ‘art project’ is based upon a lie and perpetuates a falsehood about police officers and their use of force,” Patrick Lynch, president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, said after learning about the show. “If art is supposed to enlighten and uplift, this piece of crap doesn’t qualify.”

Artists Atif Ateeq, 31, and Roopa Vasudevan, 30, envisioned the exhibit, which runs through Tuesday at the Flux Factory in Queens, after a Staten Island grand jury in December decided not to indict Police Officer Daniel Pantalbeo in the July death of Eric Garner.

The two discussed the exhibit at a party in January. Garner died from a police chokehold after cops confronted him for selling loose cigarettes. His death, along with that of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., sparked mass protests around the world.

JOHN MINCHILLO/AP
Patrick Lynch, head of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, slammed the "art project."

“I want people to walk away feeling uncomfortable and for this experience to provoke thought,” Ateeq said. “This topic is about the imbalance of power in society.”

Told of Lynch’s criticism, Ateeq took the high road.

“We welcome anyone who doubts the integrity of the piece to stop by the gallery and experience it for themselves,” said Ateeq, a Brooklyn native who met Vasudevan at the NYU Interactive Telecommunication Program at the Tisch School of the Arts.

The installation allows patrons to walk through a dimly lit Long Island City warehouse as sirens blare through speakers.

BYRON SMITH/BYRON SMITH
Adil Ibrahim of Manhattan at video showing Ferguson, Mo., shooting of Michael Brown.

“This is the police! Put your hands in the air!” a recording shouts.

The sound of a gunshot and a camera flash follow. The entire process takes less than 30 seconds.

Patrons wait single file in a room illuminated by red-and-blue police lights. Viral videos of the arrest of Freddie Gray, the man who died in police custody in Baltimore, and the police shooting of Walter Scott in South Carolina, are projected at the entrance of the exhibit.

But rather than incite the NYPD, the artists insist the project is meant to provoke a reaction from the public.

BYRON SMITH/BYRON SMITH
Artist and code writer Roopa Vasudevan (center) chats with Flux Factory Executive Director Nat Roe (left) and guest Mollie Flanagan (right) at the "Hands Up" installation during the opening at Flux Factory.

On Friday, at least one patron admitted to being nervous about the subject matter.

“I really don’t like guns,” said Allison Ye, 28, who lives in Queens. “I started to question why I came.”

But she felt the simulation was realistic.

“I thought it really put each person into the shoes of people who face this often,” she said.

Another person who attended the exhibit Friday bashed the artists for their simulation of a shooting.

“I’m not sure about these types of experiences being put on display,” said the visitor, who declined to give her name. “I don’t think I could know what that feels like.”