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Before the bullet hits the body


The work was commissioned by the Stegi Cultural Centre of the Onassis Foundation in the context of its exhibition 'YOU and AI: Through the Algorithmic Lens' (Athens, Greece; June-July 2021). The work took its title from the seminal 2018 report by the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition, which led to the dismantlement of the "predictive" policing programmes of the Los Angeles Police Department. The algorithm at the epicentre of LAPD's predictive policing was exhibited in the form of a ground mural at Pedion tou Areos park, in central Athens. It was the centrepiece in the collaboration between Bill Balaskas and the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition – a volunteer-run grassroots organization, whose campaigns and successfully fought court cases revealed the racial bias of LAPD's algorithmic policing. The algorithm exhibited in Athens describes an area's predicted rate of crimes based on its historical average rate of crimes combined with recent trends. The Coalition's community organizing expanded the critique of LAPD's algorithm beyond just questioning the "feedback loop", showing how police use the veneer of science to mask their violence. Thus, it was able to expose crime data as a social construct intended to contain, control, and criminalize Black, brown, and poor communities. The Coalition argued that surveillance and crime data create the conditions of police violence "before the bullet hits the body". These wider conditions include incidents of police brutality like the 2020 killing of George Floyd, which led to global protests by Black Lives Matter and other anti-racist movements. The installation in Pedion tou Areos adopted the visual language of these protests, which included slogans written on major roads in the U.S. in bright yellow fonts. At the same time, by being exhibited in a public space used by tourists, multiple local communities, and many minorities including refugees, the work aimed at opening a dialogue on policing, segregation, and rapidly emerging technologies. Along with the installation at the most central park of Athens, the project included an online presentation of the work of the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition on Stegi's website curated by Bill Balaskas, and a series of online discussions and events organised by the Coalition.

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