Presence for good: ‘Emotional’ installations depicting children in cages pop up across NYC to bring attention to humanitarian crisis

[A multi-site art installation in New York this week shows how non-digital technologies can evoke strong and impactful presence experiences. This story is from CBS News where the original includes more pictures and video. West Side Rag reports that “A cage with what looked like a child inside was placed on the sidewalk on Central Park West and 81st Street on Wednesday morning — one of several such cages placed throughout the city. It was part of an installation by the nonprofit organization RAICES. And it surprised a lot of people who did not realize the bodies inside the cages were mannequins.” The Washington Post‘s story includes this: “The audio was so ‘haunting’ and ’disturbing,’ a local TV station said, a camera crew kept its distance from one installation to prevent capturing the audio on their broadcast.” That station, WPIX 11, reports the organizers intended it to be “an emotional, provocative, multi-sensory experience that represents the conditions that children are being subjected to at the border due to the Department of Justice’s Zero Tolerance Immigration Enforcement Policy.” For more on the origins of the project see Adweek, for links to more coverage see the Badger & Winters website, and for more details, pictures, videos and links, see the #NoKidsInCages website. –Matthew]

[Image: Ad agency Badger & Winters, along with immigrant rights nonprofit RAICES, scattered art installations across New York City featuring figures representing immigrant children in cages. Credit: Badger & Winters]

Art installations depicting crying children in cages pop up across New York City

By Caitlin O’Kane
June 12, 2019

Scattered across New York City on Wednesday were around 20 cages with what appeared to be a child inside, sobbing. They were reminiscent of the images coming out of U.S. border facilities, where migrants who tried to cross without legal documentation now sleep in cramped, fenced-in areas under foil blankets.

The children inside these New York City cages aren’t real — but they are intended to evoke the same emotions as the children held in detention facilities.

The cages are art installations, an idea launched by ad agency Badger & Winters for a nonprofit advocacy group, Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES).

Their #NoKidsInCages campaign immediately drew attention with the chain-link cages, which were placed in front of various landmarks around Manhattan and Brooklyn. Not only did each cage have a model of a child inside, they also emitted an eerie audio recording of a crying child that was actually smuggled out of a detention center, according to Badger & Winters’ press release.

The #NoKidsInCages art installations were strategically placed outside of media companies, city landmarks and tourist destinations. New Yorkers who spotted the cages across the concrete jungle shared images on social media. Often times, witnesses snapped photos as the cages were being removed by police officers and in some instances, construction workers.

Almost all of the art installations have been removed, Badger & Winters said in an email to CBS News. As of late Wednesday afternoon, the agency believed there were about three left on the streets of New York City.

Badger & Winters says despite immediate nationwide outcry after the Department of Justice’s “zero tolerance” enforcement policy went into effect, the immigration system has remained unchanged. “The #NoKidsInCages campaign is intended to reignite concerns about the border crisis and remind people and those in power that the safety of children is not a political issue,” the agency said in their press release.

Since the policy went into effect, “thousands of children being separated from their parents, with some held longer than 30 days in inhumane and unsanitary detention camps,” Badger & Winters says. Six children, including a 10-year-old migrant girl, have died over the past eight months in government care or shortly after being released, according to Customs and Border Protection.

“We have to rise up against innocent children being ripped from their parents’ arms,” Madonna Badger, founder of Badger & Winters, said in the press release. “What has been happening at our borders is inhumane and against domestic and international law. There is no justification for harming the ones among us who are most in need of love and protection.”

Jonathan Ryan, executive director of RAICES, said “the litmus test of any society is how it treats children.”

“By normalizing the detention of children in cages, we’re only going further down the path of forsaking the rights of all children,” he said.

While the cages are being removed from their spots across the city, the campaign will utilize other mediums to get their point across after the art installations are gone. #NoKidsInCages will release a series of videos highlighting the border crisis, a digital platform where people can urge representatives to support the Keep Families Together Act, and shareable social media graphics, according to the press release.

CBS News has reached out to the NYPD for comment. They confirmed that the department has so far located eight cages with mannequins of infants and children inside.

A full list of locations where the cages were placed:

  1. Columbia/Barnard
  2. Natural History Museum
  3. CNN
  4. Hunter College
  5. Fox News
  6. New York Times
  7. Madison Square Park
  8. Union Square
  9. BuzzFeed
  10. 9th & 2nd/NYU
  11. Newsweek
  12. Google/Chelsea Market
  13. Whitney/Highline
  14. Instagram/HuffPo
  15. Broadway & Houston
  16. Refinery 29
  17. Brooklyn Bridge Entrance
  18. Brooklyn Bridge View (Dumbo)
  19. YMCA Park Slope
  20. York St. F (Dumbo)
  21. Vice
  22. Barclays/Atlantic Center
  23. Bedford Stop (Williamsburg)
  24. McCarren Park
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