California festival exposes Tyre Nichols, an African-American beaten to death by police
In the California desert, photographs of steel bridges and hauntingly beautiful sunsets are displayed on large billboards alongside a dusty highway.
The author of these works: Tyre Nichols, a 29-year-old African-American amateur photographer, whose fatal beating by police officers in the southern United States in early January shocked America .
The panels have been on official display since Saturday around Palm Springs, just over 90 miles east of Los Angeles, as part of Desert X, an art exhibit known for its giant outdoor installations. These often feature political messages, against the backdrop of the awe-inspiring landscape of the region's arid mountains.
“Almost all of us know Tire through his tragic and brutal death at the hands of the forces of order in Memphis,” festival artistic director Neville Wakefield told a press conference.
“What we may not know are the insights he gave into his life through his art,” he added.
Tyre Nichols, who grew up in California before moving to Tennessee, was a photography enthusiast whose images included bridges, murals, neon lights, and fiery sunsets. In his adopted hometown of Memphis, he explored the relationships between people and their environment.
For the organizers of the exhibition, the choice to install his photos on the side of a road was deliberate.
Tyre Nichols, 29, had indeed been arrested on January 7 by agents of a special unit from Memphis, Tennessee, who accused him of a traffic violation.
Beaten relentlessly, until he was unrecognizable according to his mother, he died three days later in hospital.
The family of Tyre Nichols, who only agreed to the facility days before it was to be unveiled, hope they will shed light on a California bill that would limit police powers in matter of traffic checks.
The belated addition of Tire Nichols' artwork to Desert X is intended to introduce him “as an artist, show his work, and get people to react emotionally” with his works, festival founder Susan Davis told AFP.
Created six years ago, Desert X invites artists from around the world to visit the area around Palm Springs and create a new work to be installed in the Coachella Valley.
The works, on display for free from March 4 through May 7, are scattered across the valley, turning the experience into something of a “ treasure hunt”, according to Susan Davis.
In addition to the question of social justice, several of the projects this year evoke the shortage s of water, environmental degradation and the climate crisis.