As a part of our fight to get corporations out of the government, The International Corporate Accountability Roundtable hosted its first ever Invisible DC Block Party on June 8th at the National Mall in Washington D.C. The purpose of this event was to publicly launch ICAR’s Capitol, Inc. campaign, which showcases four augmented reality art installations created to raise awareness about how corporate influence in government undermines progressive change on a wide variety of important issues.
The Invisible DC Block Party served as a gathering where local residents, artists, non-profit organizations, and community members could come together to experience the art installations (which are virtually placed at different iconic locations along the National Mall and visible via the free ICAR AR app) while learning about the depths of corporate abuse of people and the planet. The event featured a live performance from one of DC’s finest Go-Go ensembles, Ambition Band, followed by a short speaking arrangement where ICAR Executive Director David McKean and Capitol, Inc. Artists explored the real-world impacts of corporate capture and the importance of using art as a vehicle for change.
“At ICAR, we’ve created a metaphor around the idea that corporate capture of our institutions is invisible. It works because it’s invisible.” said David Mckean, ICAR Executive Director. “One of the challenges we face is that corporations have an enormous amount of influence in government and that’s not by accident. They’re doing that so they can block us from building legal regimes that would hold corporations accountable in order for us to create a safer, more just society.”
In order to raise awareness about this cross-cutting issue, each groundbreaking Capitol, Inc. art piece reveals the complexities and consequences of corporate capture and government malfeasance in relation to a specific industry or issue area: big agribusiness, the oil and gas industry, the private prison system, and the federal government’s history of putting corporate profits above Indigenous Peoples’ rights. They are accompanied by fact sheets and other resources housed on the campaign website that point to the larger problem of corporate capture and lay out concrete, industry-agnostic policy solutions.
“For me the most important problem to address with my artwork is exposing how agricultural workers are treated in America. Many of whom are immigrants migrating from Latin America who are working in horrible conditions for terrible wages” said Alfredo Salazar-Caro, Featured Artist in Capitol, Inc. Alfredo Salazar-Caro is the artist behind “Las Manos de Mis Padres”, a visual poem created to honor Latinx migrant workers in America’s agricultural industry. In just the last decade, big agribusiness companies spent over $1.5 billion dollars lobbying the federal government in efforts to shape policy in their favor. Corporate profits grow at the expense of smaller farmers, workers’ rights, public health, food safety and the environment.
“Many companies have come onto our land to mine, frack and build oil pipelines leaving our earth devastated, our water undrinkable and our air polluted. The United States government paves the way for wealthy corporations to come onto our land and exploit our resources and people.” said Emma Robbins, Featured Artist in Capitol, Inc. Emma Robbins is a Diné artist and activist and is the creator of “His X Mark”, a piece that traces environmental destruction of Native lands and human rights abuses on Native reservations to broken treaties. Hundreds of treaties were signed between U.S. government representatives and Indigenous tribal leaders to protect Indigenous communities and none of them have been honored.
Over the last three decades, the private prison industry has put a total of $11.5 million towards influencing federal elections. Private prisons have a powerful financial incentive both to cut corners when it comes to the services they provide, and to push for policies that fuel mass incarceration. Time and time again this has led to extreme abuse of prisoners and immigrant detainees in privately run facilities. “Our work has documented the state of private prisons over the past 40 years. If you look at our pictures of Angola State Penitentiary from the eighties and compare them with the ones we’ve taken in 2008, not much has changed” said Chandra McCormick, Featured Artist in Capitol, Inc. “Officers on horseback and prisoners picking cotton show us a place where time stands still” said Keith Calhoun, Featured Artist in Capitol, Inc.
Three out of the four Capitol Inc. installations are spread across the National Mall, but the fourth and final piece overlooks the Reflecting Pool at the Lincoln Memorial. In “WHAT OCTAVIA E. BUTLER SAW WHEN SHE LANDED ON MARS”, Stacy Lynn Waddell, Featured Artist in Capitol, Inc., throws a digital security blanket spread across the water with ever changing textures mimicking the rise of global warming trends. This piece reveals the significant amount of power the fossil fuel industry has amassed through its strategic campaign spending, extensive lobbying operations, and use of the revolving door.
Corporate capture threatens the integrity of our democracy. Big corporations are funding elections, manipulating policy, and drowning out the voices of everyday people. The capture of our government and public institutions works in the shadows to derail progress when it comes to securing worker’s rights, saving our planet, and ensuring that human rights are respected. At ICAR, we believe that every progressive issue, at least in part, is a corporate accountability issue.
The International Corporate Accountability Roundtable (ICAR) is a civil society organization that believes in the need for an economy that respects the rights of all people, not just powerful corporations. We harness the collective power of progressive organizations to push governments to create and enforce rules over corporations that promote human rights and reduce inequality. For more information, visit us: https://icar.ngo/. For more information on ICAR’s Capitol, Inc. Campaign, read our policy memo, Big Agribusiness Fact Sheet, Oil and Gas Industry Fact Sheet, and Criminal Justice and Immigration Fact Sheet. Augmented Reality Art Installations: His X Mark , Las Manos de Mis Padres , Slavery: The Prison Industrial Complex , WHAT OCTAVIA E. BUTLER SAW WHEN SHE LANDED ON MARS