Paul Rucker: The symbols of systemic racism — and how to take away their power

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Multidisciplinary artist and TED Fellow Paul Rucker is unstitching the legacy of systemic racism in the United States. A collector of artifacts connected to the history of slavery — from branding irons and shackles to postcards depicting lynchings — Rucker couldn’t find an undamaged Ku Klux Klan robe for his collection, so he began making his own. The result: striking garments in non-traditional fabrics like kente cloth, camouflage and silk that confront the normalization of systemic racism in the US. “If we as a people collectively look at these objects and realize that they are part of our history, we can find a way to where they have no more power over us,” Rucker says. (This talk contains graphic images.)

As a TED fellow, I performed at the 2018 conference. I’ve developed my own style of playing that I integrate into my visual art.  My playing involves prepared cello, electronics, and extended technique (e.g. placing chopsticks and paperclips between the strings, hitting the body of the cello to create drum sounds).