On Wednesday, February 22, Golden Auditorium was completely packed with students and faculty anxiously waiting to hear Grayson Earle speak. Grayson is one of the founders of the project “The Illuminator,” a collaborative project that began after the Occupy Wall Street Movement. Earle and his team, with two projectors and two vehicles, work to shed light on various social movements and contentious topics such as Black Lives Matter and abortion rights. They are currently an eight-person group that stages hundreds of projection-interventions in public spaces around New York City and beyond.
Earle calls the projects that they display “a canvas for the marginalized.” The images generated not only touch those who see them in the public spaces or on the street, but the team also circulates them around the Internet, hoping to touch more people there as well. Recently, Earle and his team were able to obtain the technology that allows for a virtual demonstration, so now anyone can create and protest their demands.
Earle reflected on the fact that he has not always been interested in activism or politics. He was interested in programming and played a lot of video games when he was young. Once he went to college he started focusing on filmmaking and critical and feminist theory. This was around the same time that Occupy Wall Street and the Canadian student protests began gaining support. He traveled to Quebec and interviewed students about their specific struggles and why they were protesting. Earle and his team were able to work around a law prohibiting more than 30 students protesting at a time, by coming up with the projector idea and thus spreading student messages.
Upon returning home, Earle discovered that a real estate company was going to completely cover 5 Pointz, a sight in Brooklyn where many artists would gather to show their artwork. Earle’s team built software, which is now available to anyone, in order to light up the buildings with all of 5 Pointz’ artwork one last time, calling their project “The People’s Pad.”
Earle admitted that he sometimes finds himself in trouble for the activist work that he is involved in. In fact, he spent one night in jail for “illegal posting of advertisements” when his team projected “The Met is a museum, not an oil lobby.” However, even with all of the risk, Earle feels he is able to give a voice to those that society tries to ignore and feels so passionate about what he does that he is unfazed. Earle ended his talk with an invitation to the entire Colgate community to turn Colgate’s buildings into a canvas for the night. With his help, students and faculty made dozens of signs that were projected all over Colgate’s campus. During an extremely turbulent time in America, it’s crucial that “The Illuminator” continues to give voice to the marginalized and fight for a more equal society.