Shape of the Wound: Restorative Justice in Potential Spaces A Review of “Opening the Black Box: The Charge is Torture” (Exhibition, Sullivan Galleries, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, 2012)


  • Rachel L.S. Harper Art Institute of Chicago and the Museum of Contemporary Art


Grounded in restorative and transformative justice praxes, this review interprets the exhibition, Opening the Black Box: The Charge is Torture.  The unsettled knowledge that emerges from this exhibition is represented in conceptual art objects, which are multidisciplinary proposals for memorials to over 100 cases of confessions violently coerced by Chicago Police officers.  First, I discuss this context, the individual proposals on display, and the ways in which the summative exhibition as a work of public pedagogy builds up a powerful, participatory image of individual loss through torture, and resulting violence to the body politic, which affectively emphasizes impermanence and love.  Next, drawing on D.W. Winnicott’s notions of transitional object and potential space, I explore the restorative potential of memorials as transitional objects which do more than memorialize the past; they enable potential space and imaginative projection of a curriculum of transformative justice.

Author Biography

Rachel L.S. Harper, Art Institute of Chicago and the Museum of Contemporary Art

Rachel L. S. Harper is an artist and knowledge worker in Chicago.  She teaches at the Art Institute of Chicago and the Museum of Contemporary Art, where she leads the Teacher Institute.  Her work for social justice explores histories and metaphors of curriculum, epistemologies of love, and critical reverie.