RETHINK SHINOLA is an Internet-based artwork analyzing luxury-goods company Shinola’s brand messages. Shinola purchased their name from the former Shinola, a shoe polish company that promoted their product using racist caricatures of African Americans. The “new” Shinola company planted itself in Detroit and leverages and profiteers from the extreme conditions and image of the city. The company creates representations of patriarchal whiteness to enforce perceptions of their “leadership,” and circulates images and narratives of African American employees being grateful for this so-called governance. Shinola’s executives have referred to themselves as “ambassadors,” using the language of Columbus and the narrative of the civilized savior who first identifies with and then tames the natives. RETHINK SHINOLA is not meant to be a linear formula to this problem but a way of looking at, unpacking, and addressing these complexities. The work was made in consultation with artists, activists, Detroit historians, labor organizers, and race scholars.
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