I have been exploring quilting as art; I have been exploring art as protest; I have been exploring racism and whiteness. Into that mix comes the challenge to Make a work of art about race as a white person in America.
Not a challenge to a single work nor to a juried show, but a syllabus for personal reflection manifested (or not) in art production. A way of rethinking traditional art about race.
Instead of waiting till I have an idea to post, I am posting now in case some of my readers also want to do this exploration. Some of you are not in America; some of you are not white. I leave it to you to explore/make art that fits your situation.
6/6/17 ETA links to a different art installation and issues of representation as it relates to “Scaffold” at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. The articles tell the intent and the unintended impact and the removal of the piece. And several responses of art critics.
The first article and a quotation from it.:
The issue of the identity of the artist presenting work about a trauma that is not her or his own recalls the recent controversy around Dana Schultz’s painting of Emmet Till in the 2017 Whitney Biennial. Schutz was criticized for depicting a historic trauma and creating an abstracted portrait of Till’s corpse. Schutz’s work was partly criticized for seeking to represent African American trauma, which many people considered problematic coming from a white woman. Both controversies bring up questions about whether or not white artists can create work about the pain of communities they do not belong to, and whose voices should be elevated to speak about the atrocities of our history.
The second article and a quotation from it:
At the same press conference, Viso admitted that the Walker’s process in placing “Scaffold” in the Garden had been flawed. “I apologize that we were not sufficiently aware of the implications of its placement or sympathetic to the pain and suffering that it would elicit,” she said. The disconnect that left both the artist and the Walker oblivious to the sculpture’s potentially painful meaning for Dakota and Native people speaks to the need for Native people to tell their own stories, as many Native critics have pointed out over the last two weeks.
“We need to tell our own narrative,” Rafael Gonzales, an anti-Dakota Access Pipeline activist and a descendent of the Dakota 38 +2, said in an email. “If non-Native allies are willing to teach our history, it is crucial that they spend time with our people and consult with us on appropriate ways of doing so.”
And the comments of art critics.
Perhaps the bottom line is to listen and consult when tempted to represent another culture. Or as in the first “syllabus,” to focus on one’s own culture.
6/27/17 ETA a link to a counter argument. To what extent is
Endeavoring to make art from another person’s pain isn’t the same as cultural appropriation, but such pursuits, as generally conceived today, share a relationship to notions of identity-based ownership—of certain histories, certain cultural expressions. But while a different culture’s history shouldn’t be declared categorically off-limits to an artist, there are meaningful questions of quality, context, understanding, power, and purpose to be considered—and, along those lines, each work of art must be evaluated on its own terms.
Just why isn’t it appropriation? Perhaps I need a more nuanced understanding of “appropriation.” The question isn’t answered in the review of the novel. But articles are cited, articles and books that I need to read because they deal with abstract art and social critique. Though applied to African American art, it seems they could be extended to all abstract art. All this in a review of a novel by Percival Everett, So Much Blue. I will admit to having read none of his work, but now I want to. More to ponder.