I guess I could start with the speech.
It fired up a lot of people. It made the rounds on the artblogs that week, so when I saw this article on the cover of the Onion it hit me square in the face. And there was a conversation around that article that made mention of Cornell West and his CD “Never Forget“. As luck would have it, that week I had read an article that illuminated both the funeral and resurrection of the word nigger. I’m still trying to get a hold of West’s discussion, but the search has yielded significant results.
- Michael Dyson on If Barack Obama Becomes President
- Review of Randall Kennedy’s Nigger: The History of a Troublesome Word
- Debating the “N” Word
- Nas: Whose Word Is This?
- Mike Dyson defends using the N-word
- State of Black America
Like Dyson says, this shit’s global. You know its goin’ down in the mid-east, but do you remember France’s little run-in with unrest? Let hip hop take you back,then revisit the Holy land rhymes. Thanks to Lady SOV for pointing me towards England’s Dizzee Rascal. The volatility is everywhere. So is hip hop.
You might be wondering why I’m bringing up Obama’s candidacy, discussions around the word nigger and global hip-hop. I’m pointing to all of this because of Sonseree’ Verdise Gibson.
Last summer I reviewed NAT:22 and identified three general sections. There was another group that dealt with identity that I couldn’t resolve with my idea of returning to structure. And as a subgroup there was the black corner. Gibson was at the end of a wall with Elizabeth Axtman playing opposite to it (on the same monitor as Damian Gilley and Roberto Bellini) and Wura-Natasha Ogunji was on the adjacent wall. I kinda dismissed Axtman’s video because it reminded me so much of Adrian Piper’s lecture at UT, Ogunji was difficult to dissect but the work now reminds me of a cross between Zoe Charlton and Tina Medina. But then there was Gibson’s work.
I can’t say that I was visually impressed. The project seemed like more a social report than visual art. Fritz Haeg is another example of that type of work. It isn’t less valid, it’s form is just vague to grasp at. The visuals act more like gates, capable of transporting you to a larger arena of discussion or locking you out where you stand. As I looked at the portraits, both photographic and textual, and listened to the recordings, I was taken to back to middle school. It was then that my teachers tried to instill positive influences in our young colored minds. They were all products of the Civil Rights Movement, educated, filled with Black pride and ready to educate the next generation. I learned my lessons and knew all about George Washington Carver, Sojourner Truth, Rosa Parks and of course Martin Luther King Jr. But as I stood on the cusp of leading my class’ team for the Black History Month Knowledge Bowl, I couldn’t help feeling awkward. I was very confident in my ability, but stepped down because it didn’t seem right that a light skinned Mexican kid would win this contest.
Fast forward a couple of years and you find me in Texas with a slight tan. A lot more white faces, a lot less Black faces, a whole slew of various tones of Brown faces and I’ve found myself in a different world. Similar dynamics, but as Kanye West spits, “Racism still alive, they just be concealing it”. That’s not a blanket attack on the city of Austin, the state of Texas or especially the many friends I have met. It’s just an acknowledgment of change. Times have changed, the mechanizations of hate have changed and I believe the tactics in combating that hate should change. At least they should be changing faster than they have been. After looking at Gibson’s piece I wondered, “What audience is that going to connect with here?” It seems like our most visible visual arts venues can’t make the best connections, while the venues best positioned for starting those discussions aren’t challenging their visitors…
Here’s an article by Ta-Nehisi Coates that I just found that adds another angle of deconstruction to this discussion.
I’ll tell you ’bout what I sees.
UPDATE: Maybe I should give you some examples of what I meant when I said I’m in a different world.