March 28, 2007

Mythologies & Difference

Administrator’s note: Liana Cohen-Matteini posts on the controversial 1993 Whitney Biennial and continues our line of inquiry concerning mythologies and identity..

The Mythology of Difference: Vulgar Identity Politics at the Whitney Biennial by Charles A. Wright, Jr. discusses the major issue of “whiteness” and also its relationship to American culture and identity. The way in which artists represent their racial culture, versus the way the museum represents the same culture through curatorial censorship is a major discussion. How do artists represent their work? Can I only speak for “white women” in my work because that is what I am? How do the museums as an institution and the curators as individuals reflect or suppress certain artists and artworks? These issues of diversity have been harshly critiqued in the [‘93] Whitney Biennial.

The way in which one defines the concept of these cultures is key, because it is the backbone of how one approaches the issue of racial identity in art. Race, gender and sexual preference are traits that must be incorporated into art (either consciously or subconsciously). The concept of “whiteness” is a controversial subject, making the way in which the museum addresses it even more sensitive. How is it even possible to come anywhere close to evaluating the issue in its full complexity? The museum must adjust the issue to its convenience, leaving much room for politics regarding the issue.

Reading for 4 April: Chapter 20: Authenticity, Reflexivity, and Spectacle: or, the Rise of New Asia is not the End of the World by Lee Weng Choy.

March 22, 2007

Mythic "Being"

Administrator’s note: This week we read the transcript of Adrian Piper’s ‘Cornered’ video-installation. Nicholas Carr posts this week, to address the various ‘issues’ of identity, image and ‘being.’

It seems as though Adrian Piper speaks about a problem of racial classification but only further entrenches the differences she perceives. Her statements are very antagonistic not only to "white" readers, she states very clearly that if you have an issue with anything she is saying – YOU have a problem. That sets you on the defensive and implies that if you object to anything she’s saying you are a racist. That is no way to have a conversation.

In the beginning of the writing Piper seems to imply that if she doesn’t state that she is "black," she is "white" – she is "black," whether or not she states it. I am "white," and it will be that way whether or not I state it. When there is an issue with anyone BEING who they are, we need to address it. Is Piper suggesting the fact that she has to identify herself as "black" is the real problem? Would she rather have a situation where she did not have to wave her banner? Or should more people who are "black," wave their flag? It is unclear in the end. There seems to be a double standard.

Reading for 28 March: Chapter 15, The Mythology of Difference: Vulgar Identity Politics at the Whitney Biennial by Charles A. Wright, Jr.

March 8, 2007

Censorship in Art

Administrator’s note: Katie Brownell tackles the difficult issue of institutional censorship, posing some pertinent questions for this week’s discussion.

In her articles, "Feminist Fundamentalism: Women Against Images" and "The War on Culture", Carole S. Vance brings up various cases of censorship, including at the University of Michigan and the Corcoran Gallery of Art. In the first case, law students de-installed the exhibition "Porn'im'age'ry: Picturing Prostitution," claiming it was pornographic. A similar claim convinced the Corcoran [Museum] to cancel a retrospective of Robert Mapplethorpe's photography [“The Perfect Moment”] shortly before it was to open. Vance refers to both cases as outright examples of censorship. However, especially in the case of museums, is it always right to immediately condemn the institution for censorship when they rely on public and private funding that could drastically decrease depending on the museums' choice of exhibitions? Is it more important to condemn the museum or would it be more productive to look at the system of funding that museums rely on? As Vance points out, the NEA's budget must be re-approved every few years, putting pressure on museums to choose shows that will not put this important source of funding in jeopardy.

Also, at what point in the decision process does the term censorship apply: as soon as any show is rejected, even if during the earliest stages of planning, or does the planning, or even installation, of a show have to be underway and then be rejected, as in the above cases, in order for it to be censorship?

Reading for 21 March: Ch. 14, "Cornered: A Video Installation Project" by Adrian Piper.