Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Iona Rozeal Brown and Zoe Charlton on race and ethnicity in a global art world

Graham Childs

February 2, 2007 at the Hirshhorn, DC Artists Brown and Charlton discuss their work. The discussion centers around black culture in the U.S. and the usage of this culture and its stereotypes in both Iona and Zoe's work and by the Japanese culture. This speaks to a larger area of aetheticsizing a race or a culture. Sampling and appropriation within their work were other topics that relied heavily on their definitions of both.

The artists were both elequent and rational as ill-prepared questions and statements were brought up. And I was personally impressed with the ability of both artists to position themselves in authoritive roles. This is not to say they are not authorities, but in a way that they take ownership of the subject matter of which they tell us their work is constructed from and emoting its ultimate content leave me very little room to question them at all.

This is not a criticism only an observation. I am, however, left with questions only as an afterthought. In Iona's work, she depicts Japanese people weearing black-face and other 'clack culture,' stereotypical clothes, hair, etc. Is she taking the side of 'it is wrong to aesthetisize a culture' because she has done the same to Japanese culture in her work? Is the difference between appropriation and sampling even relevant when the definitions that were given relate only to citability and ownership? Does it matter where that line is drawn or is this a tool to take more ownership by pointing out that you are not appropriating, you have recontextualized and made the content yours.

Overall, this was an exciting discussion that brought up many questions, what I feel as relevant questions in art today. The Hirshhorn will be having discussions in this format every Friday and recommend attending.


Ryan Hill said...

The program was meant to be a platform for the artists and bring up more questions than answers. My credo is that since contemporary art lives in the present museum programs do well to foster debate. As a white, male moderator taking a position of institutional authority is not my style. It was important that our presentation feel informal but it was intended and certainly wasn't due to a lack of preparation. Despite Childs perception that questions were "ill-prepared," the presenters
and I met continuously prior to the program and all questions were agreed upon by the artists.

joe said...

My understanding of the preperation for this forum was something other than what has been commented on. If I have left ofence, it was not intended. I have respect for the posistion that Ryan Hill took as a white male within this format of public discussion. And I admire him taking on the task of eliminating institutional authority from that discussion.
The problem, if any, during the forum is that authority should have been imposed on the individuals in the audiance imposing rather ignorantly racist questions and comments on the artists such as, "Black people ARE cool." This is an example of where the moderator could have realized that by letting the artists answer to these questions and comments it takes away from the overall disussion that this forum was intended.(which was an informal discussion of Zoe Charlton and Iona Brown's work and acomplishments, not a discussion of two black girls making stuff that makes them important and cool)
It is not my intention to defeat these public discussions; I recommend attending them. Although it is important to realize that while Ryan Hill's style as a moderator is not one of institutional authority, it is the Hirschorn-an institution-that is having these discussions.
Graham Childs