Saturday, June 25, 2011

Matika Wilbur

Organic vs. Origin.

She's got a series at the SAM through August 14th:
Save the Indian and Kill the Man. She juxtaposes the stereotype of a native person as perpetually (Plains) Indian, romanticized and blended in with the landscape and the past(cf. this gaudy Indian head ring, and a contemporary person just doing their thang.

Check out more of her work here:
Matika Wilbur Photography

Also, at the MLK Jr. Day Parade in January, I saw some super hip young punk native teens, and they had a sign that had a stern archetypal Indian on it (better rendered than this one, but similarly phrased):

why oh why did I miss this show

Like all the best of Jim Henson, Cousin Itt, that Looney Toons hairy guy, Snuffleupagus, and anything else that is imaginative involving a plethora of fringe and hair. SAM says, "We call them a beautiful, joyous, EXUBERANT, colorful opportunity to explore an ALTERNATIVE WORLD which challenges conventions and inspires new ways of thinking."

Thursday, June 23, 2011

on the enduring appeal of exoticism

"Exoticism (from 'exotic') is a trend in art and design, influenced by some ethnic groups or civilizations since the late 19th-century... Like orientalist subjects in 19th century painting, exoticism in the decorative arts and interior decoration was associated with fantasies of opulence.

Exoticism, by definition, is "the charm of the unfamiliar." Scholar Alden Jones defines exoticism in art and literature as the representation of one culture for consumption by another.[1] An archetypical exoticist is the artist and writer Paul Gauguin, whose visual representations of Tahitian people and landscapes were targeted at a French audience."

Gauguin, so obvious (speaking of which, coming to SAM next year, ooh perhaps to get served!) But how about some less glaring, but still grating examples of exoticism?

  • Bands naming themselves something exotic just for fun/and/or to expand their notion of their identity beyond ("plain 'ole") whiteness: The Angry Samoans, Half Japanese, Beirut.
  • Suburban kids, like myself, really really liking hip-hop and gangsta rap.
  • That episode of Pete & Pete w/ a bowling ball that was given to Petes' grandpa by a "Tibetan magic man" (maybe not in so many words, but he was Tibetan).
I haven't quite got it yet, but I am trying to put my finger on what the fine line is that separates creepy/sexist/racist jerk-parading-as-enlightened exoticism (like Gauguin) vs. non-creepy/non-sexist/non-racist normal person exoticism (or perhaps it shouldn't be called exoticism at that point). Maybe it all depends on the direction of the power dynamic. Who is being exoticized by whom and to what end? Is it a sexual fetish (again Gauguin)? Is it devaluing the exotic culture by minimizing its degree of civilization ("the noble savage")? Is it overvaluing the exotic culture's oneness with nature or touted magical powers (Pete & Pete bowling ball episode)? Is it a completely random name-drop just for fun (bands listed above)? If so, I regret to inform you that you can't refer to real cultures casually from a mainstream p.o.v. (i.e. male, anglo saxon protestant american) AND not raise an eyebrow from this yellow lady.

"One-of-a-Kind Genuine Indian Head Nickel Rings Won't Last"

The email ad I received with the title of this post as the subject states, "The Indian Head Nickel coin was designed in the early 20th century to honor the proud heritage of Native Americans and the spirit of the American West. Minted only from 1913 to 1938, this favorite among coin collectors has now become the centerpiece of this bold, unique Indian Head Nickel Men's Ring... The historic Indian Head Nickel collectible coin at the ring's center features a composite portrait of three great Native American chiefs, and each ring is truly one of a kind..."

You'd better get one before they run out!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

2 Legit 2 Quit (back in the '90s)

Excerpt from Robert Schubert's review of Louise Bourgeois @ National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne(Art & Text 53 Jan. 1996, p. 71):

"The ciphers of Bourgeois's influence [on young Australian artists] can be most keenly felt in her use of synthetic materials, and the way this abject materiality gets woven into her preoccupation with the body. Exemplary here is Mamelles (1991),

whose phalange of pink rubber breasts (amorphously compeating for definition as indictments of feminine bodily experience) finds parallel with work developed by women artists in the 1990s. Yet the exhibition also demonstrates how little regard Bourgeois has for staking a claim in the essentialism which seems to dominate recent feminist art. It is not possible to link Bourgeois's engagement with the body to an unreconstructed essentialism without at the same time excluding the explicit genderfuck developed by her sculptural work in the 1980s...
Louise Bourgeois - Nature Study - IMG_0033
the power of Bourgeois's work lies in the mixed pleasure and horror displayed towards the body. While her reception in Australia has been largely determined by the autobiographical and existential significance of her work, it is the ambiguities of flesh falling through the cracks of gendered boundaries that elicits the sense of astonishment pervading the exhibition.