Raja Feather Kelly / The Feath3r Theory, “Andy Warhol’s DRELLA (I Love You Faye Driscoll)” (2014) (photo by Aitor Mendilibar)
In the early 1980s, Andy Warhol posed in drag for a series of Polaroid portraits. Wearing heavy white makeup in works like “Self-Portrait in Drag” (1981), he exudes a ghoulish glamour. The platinum blonde hair, crisp white shirt, and pale-as-a-vampire face pack so much…
Referencing Andy Warhol’s personified nickname Drella, might have come back to haunt him in Raja Feather Kelly’s “movement based drag essay”/”vogue ballet” performance. Kelly and The Feath3r Theory are dressed in all white, including white face makeup, referencing Wahol’s polaroid series, “Self-Portrait in Drag”. Through a series of playful dances and comedy break, the performance focuses on Kelly’s character, Drella, who again acts as a type of leader in the group, obviously envied and hated at the same by the others. “ They would call out her name, Drella, with the cadence of mixed feelings: begging for approval but also resentful of the power she holds over them.“ Kelly sees this performance as a way of “mocking you mocking me”.
The gesture of white-face in a way could be seen as a kind of scag drag, or tranimal drag, which does not focus on the complete concealment of masculine features, but instead allows for a beard hair to show through, placing more importance on what it means to bend genders. The white face can also be likened to the media pressure on black women, like Beyoncé to become white-washed on magazine covers and editorials; Kelly jokes during DRELLA, “Beyoncé is a lot like my father… a total letdown.”
More multifaceted than just a choreographed drag performance, another layer of meaning is revealed from historical connections when Warhol sat on a judging panel for the Miss All-American Beauty Pageant Drag contest in 1967, where Crystal LaBeija was scored lower than a younger white queen due to her appearance not being white enough. LaBeija, who you might know from the documentary Paris is Burning as one of the main “mamas” left behind pageants to produce the first drag ball in Harlem, which subsequently fostered the dance style of voguing, some of which was seen in Kelly’s performance of DRELLA.
DRELLA is a subversive yet sanguine foray into questions of gender, race, and art history that playfully captivates while performing a critical perspective. Drag in fine art is rarely accepted, let alone people of color in drag, except for maybe Lyle Ashton Harris’s, America (Triptych) [Miss Girl; Kym, Lyle & Crinoline; Miss America], Silver gelatin prints, 1987-88
The performers seem to be dancing in between binaries, not quite white or black, male or female, causing questions of fluidity, or maybe something more to surface.
Conclusions drawn from Brian Holmes’ essay on DIY Geo-politics: Contemporary globalization activists seek a “resymbolization” of commodities and spatial relationships that highlight the realities of production and distribution of products and media and also argue the importance of operating outside the gallery-magazine-museum system. One of the primary tactics for this is the genre of ‘net.art’ that utilizes the non-hierarchical and rhizomatic elements of the world wide web as a facilitator for DYI production and distribution. Another tactic that also uses the Internet is the “map generator” in which cartography is re-ordered by anyone with access, focusing more on the social implications of routes and movements and the associated political implications that follow.
Demonstrating the latter tactic, I’ve included the example of one of Bureau d’Études visual infographic maps. This one is the World Government 2013 that can be dowloaded as a pdf to view all text and information. By using the format of a map or flowchart as a model, World Government 2013 lays out in various sections the organizational and economic practices that have power throughout the world in 2013. If reading from top-left to bottom-right, the lines and arrows mark spheres of influence throughout world finance, food markets, governances of finance, and corporations.
The battle over site-specificity as a model for socially engaged art has been waged primarily over competing definitions of ‘place’—an increasingly unstable epistemological category in both theory and practice. Specifically, site-specific art has come under fire for advancing an out-dated methodology that relies on nostalgic, essentializing visions of place and emplacement.
—p. 16, Lauzon, “Reluctant Nomads: Biennial Culture and Its Discontents”
Understanding the current slippery-ness and fluidity in the mention of place is crucial to the discourse around the Biennial. Biennials are understood to be tied to either the places they happen in or the places from which the exhibiting artists come from or represent. Even ideas around shifting place can become subject to the methodology that Lauzon describes as relying on nostalgia and essentialism, which eschews in the romance of nomadism in biennial culture. This is the notion that evolved somewhere within the boom of biennial culture in the 80s and 90s that privileges an abstracted understanding of transnationalism, commending ideals within the international art world that support the importing and exporting of artists and culture. The problem that Lauzon identifies with this tendency is that it fails to align with the lived realities of nomadism as it is affected by globalization, as the typical biennial locales and audiences are often those who experience the nomadic lifestyle at the affluent end of the spectrum which is highly reflected in the stylings of larger biennials, which Lauzon feels is detached from the other reaches of the spectrum of nomadism. (via yesbutnobutmaybe)
From yu to me, Aleksandra Domanović 2014
Commissioned by Rhizome, Abandon Normal Devices, and Fridericianum, this video uses archival materials and interview footage to track a history of the now nonexistent Yugoslavia strictly through the rise and dislocation of the internet in Yugoslavia and specifically the .yu domain. Domanović utilizes news footage from the era and focuses on the stories of the woman who established and maintained .yu in 1987 at the NY Network Information Centre and the woman who was responsible for the domain’s move to and maintenance in Serbia. One of the first hurdles in establishing internet connection in Yugoslavia was that all code was initially in ANSCII which is based in an english alphabet, completely different and hard to maneuver coming from the slavic alphabet, and ultimately led to the development of Unicode.
Michael Connor’s article for Rhizome on the piece described the project in relation to Alan Sekula’s Fish Story, where Sekula termed his work as ‘critical realism’, Connor dubs Domanović’s From yu to me as an ‘internet realism’. Another reference Connor makes in relation to the video is Alex Galloway’s book, The Interface Effect that is concerned with the strategies of web-based artists and groups who are concerned with “mapping the internet” whether it be a website, graphic display, or object. The consensus of Galloway’s study is that there needs to be a more open-ended approach to representing cyberspace than cartography or glitch-based strategies have been able to produce. What Connor proposes is that Domanović’s project is the sort of open-ended structure that Galloway calls for.
The African hair braiding salon, which can be found in cities all over the world, is a marker of diaspora and often an important site for African women living abroad to use their braiding skills to generate income. Spaces in New York City and Bedfordshire in the United Kingdom are a type of facsimile of the salons of Harare, Zimbabwe. When building her own installation, the artist will reference these important social spaces with walls painted in acid green or bright orange, magazine cut outs of celebrities, hair product models, flyers and posters from evangelical churches, not forgetting the ubiquitous small black television set on top of a cabinet playing Nollywood movies. The artist’s redrawing of an African hair braiding Salon will support her study of the technical skill involved, as well as provide a space to document and interpret these processes and forms through video, photography and printmaking.
Ruka (To braid/ to knit/ to weave) is a performance and social practice piece from interdisciplinary artist Nontsikelelo Mutiti, in which she plays the role of artist, designer, and researcher to the study and practice of hair braiding as part of Recess art space’s Session program. The project involve Mutiti both learning and teaching hairbraiding techniques, as well as producing the the resulting visual forms of her research, some of which can be found on her tumblr blog Get Out of My Hair. A crucial point of this project and research for Mutiti is the production of an archive around the cultural practice of hair braiding and it’s specifically it’s role for the African diaspora in Harlem. The art space hosting Mutiti’s project is also in Manhattan, but I think the perceived differences between the Soho locale of the art space and the contextual site of the project focusing on the Harlem hairbraiding business and community produces a teaching environment that means introducing a new idea or history to project participants.
Mutiti’s Session runs from June 3-August 2, 2014 with a Community Braiding workshop on June 14 and Film Screenings on June 28 as part of the Session.
Nontsikelelo Mutiti’s Vimeo
"POWRPLNT is a digital arts learning and sharing collabortatory where creators of all ages can access software, inspiration, and share their work."
POWRPLNT provides a green space indoor garden through the use of aquaponics to merge the urban, digital, and natural. It is a non-profit space for creative collaboration. POWRPLNT’s workspace contains software packed computers that are used in a series of free classes for student from the ages of 13-18. Adults are welcome to use the space on a donation basis for their own projects. The space can also function as a gallery ad most importantly, an open and inviting place for peoples of all backgrounds to come learn and work together.
Classes are presented by new media art professionals who might specialize a class on specific topics like:
digital photography and editing
illustration and animation
The founders are currently looking for crowd sourcing on indiegogo here. Basic costs include computer, space rental, software, and utilities. They will function as a pop-up space until a permanent location can be found.
Their goals are to provide a safe and healthy place for students as an afterschool zone for exploration in the digital arts while providing technological education for all ages. Their proposed system recalls net cafes intermixed with a museum and a creative thinktank aimed at helping the future tech artists become successful tomorrow.
Aspects of globalization that are touched in this project certainly relate to Terry Smith’s third, emerging current of contemporary art which I have already posted at some length about. Because of its orientation around providing open-ended outcomes and encouraging skill building in communities and amongst youth is one aspect of this and utilization of DIY technologies is another. The project seems self-aware and world aware, being concerned with environmental and social impacts. However, like many of the other projects and collectives in the same vein, POWRPLANT is based in New York City which makes it accessible to the city’s high population, but I feel like New York is the expected locale of these projects and I question how successful this initiative can really be if it cannot reach outside the city. I imagine one of their goals is to at least encourage similar types of programs to crop up around the country and around the world. Computer coding program initiatives at the secondary school level are starting to emerge, which gives me hope that projects like POWRPLANT will start to become widely available through the increased integration of computer savvy knowledge into everyday life.
I would like to share very useful resource for which to find a variety of arts organizations from countries in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East. Founded by two Dutch foundations in 2007, Arts Collaboratory promotes “collaborative, inventive, and open visual arts practices that are socially engaging and transformative (artscollaboratory.org)” and serves to fund and initiate exchanges within the global art world. The organization itself strives to work closely with all of the participating institutions and promotes collaboration in its contribution to the transnational network. Arts Collaboratory functions on both local and global scales, and provides a “platform where these communities meet, enabling the sharing of knowledge across regions, borders, and languages (artscollaboratory.org).” As previously stated, Arts Collaboratory financially supports projects, of which organizations can apply to throughout multiple points in the year. Along with this, they maintain an exchange/residency program as well.
This resource serves as a perfect platform to find a variety of different arts organizations from across the globe, all compiled in an easy to access list on their website, artscollaboratory.org. Based on my explorations, all of the links lead to actual organizations that serve as reputable sources for global art news and happenings in general. Furthermore, they operate on Tumblr, whose site has even more accessible posts on specific events from selected organizations in their program. The blog also provides a list of categories for greater specificity in your global arts search. Overall, this resource would be a great addition to anyone’s Tumblr feed and provides relevant information on biennials, workshops, projects, and the like.
This is a resource post for all the Good White Person™s out there. You know, the ones who say things like “It’s not my fault I’m white! Don’t generalize white people!”, or “I’m appreciating your culture! You should be proud!”, or “Why do you hate all white people, look I’m a special snowflake who’s not racist give me an award for meeting the minimum requirements for being a decent human being”.
Well, if you are actually interested in understanding racism and how it ties into cultural appropriation, please read instead of endlessly badgering PoCs on tumblr with your cliched, unoriginal arguments and repeating the same questions over and over.
On White Privilege
aka don’t blame me just because I’m white:
- It’s Not My Fault I Was Born White: Basics of White Privilege x
- Racial Divide x
- Endless Examples of White Privilege x
- You Cannot Know What It’s Like To Be A Racial Minority x
- Intersectional Feminism x
- White Privilege Does Not Mean White People Have Perfect Lives x
- White Privilege and White Supremacy: A Presentation x
- You Will Never Experience Racism x
- Understanding White Privilege x
- White Privilege and Double Standards x
- Systematic White Ignorance x
- The Invisibility of White Privilege x
- The Luxury of White Privilege x
- White Privilege: The Harry Potter Analogy x
- Privilege Denial Bingo x
- Privilege and Cost x
- Check Your Privilege 101 x
- Whiteness x
- Whiteness is Not A Culture x
- White Privilege and Racism x
- Deeply Embarrassed White People Talk About Race x
- When White Anti Racists Talk About ~Their Struggle~ x
- White Privilege As A System x
On Reverse Racism
aka you are being racist against white people:
- Are White People Racially Oppressed x
- White People, the new Racial Minority x
- People Don’t Value Pale Skin!! x
- There Is No Such Thing As Reverse Racism x
- Racism vs. Not Racism x
- But White People Are Discriminated Against In Foreign Countries x
- The Myth of Reverse Racism: Why Cracker is Not N**** x
- Satire: A Step Wise Guide on Being Reverse Racist x
- Racism Against White People vs. Racism Against POCs x
On Cultural Appropriation
aka I’m just appreciating your culture:
- The Basics x
- Identifying Appropriation x
- But When We Wear It … x
- Why Can’t I Wear It (Hipster Headdresses) x
- Not Yours x
- If You Take The Bindi x
- White People Do It Better x
- Multiculturalism and Appropriation x
- Cultural Appropriation and Portrayals In Print Media x
- Diminishing the Cultural Significance of the Bindi x
- The Cultural Appropriation Bingo x
- Why We’re Fed Up of Your Responses x
- Identities Are Not Costumes x
- Hinduism And Appropriation x
- Religion and Privilege x
- Bindis Are Cool x
- Exotic India x
- What’s Wrong With Cultural Appropriation x
- Racism, Bindis and Ganesh Tattoos x
- BUT YOU’RE SPEAKING ENGLISH! x
- Cultural Appropriation Trolls x
- Guide to Being An Appropriating Douchefuck x
- New Age ~Culture Mixing~ x
- In case you’re tired of the prose, here’s poetry x
- Why You Shouldn’t Wear A Bindi x
- Appropriating and Sharing x
- Our Culture is A Punchline Until It’s a Trend x
- Homage Or Insult x
- Tattoos and Appropriation x
- Bollywood is Not Synonymous With Indian x
- College Party Costumes and Stereotypes x
- Dotheads x
- Bindis and Racist Humour x
- Hindu Iconography x
- Misuse of Hindu Iconography x
- Your Appreciation Doesn’t Help Us x
Assorted Vials of White Tears and Miscellaneous Antidotes
aka I can’t change that I’m white/not all whites are racist/we are all humans:
- Unoriginal Arguments Refuted x
- Quick Checklist: You Might Be Racist If x
- Your Opinion Isn’t Necessary x
- I’m Not Responsible For My Ancestors x
- The Kumbayah Myth x
- Proud to Be White x
- Good White Person x
- We Don’t Hate White People x
- Brutality of Colonialism And Why You Can’t Tell Us To Forget the Past x
- People Who Claim Not To See Race Are More Likely to Be Racist x
- All Races are Beautiful Said the White Girl x
- Race Blindness Is A Luxury x
- Well, You’re Racist For Calling Me Racist x
- I’ve Read About Its Significance, I Know What It Means
- Angry Because Someone Called You Racist x
- We’re Not All Like That x
- People Only Care About This Trivial Shit On The Internet x
- I Can’t Apologize for Being Born White, It’s Not My Fault x
- Why Can’t You Tell Me What I’m Doing Wrong x
- It’s Easy to Be Color Blind When You’re White x
- A Diagrammatic Guide To White Tears x
- Conversations I’m Sick Of Having With White People x
- Why Do You Hate White People x
- I’m Trying To Be Cultured x
- Sisyphean Conundrum x
- What is Your Problem x
- We Are All Human, We All Bleed Red x
- It’s Just A Bindi x
- How Not To Respond To Accusations of Racism x
- I’m Italian And 0.009% Native American x
- What White People Think Racism Means: A Venn Diagram x
- White Guilt x
- White Pride!!!111!!! x
- I Like *Insert Foreign Country* I Want To Live There x
- You Have So Much Hate, Fighting Fire With Fire Won’t Help x
- BooHoo, Don’t Call Me Racist x
- Not Everything Ended With Your Ancestors x
- The Racist Reaction x
- I Don’t See Why That Is Racist x
- Crummy Apologies x
Okay. I agree. I’ve been socially conditioned not to notice racism and recognize my privilege. What can I do?
I don’t care about this bullshit; you’re making a big deal out of nothing, go home and delete your blog: