It often breaks my heart when I miss an incredible art event. And my heart is indeed broken today and may in fact be for the next few days. I've been finding myself almost hostile towards people on Facebook that saw Coco Fusco's performance on December 12 and 13th at the Studio Museum in Harlem Observations of Predation in Humans: A lecture by Dr. Zira, Animal Psychologist (study), 2013 - See more at: http://www.studiomuseum.org/event-calendar/event/coco-fusco-2013-12-12#sthash.cyWeUnBN.dpuf. My feelings boarder between straight out jealously and awe for their having seen a monumental event that continues the dialogue, of how “other” (in this instance black women) is perceived and experienced within our current economic and social structure largely governed, if not completely, by racist colonial histories. Where was I on those nights? I am not free to disclose. But I can say that on one night I was in a room with largely affluent straight white men talking about art....
Recently, I posted a link on Sophia Stewart’s winning a suit against the Wachowski Brothers, Joel Silver and Warner Brothers for copyright infringement. Stewart is an African American writer who sees too many similarities between her 1981 copyrighted screenplay “The Third Eye” and “The Matrix”. For ten years now, there has been a cloud of debate accusing Stewart's winning the suit as a hoax. What I have found interesting is the idea that the face of this billion dollar franchise is one of a black woman contesting existing power structures and turning it upside down. “Neo is really a black woman” should be a tee-shirt.
What's troubling about Fusco's performance and how it connects to Stewart's “hoax” is that the idea of other redefining visual culture is confined only to the walls of the art institute and the imagination. For me that's what has become frustrating about making art. The viewing of provoking pieces inadvertently highlights the commercialized tourist trap of the museum and blunt disregard of some institutes to accept funding even if connected to the disenfranchising of communities of color (ie: the Metropolitan Museum of Art's expansion funded by one of the Koch brothers). The subversive power of the artist to ask people to reconsider society's current evolution and reflect on where its going are sadly dulled and limited. I cannot comment on Fusco's performance, and as a long time fan, I'm sure it surpassed wonderful. Yet, I wish her ideas last week were part of a much needed critical look at how other is still regarded in media and how reconsidering it and giving other power can truly move progress forward. And this, reoccurring debate, addressed by writers like Franz Fanon, Arundhati Roy, bell hooks, Fusco herself and others is threatening. As we look at the treatment of the black female body, her militant and intellectual strength is not myth, it is our salvation.
With these thoughts I go into my next book, NATIVE SON by Richard Wright. The copy I have I got in Thailand in a small bookstore run by an American Ex-pat in 1998. It was sold to me by a Danish traveller who was watching the shop.