What Do We Want History to Do to Us?

(nybooks.com)

33 points | by prismatic 287 days ago

4 comments

  • mturmon 286 days ago

    Wow! At work, so can't read to completion, but what a deep and sympathetic look at some of the aspects of Kara Walker's very challenging body of work.

    • overcast 285 days ago

      For once, teach us to stop repeating it.

    • mirimir 285 days ago

      Maybe teach us compassion.

      • leftyted 285 days ago

        Kara Walker's art is like a dead baby joke that fell flat. It appeals almost exclusively to white leftists educated in elite schools chomping at the bit to proclaim "we are all guilty".

        People who claim that they like Kara Walker understand that it is "the correct thing to do" to describe her art as "challenging" and "disturbing". They tend to conclude with something like "it's provocative, which is what art is supposed to be, right?"

        No, art is supposed to be about sublimity. Walker is part of an intellectual movement that has, somewhat satanically, replaced the sublime with the abject. This exchange carries with it the vague implication that if we don't like it we might be racists.

        • mirimir 285 days ago

          Sure, it's loaded with abject horror, presented humorously. I can't say that I "like" it, in the sense of enjoying it, any more than I enjoy images from more recent atrocities. But I think that it's valuable, in that it makes all that stuff more real. And at least she doesn't do photorealism.

          However, I don't think it's useful to use history to demonize the descendants of the perpetrators. As I see it, it's not individual people -- let alone their descendants -- who are evil. It's arguably cultures that are evil, and all involved are arguably victims.

          • wbronitsky 285 days ago

            Not only does the article directly address your criticism, but Zadie Smith, the author, is no white leftist.

            We do understand that you do not like Walker's art, and seem to be trying to make others feel bad for liking it. Maybe we can just critique the art itself?

            On what authority do you define art for all of us? Why does your definition of art have to be all of our definition?

            • leftyted 285 days ago

              > We do understand that you do not like Walker's art, and seem to be trying to make others feel bad for liking it. Maybe we can just critique the art itself?

              My theory is that people don't actually like it, they just understand that they're supposed to say they like it. Also, I did critique the art itself.

              > On what authority do you define art for all of us? Why does your definition of art have to be all of our definition?

              My comment expresses my opinion about what art is and what makes it worthwhile. I don't want "define art for all of us" or to force other people to conform to my opinion in any way. But I wouldn't mind convincing other people.

              • wbronitsky 285 days ago

                I like Kara Walker's art. Quite a bit actually.

                • leftyted 285 days ago

                  Would you hang it on your wall?

                  • wbronitsky 285 days ago

                    Does all art I enjoy have to hang on my wall?

                    I no longer see any reason to continue this conversation; you're just trying to attack me.

                    • leftyted 285 days ago

                      > Does all art I enjoy have to hang on my wall?

                      No but I think "would I hang this on my wall?" is a fairly good metric for "do I like this". I've been in situations where I lied and said "I like this art" because I felt socially obligated. My argument is that there's a distinction between "what I say I like" and "what I actually like".

                      > I no longer see any reason to continue this conversation; youre just trying to attack me.

                      I'm not trying to attack you. I'm sorry it came off that way.

            • sarakayakomzin 285 days ago

              >No, art is supposed to be about sublimity.

              that's a pretty fuckin entitled opinion to have.