5/19 Art for Black People? (Lower Manhattan, Part II)
Erika Muhammad moderated our panel at the South Street Seaport event. As some of you know, Erika was the curator of the massive Race in Digital Space show that was exhibited at the MIT List Visual Arts Center, The Studio Museum in Harlem, & the Spelman College Museum of Fine Art. She also introduced K & me to Sandra D. Jackson (the director of education and public programs at SMH), which ultimately led to our doing a performance of The Sour Thunder there in 2002. Well, I could say a lot more good things about Erika. The point is that a lot of her work has benefited Keith and me personally and it had been a long time since we'd seen her. So this was a happy reunion.
Now, the obvious answer is: everybody. Or: everybody who cares. And I truly do make work hoping that many different people, with different interests in the work, come to our projects. But in the panel conversation, I talked a little about who I was as a kid and what kinds of things interested me as I was deciding to become an artist. I talked about wanting to make work for people who had interests like those and ended up saying Simply, black people. After I said that, I had the urge to say more -- to say, for example, that I didn't see the work as exclusively for black people, that I wanted people who were not black to also connect to the work, that what I meant had to do with feeling like a lot of contemporary art wasn't necessarily directed towards me. I want to make work for people who think things are funny that I think are funny because we're black, for example. I want to make work about things that bother other people in the way that they bother me because we're black. I didn't feel like clarifying what I'd said, though, because I felt like it would come off as qualifying what I'd said. I really wondered how people heard my answer. Did they think Well, yeah, of course? Did they think How sixties of you? Did the black people think That's great! Or did they think Who needs that? I wonder.