Saturday, 20 June 2015

Debating Place

Vanessa Place' six-year-old conceptual project— tweeting, word for word, Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind—angered the Mongrel Coalition Against Gringpo, who petitioned successfully to get her dropped from a selection committee for the AWP’s annual writing conference. Kim Calder grapples both with Place's provocative project (which the poet claims was expressly meant to highlight the novel's racist imagery and language) and the arguments marshalled against it:
Indeed, the material engaged by these performances is unquestionably racist. The more salient question in this moment, however, is whether this makes the performer, and the performances themselves, racist. If the former question seems as though it does not belong in a piece of art criticism, this may generally be true, but, in this case, when the attacks have been in part “about” Vanessa Place as an alleged racist, it becomes relevant. Place’s critics say that these performances uphold white supremacy, knowingly or unknowingly, by perpetuating racist text and images. Because Place has disseminated racist material, she is racist. Other critics are more concerned with the second question: do these works successfully perform an anti-racist critique, or do they unnecessarily retraumatize people of color (and black Americans in particular) for sensationalist purposes? Place, these critics say, utilizes abhorrent methods while telling us nothing new. We know Gone With the Wind, for example, is a racist text—and if we don’t, the battle is probably already lost. In this case, the performances are failed experiments. The former group would argue that they are experiments that would only be undertaken by a racist.

No comments: