Sunday, February 6, 2011

Blog Prompt for Feb 8 - "Telling"

Based on the readings, and my own experience, I believe that "telling" is transformative. Naming an experience and sharing it with others changes the speaker as well as the listener, both personally and culturally. I keep coming back to the feeling that this is all about power and space. Adding unheard voices to the mix disrupts master narratives, and demands space to present personal, lived truths. The viewer is informed, and thus, changed by viewing the art, as is dominant culture. In this chapter, artists were drawing on the collective power of their histories. They are telling their own stories, but are backed up by their culture, communities, and shared values. For John Outterbridge, the connection to his ancestors is a source of courage and intent in his art (pp. 59). This chapter truly highlighted the way that transforming experience into art can re-write dominant histories.

As I was reading "Telling", I was looking for connections to my self-portrait project, but there didn’t end up being any pieces that spoke to my process directly. The identity that I am highlighting in my portrait is not something that is communal, or that has any ancestral history. Though there wasn’t a specific work, there was a theme throughout the chapter that has definitely influenced my project:  Stories can heal, and empower. Darlene Clark Hine accounts, “They believed that somehow you could change your present circumstances if only your history was told. Then they would finally be accorded recognition and legitimacy” (pp 92.)  I strongly connected with this, and it brought up my struggle to reconcile the experiences of my life thus far and the wholeness that I want to invoke in my life moving forward. “Telling” is the key. 


  1. A particular medium that inspired me while reading “Telling,” was on page 62 The Greater Ceremonies, the quote that stated, “The states of the soul are sometimes violent, always mysterious, and invisible.” This quote became particularly meaningful to me because of the death of my Uncle, who was taken from my family due to cancer, but suffered from schizophrenia. To me this quote defines him, at times his soul was violent, but had no control, at times his soul was mysterious, yet still had no control, and at times he was invisible, because of his mental disease. But what is important to me in this quote is that even though he was a soul suffering inside, he also had so much to tell, so much experience, and so much knowledge that not one person besides himself possessed. Much like how Lucy Lippard describes art as “telling” of cultural heritage, personal experience, and a story unlike any other, my Uncle reminds me of “telling.” This quote brought about the identity and self-portrait I want to recognize with, and also moved me to sympathize and connect with personal and cultural “tellings.”
    The powerful experience that most of these artists seem to participate in is the speaking part, but what becomes even more powerful for them as artists is listening. The listening of others to what is said through their art, and what is expressed as part of their experience, whether cultural or personal. David Hammons (pg 63-64) expresses how he “thinks it’s important to be laughed at.” “Black people, we have more problems with being made fun of than any people I’ve ever met.” Because of this reason Hammons walks through the streets holding a while arch of wine bottles. He lets people ask him questions, give him answers, and tell him what to do. He doesn’t do it to speak to the people; he does it to get them to listen. His mere action of walking through the streets looking uncool, or as an “other” is what makes people listen, ask him questions. Through these actions he has this powerful experience, and to him, he says it cleanses him.

  2. Maryam, I agree with your writing on how the artists were drawing on their histories and that is where their art comes from. As I was reading it really stuck out to me when Martha Jackson-Jervais’s art was described as “bringing together the cultural fragments among which she lives: broken crockery, architectural tile, and rejects from her clay studio, re-investing these discards with new meaning and life” (pg 62.) I believe everyone does this at some point in their lives no matter what your previous experiences in life may have been.
    I was able to draw on this quote and develop my label from my extremely rocky past to the wonderful position I am in now by turning all of my negative experiences into learning experiences. Many people on the other hand take these experiences and “discard” them just as Jackson-Jervais says about her materials and giving them a new identity. I now look at the world as my play ground similar to Jackson-Jervais’s art. It is upon initial sight a room that looks a mess and disorganized but with further review you see the many little details, like the vibrant colors and patterns, that all bring you to understand what she is portraying. I am excited to see what your label will be and how your project will turn out since you could not relate to any of the authors key points like culture and heritage.