I was friended on Facebook by a stranger – young, artist, black, female. Some frienders have an affinity for my work, or the algorithm sweet-talks to us about our shared affinities. This friend likes one of my posts, which is flattering. Then a FB post journeys algorithmically to my feed, a growing controversy springing up around this friend’s new-found success. Donelle Woolford. She’s the fabricated persona of an artist – white, male, head of an ivy league art program. He writes and rewrites her origin story for a decade, makes artwork for her, selects her avatars, maintains her FB page, her likes and dislikes, her thoughts and writings, hires black actresses to stand-in for his proxy, procures venues for the two of them, etc. etc. He is her broker. Recently, a Biennnial curator rewards them.
Every so often, FB alerts me to thoughtful, articulate, questioning, inchoate, passionate, combative, angry, superficial, frustrated, accusative, defensive comments on this project. Comments and links to texts by artists, historians, critics, journalists, curators; comments posted by the artist and his proxy. An artist collective withdraws from same Biennial in protest against the work’s inclusion; others publicly concur. Misogyny and racism, institutional unresponsiveness. Methodological slippage is sometimes counterposed.
The radio is on one recent morning. Ta-Nehisi Coates discusses “the taking of the black body,” the state-sanctioned plunder of black Americans…into its little-recognized fourth century, now.
The newspaper of record writes about rape jokes, and a poet critically breaking the taboo of rape jokes.
Transgression is crucial. Methodological slippage is crucial. Image-play acts to loosen rigid and inequitable norms . Why throw the post-modern baby out? But without responsibly calibrated nuance and imbrication of the self, this project is just salt rubbed into long-persisting wounds.