Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Decisions, decisions

I think I am supposed to be on the cover of the Charleston City Paper tomorrow, but as of this posting, I'm not so sure. A little background: The City Paper showed me a lot of love when they heard that I would be exhibiting at Redux Studios and wrote a very nice blurb about the exhibition:

Redux never fails to keep us on our toes with their choice of exhibits — vampire furniture, anyone? — but they have one coming up that we’re truly excited for: Colin Quashie’s The Plantation (Plan-ta-shun).
Although arguably one of Charleston’s greatest artists, Quashie tends to fly under the radar with few official gallery shows.
Soon thereafter, they contacted me about doing a feature article on the exhibition and sent out Susan Cohen to interview me. Nice girl, I liked her. I was then informed by the editor, Chris Haire, that they intended to put me on the cover. Hurray! I had no intention of allowing a picture of myself to grace the cover, but having a nice piece of art to promote the exhibit would be nice. I had the Plantation Monopoly game photographed by the great Rick Rhodes and submitted that along with a few other images to support the inside story (which I hope will be a flattering portrayal and not have me coming off as narcissistic or worse yet, an idiot). I have a great deal of respect for print writers and try not to interfere with their stories by leading them in any particular direction. I just answer their questions as truthfully and completely as possible and let them do their thing. You get what you get - deal with it. They then sent out a photographer for a portrait shot which I begrudgingly yielded to - I hate taking photo's. 

Last week I was contacted by Scott Suchy, the Art Director, and told that they couldn't use the Plantation Monopoly piece on the cover because it was too busy - there's a lot of moving parts in the pic and they still had to run headlines for other stories - I understood. He suggested the image of the SlaveShip Sardines piece since it had a lot of gray area around it and would make a great editorial cover. I responded - "Bold Choice" - which it was considering that the piece contained the dreaded 'N-word' in the ingredients on the can label which states; Partially Dehydrated Niggers. Admittedly, it isn't the choice I would have made, but then again, I'm not in the print business and it's not as if the word is hidden. I silently applauded their courage and since the word wasn't gratuitous and was in context with the image and the overall exhibition, I didn't pursue and wished us all well - after all, this is Charleston, SC and I dare say that I doubt the word has ever graced their cover. 

This afternoon while driving to Charlotte for yet another session with the Innovation Institute, I received a call from Chris Haire. He stated that the Publisher refused to sign off on the printing (the issue hits the newsstand tomorrow). Chris and the staff involved wanted to go to press and was arguing their case. He wanted to know what I thought. I made it a point to state that first and foremost I would wholeheartedly support and stand behind any decision they eventually made. After all, I understand the economic issues that comes with needless controversy. They could possibly lose advertisers and sponsors with the fallout and no one wants that.
As an artist, I support publishing as is and urged that they do so with the caveat that they include a blurb on the inside cover stating their case for running the cover as is. The other possibility was moving a headline to cover the offending word - but I think that that would be the cheap and easy way out, which is something I am not for, but alas, would once again support their decision. Chris called back and stated that another angle would be to point out the elephant in the room by blatantly censoring the cover, explain why they did so and point them to the website where they could see the full cover and respond. Cool compromise but my thoughts ran to the fact that since many people consume their media online, what was the point in censoring the print version and not censoring the online content? Chris asked if I was willing to write an op-ed in next week's paper if they did decide to publish as is and I assured him that not only would I do so, but would also rally other opinions to chime in and support their decision.
After a few more miles and many more thoughts on the matter, I called Chris and asked that he point out to the Publisher that this was was not Charleston's main conservative newspaper (Post & Courier), nor was it the tourist aimed magazine (Charleston Magazine). This is the City paper, a slightly left leaning arts and entertainment paper that does a marvelous job of doing what the other publications fail to do. If not here, then where? Sure, they may catch some flack, but in my opinion they would gain greater respect and readership for taking what I felt was a correct stand. Where exactly is the line in the sand that controversy crosses? As long as the potentially offensive image or idea isn't gratuitous and is in proper context and has some degree of artistic merit (and I feel that SlaveShip Sardines meets this criteria), then run it and stand behind it. 

I have yet to hear what their decision was (I assume they went to press as of this post) but will wake tomorrow and find out when everyone else does. As I stated earlier, I will cast my lot and stand with the paper. It sucks being mature but its the right thing to do. 

To see a larger image, click on the image or click here to see the posting on my website and download a wallpaper if you want.

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