Tuesday, February 28, 2012

30 days to go...

Colin Quashie scheduled for April Redux show
Plantation Diaries

Posted by Erica Jackson Curran on Tue, Feb 28, 2012 at 3:00 PM

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. Quashie left Charleston for several years following the backlash that his controversial MOJA exhibit, The Black American Dream, received in 1996. He moved West and found work as a comedy sketch writer on MADtv and a few other comedy series, and in 2001 he received an Emmy for documentary writing. Lucky for us, he has returned to Charleston and he’s continued making art that challenges the status quo in a smart, witty way.
His Redux show will be on view March 30-May 6 with an opening reception Fri. April 6. It will also include an outdoor mural playing off of the imagery of the board game Monopoly. Quashie will give a gallery talk at Redux on Fri. April 6 at 7 p.m. See Quashie’s work at quashie.com and find out more about the exhibit at reduxstudios.org.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Stay tuned - It's on it's way....

The exhibition 'Plantation (plan-ta-shun)' is being planned as I write. It will be at Redux Studios on March 30 - May 6. Stay tuned for more info.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Interesting essay on Madonna and the likes

Madonna: Plantation Mistress or Soul Sister?

bell hooks

From 'Black Looks: Race and Representation'

Subversion is contextual, historical, and above all social. No matter how exciting the "destabitizing" potential of texts, bodily or otherwise, whether those texts are subversive or recuperative or both or neither cannot be determined by abstraction from actual social practice.
--Susan Bordo

White women "stars" like Madonna, Sandra Bernhard, and many others publicly name their interest in, and appropriation of, black culture as yet another sign of their radical chic. Intimacy with that "nasty" blackness good white girls stay away from is what they seek. To white and other nonblack consumers, this gives them a special flavor, an added spice. After all it is a very recent historical phenomenon for any white girl to be able to get some mileage out of flaunting her fascination and envy of blackness. The thing about envy is that it is always ready to destroy, erase, take over, and consume the desired object. That's exactly what Madonna attempts to do when she appropriates and commodifies aspects of black culture. Needless to say this kind of fascination is a threat. It endangers. Perhaps that is why so many of the grown black women I spoke with about Madonna had no interest in her as a cultural icon and said things like, "The bitch can't even sing." It was only among young black females that I could find die-hard Madonna fans. Though I often admire and, yes at times, even envy Madonna because she has created a cultural space where she can invent and reinvent herself and receive public affirmation and material reward, I do not consider myself a Madonna fan.

Once I read an interview with Madonna where she talked about her envy of black culture, where she stated that she wanted to be black as a child. It is a sign of white privilege to be able to "see" blackness and black culture from a standpoint where only the rich culture of opposition black people have created in resistance marks and defines us. Such a perspective enables one to ignore white supremacist domination and the hurt it inflicts via oppression, exploitation, and everyday wounds and pains. White folks who do not see black pain never really understand the complexity of black pleasure. And it is no wonder then that when they attempt to imitate the joy in living which they see as the "essence" of soul and blackness, their cultural productions may have an air of sham and falseness that may titillate and even move white audiences yet leave many black folks cold. Needless to say, if Madonna had to depend on masses of black women to maintain her status as cultural icon she would have been dethroned some time ago. Many of the black women I spoke with expressed intense disgust and hatred of Madonna. Most did not respond to my cautious attempts to suggest that underlying those negative feelings might lurk feelings of envy, and dare I say it, desire. No black woman I talked to declared that she wanted to "be Madonna."

Yet we have only to look at the number of black women entertainers/stars (Tina Turner, Aretha Franklin, Donna Summer, Vanessa Williams, Yo-Yo, etc.) who gain greater crossover recognition when they demonstrate that, like Madonna, they too, have a healthy dose of "blonde ambition." Clearly their careers have been influenced by Madonna's choices and strategies. For masses of black women, the political reality that underlies Madonna's and our recognition that this is a society where "blondes" not only "have more fun" but where they are more likely to succeed in any endeavor is white supremacy and racism. We cannot see Madonna's change in hair color as being merely a question of aesthetic choice. I agree with Julie Burchill in her critical work Girls on Film, when she reminds us: "What does it say about racial purity that the best blondes have all been brunettes (Harlow, Monroe, Bardot)? I think it says that we are not as white as we think. I think it says that Pure is a Bore." I also know that it is the expressed desire of the nonblonde Other for those characteristics that are seen as the quintessential markers of racial aesthetic superiority that perpetuate and uphold white supremacy. In this sense Madonna has much in common with the masses of black women who suffer from internalized racism and are forever terrorized by a standard of beauty they feel they can never truly embody.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Ouch! Red Tails

‘Red Tails’ a disservice to Tuskegee Airmen

By Courtland Milloy, Published: January 29, 2012

The Washington Post

The movie “Red Tails” could not possibly have been “inspired by” the Tuskegee Airmen, as billed, for it is little more than a black comedy about guys who clown and connive their way through World War II, supposedly as combat pilots.

Disheveled, undisciplined, crude and uncouth, they are the exact opposite of the real men who served in the all-black fighter group in the 1940s.

In this movie — which has raked in millions of dollars at the box office and even got a thumbs up from President Obama — the squad leader finds courage in a bottle of booze while his wingman’s lust for an Italian woman leads to insubordination. During dogfights with the German Luftwaffe, the black pilots behave like kids in a video arcade.

“Stop fooling around,” the booze-head captain tells his womanizing lieutenant, who has disobeyed orders to engage a more experienced enemy.

“I’m just playing with him,” the lieutenant replies.

This is not just a bad film; it is ridiculous. It caricatures the black airmen with the very stereotypes they fought so hard to dispel in real life.

“I wanted to make it inspirational for [African American] teenage boys,” producer George Lucas said in an interview with John Stewart on “The Daily Show.”“I wanted to show that they have heroes that are real American heroes that are patriots that helped make this country what it is today.”

So he turns the story of the famed Tuskegee Airmen into the first-ever happy-go-lucky hip-hop war movie.

The cast includes several actors from the HBO TV series “The Wire,” two of whom played street-corner killers and one who was a heroin addict. One combat pilot talks like Bubba, the black country bumpkin in the movie “Forrest Gump,” while another sounds like a jive-talking Chris Tucker, the squealing comic who co-starred with Jackie Chan in the series of “Rush Hour” action comedies.

“If somebody asks me something about the war,” a black airman says, “I’m going to make something up.”

A real laugh riot, this movie.

In reality, the Tuskegee Airmen placed a premium on discipline, precision, order and military bearing. After all, they were under the command of Benjamin O. Davis Jr., a black man from the District, whose rank as an Air Force general and whose education — 35th out of 276 at West Point, class of 1936 — was awe inspiring.

Davis stood 6-foot-4 and weighed in at a trim 200 pounds. Terrence Howard, who sang “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp” in the movie “Hustle and Flow,” hardly fills those shoes.

“The men knew that their all-black fighter group was an experiment that many people wanted to see fail,” J. Byron Morris, past president of the East Coast chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen, told me. “They wanted us to self-destruct. But B.O. Davis kept them on the straight and narrow, and the men were too self-respecting to fall apart.”

During a recent screening of the movie sponsored by the National Association of Black Journalists, I sat with Morris and several other Tuskegee Airmen. The men were pleased that the history of the black pilots, gunners and mechanics was getting so much attention, and they were grateful to Lucas for using $93 million of his own money to help bankroll the film.

Nevertheless, they saw little of themselves on the screen. Davis would not have tolerated the fist fights, aerial stunts, drunkenness and insubordination. For my money, Lucas could have depicted the pilots as they were — as distinctive as the squad led by Tom Hanks in Steven Spielberg’s “Saving Private Ryan,” or the group of soldiers in the television series “Band of Brothers” and “The Pacific.”

He could have at least made them appear credible as pilots.

The question that loomed largest over the 332nd Fighter Group was whether they were intelligent enough to fly. The doubts, deeply rooted in racism, persist to this day. Of 14,130 Air Force pilots in 2009, just 270 identified themselves as black — fewer than 2 percent — according to the Air Force Personnel Center.

So it was particularly egregious to have those black pilots clowning in the cockpit, engaged in dogfights that weren’t just fiction but science fiction. Rather than showing how the black pilots actually fared in combat, the film shows them magically flying propeller-driven planes fast enough to catch German jets that were 100 miles per hour faster.

They could turn on a dime, too, as if piloting Han Solo’s Millennium Falcon at warp speed in one of Lucas’s “Star Wars” episodes.