Maddee Clark delivered “I hate the public!” as part of A Big Sparkly Dinner Party, presented at Kudos Gallery, 25 January 2018. It featured 110%, D.A.N.C.E art collective, Keith Gallasch, Maddee Clark, Pedro de Almeida and Scott Duncan.
In 1992, Tracey Moffatt refuses an invitation via fax machine to an art show by curator for Queensland Art Gallery, Clare Williamson. In the exchange, Clare asks for Tracey’s participation in a group show, called ‘Who Do You Take Me For?’, which “explores issues of cultural identity” and asks artists to “share the experience of attempts at marginalisation by the dominant white heterosexual male culture of the country in which they live”[i]. Tracey’s replies state resolutely that she wants to be exhibited in Contemporary Art Spaces, not bunched in with those making their careers out of “‘finding themselves-looking for their identities’”. She tells Clare that exhibitions of this type function to keep Black people ‘in our place’. She poses a series of questions in her final fax, one of which reads “Would you have been the slightest bit interested in my work had I not been Aboriginal?”; to which Clare replies; “I was drawn to your work before I knew you were Aboriginal. However, the knowledge that you are Aboriginal, has, rightly or wrongly, influenced my interpretation of your work and increased my interest.”
Over twenty-five years later, there is still an ever-increasing interest in so-called intersectional art writing, and a persistent use of words like diverse or intersectional as euphemisms for Black, trans, and other. I am a product and beneficiary of this; I have rarely been asked to contribute work on a specific area of my own interest which is not about my identity as a queer Aboriginal, educator to an audience of white people. My experiences in the art world have taught me that while not all of us are looking for our identities, they are still attached to us. Race belongs to the other, not the editor, not the curator, and not the art world. [ii]
In 2018, we should ask some questions of our own. When art writing calls for Aboriginal contributors, board members, writers, artists, when it is trying to diversify, intersectionalise, and make unwhite, does it know exactly what it is that it is asking for? Can art writing confidently say it knows the difference between inclusion and othering? The difference between decolonising the catalogue, and using a Black body (of Black intellect) as a floatation device for an artistic or editorial practice?
There is another aspect to this dialogue which still carries relevance to art writing today. One of Clare’s last ditch attempts to get Tracey on board is to appeal to her to consider the importance of using her art to educate the public, because the public, she claims, have never been exposed to ‘these issues’. She writes that the ‘battle for representation’ has not yet been won, and that the public, not familiar with Blackness in the same way that the progressively privilege aware creative class is, must be educated in simple terms. The curator says, we might understand your complexity, but the public do not, so we must speak to them on their level.
Tracey responds; “As an artist, I have never been on a mission to educate. I hate the public. If people are racist, sexist, homophobic, or out of step with issues I say bad luck! Let them stay dumb!”
Art writing carries some assumptions about the uneducated public who lurk outside of the walls of our creative institutions. Art writing has an anxiety about being more accessible, but is unable to clearly articulate what accessible writing could be. The public, in the process, is continually assumed to be uneducated, illiterate, disengaged, politically conservative, and unable to process complex language. Art writing has been asking, who is the public? Do they understand anything that we’re saying, and how do we make them read our magazines? In response, we could ask; who is it that wants to know, and why are you putting on that voice?
[i] Clare Williamson, “Fax Exchange With Tracey Moffatt: Who Do You Take Me For?,” Eyeline, 1992.
[ii] Aileen Moreton-Robinson, “Whiteness, Epistemology and Indigenous Representation,” in Whitening Race: Essays in Social and Cultural Criticism, ed. Aileen Moreton-Robinson (Canberra: Aboriginal Studies Press, 2004), 76. (original excerpt reads “As a categorical object, race is deemed to belong to the other”)
Maddee Clark is a Yugambeh trans educator and a writer currently teaching at the University of Melbourne. They have published for Overland, Next Wave Festival, Artlink Magazine, NITV, the Indigenous Times Newspapers, the Koori Mail, and feature in the 2015 collection Coloring the Rainbow: Blak Queer and Trans Perspectives. Maddee is the co-editor of Un Projects Magazine 2018, the first issue of which will be launched this coming May.
D.A.N.C.E. Art Collective is made up of Tuafale Tanoai aka Linda. T, Vaimaila Urale, Chris Fitzgerald and Ahilapalapa Rands. The collective, which started as experimental gatherings after hours at Uni, has turned into a 10 year relationship spanning pool hall competitions and dance marathons. The work they will be presenting is described by the collective as such: “us trying to make up and perform an extremely simple dance sequence… Our collective name is misleading, to be clear D.A.N.C.E. is an acronym for ʻDistinguished All Night Community Entertainers’”.
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