What I’ve Been Reading

After a Call for Change, Artists Respond – Jillian Steinhauer  http://hyperallergic.com/182346/after-a-call-for-change-artists-respond Respond – Smack Mellon Gallery http://smackmellon.org/index.php/exhibitions/respond/ For me, the power of art and design to respond to the social and political world is one of its great strengths. However, this brings it with constant questions of how best to respond, when, and with what aims. Can artists/designers affect change? Should we try to? And, of course, struggling over these questions distracts from the actual issues at hand.

The Smack Mellon gallery in Brooklyn has sidestepped these questions, putting the issue of police brutality and institutional racism at the heart of the Respond exhibition. Postponing two planned shows allowed the response to be urgent and timely, and the open call format means a wide variety of artists and young people are exhibiting together. Alongside this the gallery has been turned into a space for debate, encouraging activists and artists to stage events and discussions.

I think this is a really powerful way of engaging with the current climate, bringing together a huge variety of voices and media at the very moment events are unfolding. It will be interesting to see if this urgency and openness can become a bigger part of the arts.

In order to channel our outrage into actions that can facilitate systemic change, Smack Mellon’s gallery space will be used to present events, performances and artworks that affirm that black lives matter, express frustration and anger with the institutional racism that enables law enforcement to kill black members of the community with impunity, and imagine creative solutions and visionary alternatives to a broken justice system.

Challenging the Whiteness of Public Radio – Chenjerai Kumanyika http://www.npr.org/blogs/codeswitch/2015/01/29/382437460/challenging-the-whiteness-of-public-radio Is There A #PubRadioVoice That Sounds Like America? – Kenya Downs http://www.npr.org/blogs/codeswitch/2015/01/30/382612791/is-there-a-pubradiovoice-that-sounds-like-america? ‘Empire’ And The Importance Of Different Voices – Pop Culture Happy Hour http://www.npr.org/blogs/monkeysee/2015/02/06/384264380/pop-culture-happy-hour-empire-and-the-importance-of-different-voices As previously stated I am a big fan of podcasts, including NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour, and I was interested to read this commentary on the variety of voices on (American) public radio. As a foreign listener some of the specific subtleties of accent and dialect may be lost on me, and how these play into issues of race and class, so this discussion has really made me consider what an ‘American accent’ is, as well as the ways in which stories are told. If a voice has a specific accent, can that cloud the narrative? And, although I rarely listen to British radio, I’ll be interested to listen in the future to the variety of voices available on our own BBC. Which accents are missing? Where can they be heard?

This has also made me consider my own accent, and how I use it. I have a distinctive Barnsley accent, now mixed with a slight Manchester twang, and am always aware of the ways I use it in different situations. However, through reading these discussions I’ve reflected on how I am able to ‘get away with’ my accent in certain situations due to my class and education privilege, and feel confident to challenge perceptions others might have of the way I speak.

As always this is a massively broad subject, and I’ll be interested to hear how this debate is addressed by NPR and other broadcasters.

Burroughs 101 – This American Life http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/546/burroughs-101 A Great Artist Kills His Wife—Now She’s Just a Quirky Footnote in His History – Leela Ginelle http://bitchmagazine.org/post/a-great-artist-kills-his-wife%E2%80%94now-its-just-a-quirky-footnote-in-his-history I have some unfashionable views on William S. Burroughs, and the Beat generation more generally. This was made abundantly clear as I listened to the Burroughs 101 episode of This American Life, a repeat (of sorts) of the BBC documentary produced for the 100th anniversary of Burroughs’ birth. This is, undeniably, a great radio documentary. If I was a teenager I would’ve been running out to buy Naked Lunch. But the reflexive, context-loving feminist in me cannot get over certain aspects of the Burroughs myth, and stumbling upon this Bitch blog post had me nodding along in agreement.

Two further points: 1. Rare is the day that I find myself agreeing with Will Self, as I did in Burroughs 101 2. Don’t get me started on Kerouac


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