I’ve noticed that when talking to people about social issues, calling them out automatically makes them defensive and even less open to change. A friend back in Phoenix introduced to me the idea “of using humor to discuss or at least open the space to discuss some of these heavy or confrontational issues.” Humor opens the space because it shows the person that you aren’t attacking them personally so they don’t have to get defensive, and it also takes away the implication of “I’m right, you’re wrong. Very wrong.” Most importantly, it approaches these conversations positively, not negatively. Unfortunately, this kind of humor doesn’t come naturally to me like it does for him, I just get too offended by whatever is happening and it comes our more like sarcasm.
This friend promised to give me examples so I could learn, and the other day, he sent me one, talking about his visit to the Phoenix Art Museum with his brother. [Here is where this post is going to diverge] I mentioned to him that after going to the Portland Art Museum, I realized that I actually have a problem with art museums, although I loved the Phoenix Art Museum for some reason. Here is my informal, email explanation of why:
Phoenix Art Museum has a lot more “contemporary art” which I interpret as art that is more recent and that we don’t really want to stuff into a category. Portland Art Museum was completely divided into categories, specifically categories indicating geographic/ethnic origin (i.e. African art, Asian art, Native American art, Iranian art, 17th c. European art, etc.). My biggest problem with this is that it reeks of Western colonialism/imperialism, stealing the “art” of other cultures, putting it on display for its “foreignness” and making money off of it (which I doubt any of is going back to the communities that the “art” was taken from). I just wish I could go up to the curator and ask…make them uncomfortable.
The reason I put art in quotes was because instead of being a space where we share art and raise questions, start conversations, and engage people who come see it, I feel like the Portland Art Museum was more “this is a curation of our taste, this is what we deem art, and you all should wonder and be in awe of the things we deem art.” (someone said I should read Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste by Pierre Bourdieu…haven’t yet) At the Portland Art Museum it didn’t feel like there was any dialogue. But at the Phoenix Art Museum, the work brought out questions about our society today, and I felt like I could connect with it more. Also a lot more visually interesting and explorational stuff.