Adrian Piper I Am Black Analysis

736 Words3 Pages
Since a certain few have narrated much of the history of art, the voice of the other is open to constructs that often misrepresent the oppressed. When the oppressed are deprived of their identity us, a character is assigned to them that defines us for centuries. The result is a generalized negative stereotype that persists through time to describe entire groups of people, rather than seeing people as individuals. Stereotypes serve as cognitive shortcuts; our brains want to make a rash judgment about somebody based on their gender, race, or age. Because the lack of representation, many artists have felt the impulse to create images of their community. For example, Kerry James Marshall is on a mission to establish a presence of particular imagery…show more content…
Adrian Piper addresses the complexity of race in her 1988 video installation Cornered. She confronts the audience with her resentful demeanor gazing directly at them while being cornered through a video recording, as she narrates her experiences with racism as a "light-skinned" (Bowles, 112) African American woman who can pass for white. Piper recites a monolog in which the artist calmly and rationally deconstructs the viewer 's reaction to her forthright announcement "I am black" (Bowles, 112). Adrian blames the audience for racism in the manner in which she walks us through her experiences. By announcing her blackness, Piper violates the social subtleties that say race does not matter. The artist deconstructs the viewer 's defensive reaction to reveal the deeper issue at work. Adrian explains that we live in a society where whiteness is privileged, and blackness is a threat to social order. She subtly brings up the problem with passing for white on those who do not see themselves as black "by raising the historical and genetic probability that most" (Bowles, 112) white American have some black heritage. She references the "unspoken ‘one drop ' rule of racialized identity" (Bowles, 112), she sets a trap for the audience by stating "You are probably black… What are you going to do?". By ending the recording with an inquiry that clearly highlights the audience guilt, she stages herself as an artifact open to interpretation, which reveals less about her the artist and…show more content…
Kara Walker on the other end of the spectrum approaches the complex nature of race by removing herself from the art, by employing a perverse technique to allure the audience. Only to reveal a hyperreality of how dominance can subjugate us, which is evident in her 1996 piece AFRICAN 'T (1996) (Fig.1). In AFRICAN 'T, Walker uses childlike paper cutouts "silhouettes that evoke the antebellum South." (Tang, 144), which is severely perverse. Walkers utilize an eighteen-century medium of cut-paper silhouettes that is very innocent to depict "stereotyped racial figures" (Tang, 144). In this piece, we are witness to a mammy being sexually violated and objectified, pickaninnies, a plantation owner, a young girl strangled and so forth. All revolving around what appears to be a plantation. The conflict between the individual figure and clustering of the other figures in the spectacle, come together as a "unified narrative" (Molesworth,8) hovering in an optical field, where the viewer cannot tell whether the figures are coming or going, or where the narrative begins. It is important to keep something in mind when scrutinizing Walker 's work. In an interview with poet Matthea Harvey, Walker asserts the reader that her "work is a fantasy in historical outfits" (Harvey, 77). So how are both of these artists understanding the complex nature of race through studies of
Open Document