Review and Commentary of
“Black Artists and Gallerists on What a More Inclusive Art World Would Look Like.”
This is a great time to be on the planet. There is a wealth of knowledge at our fingertips on what I call “the separation, the old narrative or the Matrix,” and it is refreshing and hopeful. Inspirational and life-affirming are the surfacing voices of the once dismissed, silenced, and marginalized, emerging from behind the 2000 threads per count veil imposed by the old narrative. They complement the voices of what on the surface appears to be a global protestation against the architects of the old way and their crumbling edifice.
These emerging voices are ones that carry visions of a new way, visions that have gained clarity, momentum, potency, and above all, a wisdom that must accompany and guide the birth of the New Narrative. Visions that, even during the darkest hours when it seemed that we would not see the unraveling of the old narrative in our lifetime, have been patiently nurtured, prayed over, and offered up to the Ancestors and to the Earth Spirits for their blessing and their assistance in this monumental shift.
It was long before Charles Eisenstein wrote the words that ‘a more beautiful world that our hearts know is possible’ that there were those of us who saw the more beautiful world emerging beyond the clamor of chaos and conflict that the old narrative has imposed on the planet. And as the torchbearers of the new way, creators of the New Narrative, we must also accept that we are the “palliative” healers of the old and dying one.
To put-down, or to see that the last rites have been administered and the coffin nailed shut, we must excavate, interrogate, and leave no stone unturned or unexamined in seeing the old narrative along its journey. There is no avoiding this healing. Construction of the new, the dismantling of the old are one, and inseparable. We arrive at this interment after having unlearned the habit of wrestling with changing effects and accepting, with grace, gratitude, and relief, what is cause.
I begin with this preamble for several reasons: the first is caution lest we fall short of exhaustively examining our proposals for creating a New Narrative, finding ourselves entangled in the remediation or reform of the old one. Second, if remediation or recycling of the old narrative to make it more just and equitable is the goal, then it might be more prudent to use other words, and not the words “New Narrative.” Third, it is also prudent that we keep in mind the inescapable laws that guide us and our journey: none of us can ever do more than our consciousness permits. How we proceed in the creation of or resistance to the New reflects our awareness of who we know ourselves to be. This is not the time nor the journey for entertaining beliefs.
The words that I write are, therefore, a reflection of my awareness of who I am and the awareness of who I know my brothers and sisters to be. And with that rather lengthy introduction to a review and response to an article, I would like to turn the focus on the article that appeared on Artsy.net, “Black Artists and Gallerists on What a More Inclusive Art World Would Look Like.” It examines the existing exclusive and white dominated art world and proffers a vision of a more inclusive, remediated old narrative entitled “American Art.”
The article points to the principles of ownership and exclusion as the basis for the U.S.’s art world; it examines the systemic barriers to diversity and inclusion, starting with a dominant white-colonial narrative, a white-washed world of gallery owners, museum boards and trustees, art foundation directors, curators and collectors of contemporary American art. In this case contemporary American art could be interpreted, according to the old narrative and the article, as ‘contemporary works of art by mostly privileged white men who live in America.’
The article highlights some of the few African American gallery owners who have fought their way into the discourse on contemporary art, and the few high-profile exhibitions where African American creative expression is at center. Artists detail the shortcomings of some prominent museums’ support, like the Guggenheim, as being hostile and racist; furthermore, many museums and galleries are criticized for perpetuating a false image of being “race literate,” by highlighting the art of POC (people of color, notably African American artists) on the occasions of African American History Month or on the occasions of racial protest.
In May, for example, after the murder of George Floyd, various cultural institutions, museums, and galleries, responded to the national and international uprisings against systemic racism and white supremacy in the U.S. and in major cities around the planet. Some U.S. museums and galleries rushed to modify web site statements, confessing their complicity in white supremacy, with promises to make amends and to include more voices of people of color, women, and artists from the LGBTQ community in future exhibitions. After an admission of complicity on its web site in June 2020, The Philadelphia Museum of Art, making good on its promise, implemented changes in future exhibitions that it announced on its site in September 2020 in “Looking Ahead”:
“One suite will be inaugurated with a major reinstallation of American art spanning the years 1640 to 1840. New interpretations of this collection will explore the artistic ties linking North America, South America, and Asia; the role of enslavement in the production and financing of art throughout the period; Philadelphia’s role as an influential cultural capital; and the stories and works of Black, women, and Indigenous artists.” (https://press.philamuseum.org/pma-plans-to-reopen-on-september-6-2020-rodin-museum-also-to-reopen/)
The Philadelphia Museum of Art, in examining the role of slavery in producing and financing art, is responding to one of the several proposals by African American artists to shift to a more inclusive narrative by addressing performance activism and acknowledging the intergenerational wealth gained from the slave trade and enjoyed by collectors, museum board members and trustees. Other proposals include acknowledging the white art world’s flagrant disregard and disdain for Black culture, Black Lives and creative expression; a shift from a focus on Black trauma to a focus on artistic contributions that are not limited by and to political trends, i.e. #Defundthepolice, #BlackLivesMatter; accepting that the responsibility to examine the belief in white supremacy and its entanglement and support of systemic racism is a white responsibility.
Again, while these changes will, if implemented, shift the old narrative, they cannot and will not create a new one. The foundation of the system that produces these uprisings, rebellions, protests and ultimately these calls for radical change within the white art world will remain intact. All we can look forward to, without putting down the foundation, is a more culturally, diverse old narrative.
So, what is the vision of art under the New Narrative? I don’t know.
The New Narrative is being created as we dialogue here. It will be a creation in relationship with the Universe. It will be a radical departure from the existing art world because the consciousness that informs it will become aware of its relationship and communication with the Universe. Here “All That Is” is what is referred to as the Universe, that all-knowing, creative-love-intelligent Being that finds expression through life, the life of the planet, the environment, the animals, the people, the sky, the oceans, and even as the expression of global protest against the old narrative and the call for its demise.
This New Narrative can only be created by those who have returned to who we are in truth, to our true identity: expressions of “All That Is.” Otherwise, we continue what The Course in Miracles calls “not” creation, but “making,” which is a parody of creation. Only in this case, there is nothing comical about the suffering that we are experiencing and witnessing.
The old narrative which is based on the belief in separation gave rise to a world that is an expression of the ignorance of our inextricable connection and communication with the Universe, our true identity. While we can never completely obliterate the creative nature of who we are, we have obfuscated the power to create in obedience to a hierarchical, degenerating and, ultimately, destructive civilization. This civilization, or old narrative, pays homage to the belief and practice of lack, greed, scarcity, competition, power-over and debt. It has not only veiled our identity but colonized the planet, the host, which we intend to express (and in which we will) in physical and observable form, our true identity.
This is why standing-down the old narrative, the silencing of its voice and directives, must come first; it is only when our consciousness is emptied of false identifiers, paying heed to what degenerates, rather than to what regenerates, that we are open to receive a new blueprint for an art experience that, maybe, excludes museums, the marketing of artistic expression, and poor artists. I don’t know.
With the belief in separation laid to rest, maybe art is more integrated into our everyday lives. Maybe there will be no curators, collectors, or board members. Could we see locally based and, or brief gatherings to honor the creativity of community members, doing away with galleries, gallery owners and cost prohibitive commissions? Maybe artistic expressions that enhance the well-being of the planet will be shared across communities, across the planet, thus eliminating the belief in private ownership and exclusion that characterizes the art world of the old narrative. I don’t know.
Maybe artistic expressions will represent and reflect a broader-based consciousness, one that seeks the well-being of the community and the planet, rather than the achievements of the narrow and limited singular consciousness that informs the art world of the old narrative. Maybe art can become so integrated into planetary life that the separation between the world we inhabit every day and the art world that once upheld exclusion and white supremacy, or any color supremacy, no longer exists. I don’t know.
What I do know is that we must create a New Narrative to experience life and art in an unprecedented new way, one without historical references. It is a creation that must be preceded by the return to our true identity, to who we are in truth.
~Akilah, September 27, 2020
Here is the link to the Artsy.Net article :