By Tod Roulette’
An Artist video as a Metaphor for Politically and Socially Hysterical Times
A work of art is supposed to bring a great deal of pleasure or thoughtfulness to its viewers. It might be serene or executed terribly but hopefully the end result is you don’t forget the work. A fitting performance video I saw at the Hirshhorn Museum seems to be a metaphor for much of the subject matter discussed, presented, debated and observed at the Congressional Black Caucus and the National Black Justice Coalition’s “Out on the Hill” this past week about the state of black America.
Israeli born artist, Nira Pereg’s short video featuring beautiful flamingos might seem like a weird segue for all the issues of: an abysmal unemployment, bullying in our schools and on the internet, state of black fatherhood, black LGBT violence in Africa and the Caribbean, spike in HIV rate of black gay men, the lockout of transsexual issues in black discussions among the gay and lesbian groups and the larger black community and more, but I think it works. But in the documentary video, beautiful white flamingos
In the video shown on a humongous screen, Pereg’s flamingos drink water, rest with their heads tucked into the wing standing one leg or seem to wander around one after the other in meaningless pattern. The viewer could sit and watch this by itself. But, you know those tricky artists, they can’t just give us a big screen and comfy chairs to snooze and be non-intellectual. Flamingos socialize as a group with no leader. Anthropologists will inform you that they do however mimic and follow one anothers behavior.
In the “Black Box: 67 Bows” Pereg has a soundtrack over the meandering peaceful scene of a gun being cocked, triggered and fired. The sound is repeats and eventually the flamingos learn to simultaneously crouch, veer and swerve in unison as the soundtrack is repeated over and over again. It’s kind of funny and people sitting beside me laughed. But, given the heavy subject matter I had been loaded with at both conferences, I could only think politically and socially about the larger black and black gay, bi, lesbian and trans communities, culture wars and obstructionist House of Representatives and Senate. Over and over again, they are stopped in their tracks by a life threatening gun being cocked at them. They never take cover nor fly away, they just await the sound and continue the almost absurd and comical behavior and dipping their necks, hoping it will just go away.
Pereg’s flamingos seem an awful lot like the larger black America consciousness about high school drop out rates, the perilous number of black on black bullying, the silence in the pulpits about HIV rates continuing to rise and the lack of respect in the general community for their contributing black LGBT brothers and sisters nation wide. Is Pereg making fun of me? Am I the flamingo? Is all I am doing is following the crowd of my fellow flamingo and only dipping my head and hoping the bullet doesn’t hit me? Instead of being a leader among the rest and say… “hey we better get out of here and fly to safety folks!” As you sit on the comfortable mode black leather seats at the Hirshhorn watching the video you wonder about the making of the video and its intention. Why would Pereg take the trouble to show us these peaceful creatures only to disrupt their good times to interject an ominous specter? All of our elected officials and community leaders should see Black Box as well as those who think speaking up never changes a thing in our communities.
**Also on view is the Warhol Shadows series (1978) it’s something you should see if you are in D.C during the show. The brochure likens Warhol’s choice of empowering everyday objects to the fine art arena as political subversion. Warhol was questioning authority and attempting to pushover not cars as in the Civil Rights riots or Vietnam. He tipped ideas among the academic and high paying collectors about what was ‘correct’ and whom to let in to the circle. The same image silkscreened on canvas by Warhol is abutted to the next and on and one until a huge room is filled with something that looks like the international markets of Europe and America-sharp dips and rises of craggy lines. Thank God, Warhol painted a number of these repeating images with some sand-pink and purple although it is dark. It breaks up the sameness, but one can’t help to think of world empires reputations, influence and economic stability waning, forcefully thrusting forward and yes drowning as you walk the long gallery.
Free Admissions here as is at all the public museums and memorials in Washington D.C.
On View August 22, 2011 – November 13, 2011, at the Hirshhorn Museum, located on the National Mall on Independence Avenue at Seventh Street, SW. The nearest Metro stops are L’Enfant Plaza and Smithsonian.
A Harlem based arts writer for Harlem World Magazine and private art dealer, Tod Roulette’s Masters thesis is being rewritten as a book and examines four generations of female members of his Mid West family 1795-1908, “Rowing, Not Drifting-Bryant Women in Kansas, 1795-1908: The Expansion of the West and the Participation by Women of Color”