Art stop erasing black people

Published on December 17th, 2015 | by Christopher Jordan

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“You’ll have to wait for the next one” Rock Hushka’s case for the exclusion of Black artists from Art AIDS America

Alternate titles for this interview included Blood on White Hands – The Massacre of Art History by Rock Hushka and Jonathan Katz, or The Last Whitesplanation – Lighting the Way to Black Visibility. But I settled for Rock’s own words.

I’m at Mad Hat Tea, my other interviewer is en route, and my laptop is dead and charging. So I’m taking notes at first in an old journal full of prayers that I wrote seven years ago. These prayers would soon carry me through what’s likely the most painfully disturbing conversation of my life to date.

I’m here to talk with Rock Hushka, chief curator at Tacoma Art Museum, about the lack of Black representation  in the nationally touring exhibit Art AIDS America, a project he’s curated in collaboration with Jonathan D. Katz and is a decade in the making.

Disclaimer

I was not interested in having this conversation with Rock Hushka at all. When you curate a show about HIV in America and all but entirely exclude Black artists, we are past the point of dialogue. Out of 107 artists in the project only four of the artists are Black. Since Black Americans are more severely impacted by HIV in the US than any other racial group I recognize that this exclusion is a serious problem.

Curators and panelists at the Tacoma Art Museum insisted that this interview take place because they believed that if Rock explained his intentions for why only four of the 107 artists featured in the exhibit were Black that I would understand. Rock reached out to me over email requesting that we meet in person after I raised the question of Black representation to one of his panels.

Another TAM curator told me that they knew the representations may be an issue but figured that Rock had his own rationale and they wanted to stay out of it. These are the behaviors which allow for a project like Art AIDS America to develop over the course of ten years, to be sponsored, supported, and celebrated and not once consider that Black voices might need to be emphasized.

I came to this interview with a prepared list of questions in order to accurately record answers Rock gave. All of the quotations listed were given in direct response to my questions and were recorded and transcribed in complete sentences. Many of the answers were uncomfortably abrupt, this is exactly how they came out. Occasionally my questions were cut short. These transitions are also indicated in the record.

Without further adieu, the Interview

CJ: Before I ask any more questions can you tell me about Art AIDS America as a show and the history of how it’s come together?

RH: First I need to emphasize this is not an exhibition about the crisis, but about the way the general arc of American art history was bent by the crisis. This is a small distinction but an important one.

We included works from almost every year, and that’s a lot of real estate already. We tried not to cluster things too much, and it has to do with what works we can borrow and who would lend. Once we did it then we asked if we had the right amount of representation.

We knew the representation wasn’t right but we had to keep moving. It’s been two months now and I’m just getting comfortable with it.

Art AIDS America exhibit description

Here’s the show’s actual description in case Rock’s explanation just confused you.

Our goal with this show is to write a scene interspersing dialogue with action while allowing people who come to see themselves in the show.

People asked for example why aren’t there more women artists in the show, while Katz is standing right in front of a piece by Deborah Kass.

We don’t really want to correct them. We need to hear it, we know this.

Ok, so based on my research with the help of my team, we found four Black artists in the roster of 107. Derek JacksonKalup LinzyGlenn Ligon, and Kia LabeijaIs there anybody I’m missing?

No that’s about right….Well maybe in the work Divinity Fudge. A Black artist was also modeling in that piece.

Was he [the model] credited?

No.

This show borrows largely from the Visual AIDS database, correct? Which includes 18 HIV+ Black artists. Why weren’t those other Black artists’ works included in this project?

We wanted to focus on iconic works in the history of art about AIDS and not necessarily work from the database. There is a similar database in San Francisco called Visual AID that recently closed due to loss of funding.

So I want to make sure that I am hearing you correctly so that museum visitors understand, as it relates to the Black artists’ work not included in the show. You’re saying the problem was not that those artworks don’t exist but they were not included based on something else?

Well yes, sort of.

So if you could list the factors in a few words ordered highest to lowest impact of why there are only 4 Black artists in this show about HIV in America, What reasons would you say? Is it space? Is it funding?

I’d say that it’s a hard story to tell.

Can you tell me about the timeline of developing this project and how the body of work evolved over time.

About 50-60% of the show was identified close to five years ago.

And those were primarily works from before 1993?

Yes. I worked with Gran Fury for the past five years and Kia Labeija for the past three.

Rock goes on to explain works that needed to be recreated for the show. Though tension in our conversation ebbed and flowed, the mood was mostly placid, almost clinical, as I attempted to make Hushka feel comfortable enough to openly share his thoughts in developing this project.

CJ: I need to explain that for me, as a Black male walking through Art AIDS America at the opening, I was anticipating a show that was deeply representative of Black people. I went with a friend. We were so excited to see what work was in the space basically because demographically HIV is us, and we expected to see a lot of work relevant to our experiences.

I was disturbed however when I walked in to an utterly white space. I felt like I was back in the 80s and my life didn’t matter.

RH: Yes I totally get it, kind of. I’m interested in how this is historicizing for you. It tells us one of two things. One, that the practice that Jonathan and I are trying to get people to think about is so embedded that we’re right, that the change in American art-making is so profound, that we both can’t ignore it.

Wait so I’m not saying that I felt like I was in the 80s based on the style of the art. I’m saying I felt like I was in the 80s based on the fact that there was no concern in the space of the show for my life as a Black person or the life of my people who are dying. Meanwhile the show was being referred to as “historic” and a “messy masterpiece” and all the white people at the reception are having a great time.  

[short pause]

Well ultimately Jonathan and my intention is that this show is paving the way to make more conversations possible.

Ok I’m concerned though that this show is 30 years behind. You’re saying as far as exploring the story of the prevalence of HIV in Black America…

You have to wait for the next one.

…Ok so based on your understanding of HIV, who does this impact? Who is affected by this disease?

Artists in the canon. That would be my answer.

So when it comes to,  for example, the fact that Black Americans share nearly half of the death toll of AIDS related deaths in the US, you didn’t consider it a priority to center on Black voices?

[Hushka pause]

“Well, where did you get those statistics?”

From the Center for Disease Control and Prevention: “Blacks/African Americans continue to experience the most severe burden of HIV, compared with other races and ethnicities. Blacks represent approximately 12% of the U.S. population, but accounted for an estimated 44% of new HIV infections in 2010. They also accounted for 41% of people living with HIV infection in 2011. Since the epidemic began, an estimated 270,726 blacks with AIDS have died, including an estimated 6,540 in 2012.”

From the CDC. They keep all of these statistics available online. Almost 270,000 Black Americans have died of AIDS related causes since the 80s, out of over 600,000 deaths in total.

[Hushka paused making no verbal comment]

So in curating a project about HIV AIDS, are you saying that you were not aware of the racial demographics of who is affected by this crisis?

[Shakes head no]

Ok so I’m going to keep going.

One of your recent panelists brought up the ways the body of work is put together so as to make the work relatable despite the lack of adequate racial representation.

Really? That’s probably more his interpretation as a psychiatrist.

Could you discuss your strategies in your own words in terms of the ways or types of work that you’ve curated in the show that maybe helped counter the lack of representation of Black artists in this project?

Yes, for example in appropriation.

Please explain that further. I think I’m barely grasping what you mean.  

All of these artists took whatever tools were around them and they appropriated, which is a fancy word for stole, techniques from Feminist artists, Chicano artists, and African American artists for their work.

So are you suggesting that Black and Chicano art history is being represented here by proxy through white artists?

It’s the idea of inherent racism, of taking an art practice developed by the Latino community or the African American community, and then using it for their own devices. Is it racist or when is it acceptable?

So what exactly is important about this?

Because they [white male artists in the show] stole this, all of those things are being transmitted to the next generation.

Ok so going back to the question of what types of artists’ work were included in the show…

We were looking for artists who’ve had a pretty robust museum exposure, versus looking for artists that… [trails off] We wanted more of the artists who were already known

What is the advantage of that?

My intent is to upturn/resist the standard narrative. I did what I could in the way that I knew how to do, to the best of my ability and now you’re seeing the product, and you’re resisting. Which is awesome. It’s awesome to be uncomfortable in this way. Our show is not the authoritative history.

So you elected not to,  for example, release a call to artists for work, recognizing that there were gaps in the shows representation of Black artists?

Why didn’t we do a call to artists? Because they [calls to artists] are horrible, messy, and super unpleasant.

Background detail: TAM recently released a call to artists during and in conjunction with Art AIDS America’s launch for things such as “Condom Inspired Fashion.”  These may not be within the chief curator’s purview.

This is the point where my fellow interviewer Charhys Bailey arrives and joins our interview.

CB: Why exactly was HIV-AIDS important as an issue to highlight?

RH: Because we know that the conversation isn’t happening, How do we teach ourselves to stop being complicit but give people space to have these conversations

CJ: What partnerships if any did TAM have with Black centered organizations and or Black arts organizations in developing Art AIDS America?

Here Rock explained in great detail the way that TAM’s intended outreach efforts to build  attendance for the art show within Black communities and communities of color was unexpectedly defunded due to issues with one of their funders HANK which lost 60% of its grant allocations budget.  

CJ: I’m sure Black community organizations, Black arts organizations and Black curators are concerned about this issue. Don’t you think they would have been interested in partnering to increase Black representation in this project?

I don’t do anything without funding.

CJ: Well what about…

Not without funding. I don’t do anything without funding.

CB: Well oftentimes partnerships exist to help alleviate these burdens where there are shared goals. Hadn’t you considered reaching out to these organizations to see what’s possible?

[Rock answers in no words but giving Charhys a deliberate stare]

[Charhys returns and raises Rock’s gaze. A few seconds of staring pass and I interject.]

CJ: So that’s not what happened?

[Rock shakes his head no]

CJ: So backing away from this specific show and more general questions about Tacoma Art Museum, who would you say TAM sees as its community?

Our community is mainly visitors to the museum.

CJ: Are there any African American people on staff at TAM?

Yes.

CJ: Who are those people?

Bob. [Name changed]

CJ: Do you know Bob’s last name?

I don’t know Bob’s last name. 

CJ: What does Bob do?

He is on security. There is also an intern, Nancy [name changed], a UWT student who will begin after January 1st.

CJ: Ok so when I asked about Black staff in the art museum I’m interested particularly in people who have an influence on the art…

There hasn’t been one to my knowledge in the history of the museum, or since I’ve been with the museum.

CJ: How long have you been with the museum?

15 years.

CJ: Does TAM have any African American board members?

Alice McKennell.

CJ: Alice McKennell is African American?

Yes.

CJ: Based on your current marketing strategies plan who is described as TAM’s target market?

55 year old women and their children and grandchildren.

CJ: Information that I have received referenced “whole families” at the center of your target market.

Yes whole families.

Background detail: We weren’t sure what “whole families” meant but we googled it and this is what we found.

wholefamilies

CJ: Can you tell us about the last show TAM hosted that focused on the contributions of African American artists to art history?

The last show of African American Artists was Gee’s Bend Quilts four years ago. This fall we’re bringing 30 Americans which is what I wanted to talk to you about.

[Here Hushka hands me a book, which I pass to Charhys who flips through its pages]

CB: 30 Americans is a show of all Black artists?

Yes.

CB: By this fall you mean fall of 2016?

Yes.

CB: Prior to the quilt show what is the last show focused on contributions of Black artists that you recall? 

It was a solo show from Faith Ringgold that happened 25 or 30 years ago  I know there were others, that’s what comes to mind.

I want to say that for the last ten years we have continually shown African American artists’ works, and Asian artists, and works from people of color; and dammit, I want credit for that.

CJ: So unfortunately I am not actually here with you today having this discussion on behalf of art historical concerns, rather I am here because HIV is one of the hardest hitting issues in terms of deaths for Black people in this country.

I’m here because nearly half of the death toll of AIDS related casualties in the US are of Black Americans while we are only 12 percent of the population. And I’m here because as far as prevalence, the rate of contraction in the US is decreasing in all other racial groups but continually growing among Black Americans.

I’m here because I recognize that visibility is one of the most central issues in creating awareness and access to resources on the ground, building the community’s understanding that the crisis is not over.

For those reasons when it comes to exclusion from a project like this, having a show which engages only four Black artists out of 107 contributors, words cannot capture the violence of that type of erasure.

So adding more Black artists to the roster for this show is a demand that I have to make. If I don’t make this demand I too am complicit in accepting this violence as Black people continue to die. People should not be dying from AIDS when we have the resources medically to prevent this.

Ultimately, and this is really my last question, are you sensitive enough to the priority of this issue to change the artists roster for this project to add more Black voices?

Well it’s a question of what is and is not possible. And is it the best investment based on our resources and our time? I don’t know. I can’t tell you right now that I can do that. We can find mechanisms to make sure your concerns are voiced.

CB: So recognizing the complexities and structural challenges of working with a museum, what if we take those external factors away and ask from you personally.  Is changing the roster of artists in this show is something you would approve of or consider?  

Maybe.

Conclusion

This concluded our interview. I thanked Rock for his time and his earnestness in having a transparent conversation with us.

Rock asked us to promise him that this wouldn’t be the end of our conversations and we explained that the ball is  in TAM’s court; that through their actions in the coming months, Tacoma Art Museum needs to prove to Black folks like Charhys and I that they are actually listening and that their institution is worth our time.  

Per the interviewee’s request, small components of this interview were kept off the record. We were disappointed in having to censor this discussion but are satisfied that sufficient detail is left to represent Rock Hushka, Jonathan Katz, Tacoma Art Museum, and The Bronx Museum’s values.

It doesn’t matter what Rock Hushka thinks and believes as an individual; please do not make this about Rock; we need systems to change NOW. The real issue is the culture of white silence and disinterest in Black humanity that permeates TAM as well as the silence permeating our entire city in not challenging this. We need systems to change 30 years ago. We need medical access now. We need to dismantle the extreme economic inequality and non-concern for Black life now. Anti-Blackness is the epidemic which catalyzes this crisis.

The night after this interview Tacoma Action Collective (@tacoma_action) held a Die in at TAM demanding more Black artists be added to roster, more Black staff be added to TAM team, and that current staff be retrained in

Check out #DieInAtTAM #StopErasingBlackPeople to join the conversation. You can also see and share Tacoma Action Collective’s official statement here

————————————————————–

Charhys Bailey is a Black, queer and gender non-conforming writer, filmmaker, and teaching artist from Tacoma, Washington. They have worked with culturally and economically marginalized youth from diverse backgrounds in arts education, youth development, violence prevention, youth mental health, grassroots community organizing and social service advocacy for thirteen years. You can contact them via Facebook and LinkedIn.

Christopher Paul Jordan is a Tacoma based artist and curator specializing in large scale public works.  For examples of his work visit cargocollective.com/chrisssjordan  To stay connected follow @chrisssjordan on Instagram and Twitter.

stop erasing black people

 

12/18/15 Editor’s note: this interview was edited to protect the identities of museum employees.

12/21/15 Editors note: Chris Jordan and Charhys Bailey clarified the attribution of quotes so some of the “CB” and “CJ”‘s have been changed. Additionally, we added information from Chris Jordan to the initial disclaimer and in the conclusion. You can follow updates as this action develops at the Tacoma Action Collective Facebook page and on Post Defiance.

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About the Author

Christopher Paul Jordan is a Tacoma based artist and curator specializing in large scale public works. For examples of his work visit cargocollective.com/chrisssjordan To stay connected follow @chrisssjordan on Instagram and Twitter.



63 Responses to “You’ll have to wait for the next one” Rock Hushka’s case for the exclusion of Black artists from Art AIDS America

  1. dumb says:

    dumb. you try so desperately to paint this man as a racist. your google image search of “whole families” as an attempt to paint him as racist is pathetic. your attempt at claiming he’s racist for not knowing everyone who works at the museum’s last name is just sad. this is dumb. “breaking news” post defiance needs to go home it’s drunk.

    • mimi says:

      Dumb, over the years Rock has apologized many times for not being sensitive; to Jewish issues in the community, to UWT gallery donations, to local and nationally accepted artists in the community… This is not the first time he refused to take off his blinders for TAMs sake

  2. Jason says:

    Agreed with above commentator, seems like your really searching here PD. Might want to reconsider this.

  3. D says:

    Some BLM ass wipe with a chip on his shoulder berates some poor art curator for no good reason. Way to go. Real hard hitting journalism, here.

  4. Ryan says:

    I’m sure you’ll just assume everyone commenting negatively is a racist bigot. Especially if they dont type African American enough times in their comment, but youre a real asshole for wasting that guys time with an interview that had a clear agenda to paint this guy as something he’s not.

    • Dierdre says:

      i really don’t understand how you can read this article and draw this conclusion. it includes HARD facts about why the under-representation in this show is problematic yet you refuse to consider that. why is it so hard for people to accept that maybe they should have included more artists from the black community solely based on the fact that this is a problem that widely effects ONE group disproportionately. if you had the ability to think critically you would see no one is trying to PAINT this man as a racist but rather help him understand the ways in which this is inherently discriminatory although perhaps not intentional but it is. sad some people just can’t see past their noses.

  5. Mo says:

    I wasn’t going to leave a comment but these other folks are being so negative, I wanted to say YES and THANK YOU. I appreciate this so much. I have not been to the exhibit yet, but had only been reading things about how Tacoma is so “bold” with recent exhibits and Isn’t It So Amazing? so I am really thankful to read this interview.

    This lack of Black artists is inexcusable, and TAM could have done better – and should work now to remedy this! I remember TAM doing something for the “Art of the American West” exhibit – that exhibit was mostly non-Native artists from a family’s art collection, and TAM deliberately sought out Native artists, did group interviews, and wrote explicitly about how many of the artists “reflect artists’ preconceptions, Euro-centric viewpoints, and the biases of their own time” (that is here: http://www.tacomaartmuseum.org/voices/). So, they have the ability to take a deeper look at the context surrounding art, but what – just chose not to this time? Not okay.

    • Jim says:

      “I have not been to the exhibit yet”

      You would qualify as a Post Defiance contributor then, as the chief qualification is to have zero idea what you’re talking about.

      • Mo says:

        I worked for years in HIV prevention and have a very good idea of what I’m talking about. I am waiting to see the exhibit because I know it will bring up a lot of emotions. I do not have to see the exhibit to appreciate what I learned in this interview.

  6. Dierdre says:

    no better than the KKK? how so? last time i checked the KKK actually carries out acts of violence and hate. what is perpetrated here is so far from that it is actually saddening that you would liken it as such. what you are doing is minimizing the cruel and intentional acts of hate carried out by the KKK and you should be ashamed of yourself because obviously someone didn’t pay attention in history class. how can you accuse this person of prior judgements when clearly it seems as though you have those same pre-conceived notions. I love how you say that they are adding fuel to the fire and that the interviewer is in fact the one helping to carry out racism, it’s actually laughable. It’s understandable that someone who draws such a conclusion would have a hard time digesting this article because it seems as though you are not in tune with reality as far as race and racism work and how race DOES play a part in the lack of representation in this exhibit…it is attitudes like yours, that are the reason racism is still alive and well NOT the person conducting this interview and not simply because you don’t agree but because of the conclusion that you drew. I hope one day you wake up.

  7. OhLookCookies says:

    This article is literally Hitler towards journalism

    • Wow. I usually never read the comments and I’m suddenly reminded why. Thank you for the article, its very good. It’s tough when youre performing both as a journalist and an activist not to come off as ungenuine. I would have liked to have just had the interview and not the editorializing, but I can’t salt your game. I’m a straight white male artist who appropriates black peoples art and culture a lot, so my opinion of your work doesn’t really matter. I’m glad you did it, I’m glad you’re fighting the fight, and as much as I hate paying attention to political issues because they make me so angry, I would like to help out in some way. This interview reminds me why I don’t go to TAM. Someone should put a boot up this tool’s ass and let someone run the place who isn’t a dummy.

      I’d like to get you guys or someone else who wants to talk on the issue on my show. I really don’t love talking about racism cause it makes me real mad, but this is pretty damn important.

      Our show’s called Everything is Awesome with Jeff and Amber

  8. Star Wars Force Awakens will not have any Gungan or Ewok aliens and instead focuses mainly on human characters. Jar Jar was acted by a very talented Black American actor too. This trend of erasing people and aliens different from you is something we all need to be more aware of.

  9. Katy Evans says:

    As editor here at Post Defiance, I really did not expect to see this level of racist vitriol in the comments in response to Chris’s earnest attempt to connect with the Tacoma Art Museum and draw attention to the exclusion of the very essential perspectives of Black artists in Art AIDS America.

    I am proud to stand by and share experiences from Chris, Charhys, and everyone who strives to shine light on and fight against injustice.

    • Katie says:

      It is sad that you stand by such disgraceful and inaccurate journalistic practices.

    • Bob says:

      This piece of “journalism” or whatever you want to call it was pretty clearly nothing more than someone with an agenda orchestrating a hit piece.

      And to call the Hushka and the comments racist? The only racists I see here are Post Defiance and their writers. Reaching so hard to push an agenda and manufacture some drama out of nothing. And to actually name Hushka a rascist on something so flimsy. That is below pathetic. You should be ashamed of yourself.

    • Jim says:

      You’re not standing by or sharing anything. This is gutless, SJW-level bullshit masquerading as genuine analysis or criticism.

    • Michael says:

      This is the first piece I’ve read on Post Defiance. I was born and raised in Tacoma and both of my parents dedicated their entire lives to helping people here, regardless of their ethnicity or gender, and fighting against this kind of crap. The author of this had a clear agenda and was going to portray TAM as racist regardless of how the interview went. This is disgusting. Katie, the fact that you stand by this is embarrassing to yourself and to the other contributors to your website, and I’m ashamed that people will see this and think this is any sort of representation of our community. To echo other comments here, the only racism I see here is from the author and Post Defiance.

    • D says:

      You’re making real civil rights activists look bad with this worthless hyper-hyperbolic whining. “Racist vitriol” … “injustice” … someone needs a dictionary and some perspective.

    • DADA says:

      Don’t confuse racist vitriol with a critique of your terrible editorial standards. You outed innocent employees of TAM essentially to drive a forethought conclusion piece. People commit suicide over this stuff. Those people deserve an apology not a simple whitewash of the article.

    • The reason your comments got racisted is because you allow anonymous posting. It’s a trick in the news website business to get more clicks. We get it.

    • It is not safe says:

      I am proud of you, of Post Defiance, and Chris and Charhys – To think they knew how violent the conversation about their efforts would be, and to still move forward, gives insight into the fearsome burden that anti-racists carry, and the dangerous lives that are lived by blacks with opinions and questions.

  10. Experiment you can do at the art show… stare at the close up photo of man chowder mixing with blood… you know it doesn’t matter what the color of our skin is, we all have the same color man chowder and blood.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Are the writers of this piece suggesting that the color of one’s skin determines the validity of an artwork or it’s place in an exhibition? Should the curator’s of the exhibition have ignored the professional standards by which an artwork is critiqued and instead chosen works simply to ensure adequate racial representation, instead of intentionally selecting works that have been hugely important to the scholarship of artwork made in response to the AIDS crisis?

  12. Ok. says:

    If you are so upset that there weren’t enough black artists representing AIDS in the museum then maybe you should be upset by the fact that there aren’t more black artists representing AIDS in general, instead of bothering a museum curator because you don’t see exactly what you want in an exhibit.

    TAM doesn’t deserve this publicity. Why don’t you actually contribute to society instead of wasting good peoples’ time with your drivel?

    • Tacoma's own says:

      TAM might not deserve *this* publicity but that doesn’t mean that this conversation isn’t valid of being had.

      Instead of assuming that this is a waste of time – maybe you should think about why this could be of importance to someone. Who knows? There could be a black artist or two right here in this area willing to participate in an exhibit like this that wasn’t even considered…

      • D says:

        It is not important. If you think it is, you’re being a whiny perspective-less waste of space with zero concept of what real oppression looks like.

      • Jackson Scott says:

        There was a local black artist who was interested In participating. He produced a piece, he submitted it to the local response show, and then he went on to participate in disrupting the opening of that local show AND He became the author of the journalism in question. I can’t square all of those facts with the person I think I know, but do wish he would have convinced more African American artists to submit work to the local show rather than trying to force someone else to tell his community’s story.

  13. Tacoma's own says:

    Of course this article is going to receive this kind of backlash, i’ve never known Tacoma Art Museum to be of any real representation of the entire community of Tacoma. What’s unfortunate is the how-dare-you mentality of the commenters. The notion that their beloved TAM or one of their dear friends the Curator could be ousted as being at least out of touch if not at most racist seems to bother them much more than the issue brought up by the interviewers.

    Instead of trying to spew hatred at PD, I would dare every single one of the commenters here to ask themselves, objectively, why is this an issue in the first place? Instead of jumping to the side of defense, have enough empathy for why there are some that feel the way they feel.

    Just because someone’s feelings aren’t yours doesn’t mean they aren’t valid and just because you write them off as racist doesn’t mean you aren’t.

    • Jim says:

      It has been demonstrated that the people out of touch on this matter are the animal that ambushed the curator and the filth that published this garbage, not the commenters.

      • Mo says:

        OK Jim, knock it off. Calling black people “animals” is a classicly racist thing to do. You may not agree with the interview, how it was conducted, whatever, but take your “animal”, “ambushed,” “filth,” and “garbage” and GTFO.

      • Tacoma's own says:

        Jim,

        That really depends on how you look at the whole issue. If you are of the sentiment that black artists were underrepresented during this exhibit, then TAM is possibly out of touch or maybe didn’t try hard enough for fair or equal representation.

        On the other hand, Jim, If you are of the sentiment that TAM is due any blame then maybe instead of the name calling you could try to practice some of that empathy I mentioned in the original comment. Or, you and some of your buddies here in the comments could enlighten the writers of this article and those that share in their sentiment why TAM isn’t due any blame.

        Until then Jim, your comments on the issue are in my most honest opinion pretty fucking ridiculous and you sir, sound like more of an incompetent racist asshole than the people you’re trying to frame as such.

      • animal? filth? What the fuck? I think you dropped your hood, Mr Grand Dragon, Sir.

    • D says:

      A baby cries when it can’t hold your iPhone when it wants to. This child cried because not enough of the pictures on a wall were made by people that shared his skin color. Both feelings are equally “valid.” in that they’re not at all. They’re both petty, inconsequential, and unimportant.

  14. there was an art piece of a steamer trunk filled with sand and the title card asked the viewer to write the name of someone you know personally who has died of aids… and I felt guilt because I couldn’t think of anyone.

  15. Mo says:

    Oh I thought we were talking about the interview and about lack of representation in an art exhibit related to HIV and AIDS! Is that not what we’re talking about? Go away with your gross homophobia.

  16. DADA says:

    I can’t believe PD actually released the names of black employees of TAM. The lack of journalistic integrity actually foreshadows the entire demonstration. I pray the BLM movement has not jeopardized the lives of these individuals.

  17. Truth needs a new mail service says:

    The moment this article was released it was accompanied by a protest at the museum in Tacoma. Your message is on the mark. But seriously fuck you for going out of your way to try so blatantly to ruin someone’s career and a museum in your town as your first option and Fuck this shitty blog for just letting it happen.

    You are social terrorists motivated by anger and disguised as activists, hoping that some version of the truth will save you. It shouldn’t. You’re assholes. You gained attention, not respect. Truth needs a new messenger.

    Sorry for all this “racist vitrol” Ms editor. Also I noticed some comments missing from the first time I read this post (a previous comment of mine being one of them). Is that how you do your “editing?”

    • Katy Evans says:

      I appreciate that you pointed out the danger of publishing the name of employees so we changed the name, and because your post also included a name, that too was deleted.

    • SSurface says:

      I don’t see this as trying to ruin anyone’s career.

      Rather, the protesters and interviewers have given the curators a LOT of extremely valuable advice that can help their careers moving forward.

      I doubt the curators will make the same mistakes again in the future, as they are now well aware of the depth of research that is required for a touring exhibition that they market as “groundbreaking,” and the scrutiny to which they will be subject.

      In my opinion, Chris and Chaharys ought to be hired as consultants to the museum and paid for the knowledge, research, and wisdom they have already shared. They have put in a lot of effort and labor in to enlighten the museum’s staff about the gaps in the exhibition’s content and context, and clearly could contribute a lot more to this effort before the show goes on its nationwide tour.

      None of this was motivated, fundamentally, out of disdain for the curators. It was done out of a deep love and fierce defense of Black people.

  18. Sean Strub says:

    I see three possible solutions. Either cut the tour short, recurate the show or change the title to “AIDS, Art, White America”.

    So much of what is wrong with the response to the epidemic can be better understood by understanding the perspectives and processes that created this exhibition.

  19. Pingback: Art AIDS (Not All) America: The Developing Protest On Lack of Black Representation | Filthy Dreams

  20. Capitol says:

    I’m a big BLM supporter but did this group of Tacoma Black Lives Matter mean to post names of black employees? Can Jordan clarify what was the purpose of naming them as part of the interview questions? Is it new tactic to start identifying black voices within white institutions to produce positive social change? It seems pretty effective in this case of getting TAM’s attention. I see that a lot of people are against this on this thread but in my opinion BLM got the attention they needed to be effective and no one got hurt. Should we be expecting more of this or promoting this more?

    • Chris says:

      Thats a great point.
      We definitely don’t want anyone to get hurt, and renamed those addressed in the article because we want them to be safe.

      a couple clarifications though. I did this interview independently and am not affiliated with BLM in any formal way. Definitely fond of the movement and support its actions, but it’s important to understand that being Black and raising questions about inclusion doesn’t mean someone is running a BLM campaign. Dealing with folks on issues of inclusion is simply a fact of life for being Black in America. Otherwise we wouldnt survive.

  21. KidTacoma says:

    Hushka’s “I only doing what right’s if it’s funded” refrain speaks for itself. Take away all the extra narration by the writer and questions that may or may not have been written as a “professional journalist” would have written them (Jordan is a local artist and educator, doesn’t claim to be a journalist) and you find plenty in purely what Hashka offers to this conversation that clearly illustrates how little he cares about if this exhibit reflects the diversity of this city or the demographics of what sorts of communities have been ravaged by the disease.

  22. Jackson Scott says:

    Breaking news: Google images is racist!

    • J. says:

      It’s not though. I did that exact same image search and found a very multicultural result. Do it right now. The author cherry picked the white people and even inserted a picture of the Duck Dynasty family that wasn’t even in the search. Who’s being the racist here? That’s pretty disgusting “journalism.”

      The main issue people seem to have here is with the article, not the message that more representaion is important. I agree that’s a valid concern. I’m not racist for disagreeing with the tactics. Please also know that there are white people who will hijack this momentum to say racist things but they do not represent all of us. I’m simply complaining about the messenger and only to the degree he shows his hand as a racist himself. Which based on the choice he made purposely misusing image search, I believe he may be.

  23. RHill says:

    I appreciate the updates, but why are you allowing for the original post to be amended (‘disclamer!’)and re-edited? Stand by the personal attack vibe of your original piece, or write additional posts, rather than adding and reshaping. The real problem here is a lack of ALL institutions putting effort behind filling in history’s blind spots in their collections, not merely a lack of representation in one show.

  24. Rize-Berg says:

    Props to Tacoma Action Collective for Taking Direct-Action Against the Systemic Racism that Pervades Tacoma Art Museum! Props to Post Defiance for Publishing this Interview that Shows the Blatant Disregard and Insensitivity that Hushka has for the People of Color in Our Community!

  25. CheckYourHeteroPrivilege says:

    I guess my question is does this art exist and is there more than just TAC to take on this dialogue with TAM? The hetero African American population should know that they stigmitized their gay population severely during the exhibit period. In classic intersectional terms groups like Tacoma Action Collective & BLM shouldn’t be fighting a two front war of race and sexuality when they can’t fight black LGBT issues effectively, will always defer to racial issues in a conflict of the two, and omit the historic stigma that exists in their own black hetero culture. It would be like if All Lives Matter took on all Black Lives Matter’s agenda. It will be unrepresentative of the problem, no matter how genuine, and frankly I’m surprised TAC fell for the irony of this without any support of Tacoma’s LGBT groups (at least none that I’ve seen).

    It is in this that I fear Tacoma Action Collective will only get it wrong, like TAM did. TAM should correct this by inviting more than just TAC. This exhibit was predicated primarily on sexuality not race (as was the characterization of the history of the disease during the 1980’s), and while queer black narratives are missing in this exhibit, it shouldn’t be corrected by the privilege of black heteronormative thought. Leave it to our black hetero oppressors to come to the rescue of the black queer community. There should be more voices in the room, not everyone should amount to the tactics TAC took to just to get a seat at the table.

    P.S. Also poor form in naming Black Employees of TAM. It is exactly in this vein that heteronormative thought, whether it be black or white, doesn’t understand the victimization of outing individuals. You don’t get to choose who’s visible or not for your own agenda. And is one of many reasons you can’t represent black queer voices in this dialogue without your own form of corrective “training” by LGBT groups.

  26. It is not safe says:

    Everyone should read Jen Graves most recent article in the Stranger. She has interviewed black artists who were in the show, and others who were at some points contacted. It is illuminating.

    http://www.thestranger.com/blogs/slog/2015/12/22/23292801/the-protest-over-the-lack-of-black-artists-at-art-aids-america-goes-national

    I feel she had done an outstanding job – and heard the comments made about her earlier coverage. Not only that, It should be noted that she has delivered as promised in that article.

  27. PrettyBoySean says:

    Thanks for this thoughtful and intriguing interview. I didn’t realize how AIDS disproportionately affected the African-American community until reading this. Our culture has taken many positive steps in regards to how overt racist attitudes are viewed. Indeed, overt racism is now (rightfully) shunned. But White Supremacy and structural racism are upheld in less overt fashions. Many white folks view racism as a character flaw, as if the only people that help uphold racism are the Bull Conners and David Dukes of the world. It is hard for them to accept that activities that they engage in might be helping to prop us structures of oppression. To all the folks upset by this article I would just ask that you try to get over the emotional aspect of why this article offends you (“they are calling TAM racist and since I like TAM they are calling me racist!”) and to actually think about what the article is saying.

  28. Pingback: A History of Erasing Black Artists and Bodies from the AIDS Conversation – Hyperallergic | Home organization mart

  29. Pingback: A History of Erasing Black Artists and Bodies from the AIDS Conversation – Hyperallergic | Top furniture store

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