Comparable effects have been observed of late with artists attempting to display the pain of Others, such as Dana Schutz’s Open Casket (2016), a painting that depicts Emmett Till, a black youth lynched in 1955. This form of cultural appropriation justifiably angers black audiences, but not because they have misinterpreted Schutz’s intention to denounce past injustices. Rather, Schutz seems to miscalculate the praxis, which combines the knowledge needed for making a work of art, the activation of the ideas that emanate from it, and a self-reflexive engagement with the reactions they trigger. This praxis crystallizes the meaning of Schutz’s art beyond her personal intentions. The painting distils substantial information from its creator’s biopolitical position, whose white privilege rests uncomfortably within the work’s subject matter, implicitly illuminating the enduring asymmetries of power between races in the United States.
This article also appears in the issue 97 - AppropriationDiscover