Saturday, September 21, 2019

"The Arnautoff mural discord is paradigmatic of our divisive times. For the defenders of the murals, myself included, it embodies 'cancel culture' writ large, to the point of caricature."

At the New York Review of Books, Michele Bogart says the dispute raises "important and pressing questions about race, representation, pedagogy, power, knowledge, and the meaning of public art."

I would put her somewhere between the open letter position (she says "[t]he school board's drastic stance was a travesty, given the murals' iconography and history" -- emphasis added for the implication that, given a different iconography and history, it might not be a travesty) and the Roberta Smith absolutist position that "[o]nce art has been made and released into the often choppy flow of life, it should stay there."  In support of the latter reading, she ends up urging us to see murals and monuments "as articulations of biography and urban social history":  "Public art is a dynamic political process that unfolds over time and involves specific people, groups, and circumstances. It is a nexus of interactions, negotiations, and powerplays, past and present. Today’s Arnautoff mural dramas have taken on a life of their own, but they are part and parcel of the paintings’ meaning as a material part of San Francisco’s ongoing history."