Monday, June 14, 2010

Insider Perspectives and the Nature of Art

The question of outsider narratives is a tricky one, but here is a touching comment from Joseph Ruak, the Repagu’nu’worh man who worked with Nancy Bo Flood on Warriors in the Crossfire:
After my father and I met and worked with Nancy on our first project together, I felt like Nancy was sent by our ancestors to look for my father and me, so that we might work together to save our dances. I have since adopted Nancy to be my Nina or Godmother. Anyone who has the patience and takes the time to see another world view is an exceptional human being.
More in Nancy's interview with Dianne White. Ruak's generous words speak to the esteem in which he holds the writer, and to the loving respect with which Nancy articulates the story.

Fractured histories lead to the yearning of a people to preserve what was so nearly lost, but isn't art by its nature a process of hybridization? Here's a marvelous visual commentary by artist Huang Yong Ping: The History of Chinese Painting and the History of Modern Western Art Washed in the Washing Machine for Two Minutes (1987/1993). A Chinese teabox, paper pulp, and glass. The text detail: "The pulp remains of two books washed in a washing machine on an irregularly broken sheet of glass. The glass sits across the top of an open wooden Chinese tea box." The two books, it turns out, are art history texts, exactly as the installation title states. Pulped by the random movements generated by the washing machine.

Where Ruak speaks for preservation, Huang Yong Ping speaks for reinvention and re-creation. They're both compelling voices. Maybe we're all dancing in some cosmic washing machine?


  1. Thank you, Uma, for thoughts and ideas that compel me to stop and think. Maybe we are each offering our perspective, our individual experiences, all of which contribute to a richer understanding of understanding both "inside and outside the washing machine."

    Ellen Meloy has written of the desert with eyes that observe the shifting color of sunlight on rock, ears that hear how slowly water flows down an arroyo. In her book, The Anthropology of Turquoise, she reminds the reader that every voice, every language, offers a reality that is lost if that voice is silenced:
    There are nine different words in Maya for the color blue in the comprehensive Porrua Spanish-Maya Dictionary but just three Spanish translations, leaving six butterflies that can be seen only by the Maya, proving beyond doubt that when a language dies six butterflies disappear from the consciousness of the earth. (quoted from Earl Shorris, “The Last Word”) Nancy Bo Flood

  2. This reminds me of a book I read a few years ago. Savaging the Civilized: Verrier Elwin, His Tribals, and India, by Ramchandra Guha.

    It's both biography and history but it raises large issues: cultural assimilation vs. difference, the complexities of power, and its impact on those who don't have it.