17 June 2008

Identity Again

A couple weeks ago we went to the Dakota Gathering here in Winona. It brought up the idea of identity and how we construct it again.

I am not trying to be critical, but how can american indians (as I was told they prefer to be called by a few of them) celebrate their heritage by selling plastic beaded trinkets? Perhaps it is a reverse of the way that europeans purchased their lands with shoddy bling centuries ago. If so, it is fitting. However I wish they got as much for the stuff as the whites did back then.

Returning to the idea of native theory and inspiration and the artist’s practice it seems to me that there is sort of a reverse colonization that often happens – a backdraft of appropriation of styles, artforms, and identity by the outsider – a disrespectful fascination with a culture that leads to exoticizing the “other,” trivializing and reducing individuals within those cultures to caricatures. We assume we are welcome within groups just because we like them, just because we want to be like them, wear clothes like them, talk like them or eat their food... How often is respect for the material or nonmaterial objects of a culture – manifested as a desire to have them – mistaken for a respect for the objects’ creators? Our engineered identities are made up from so many influences, so many “I love that!” feelings, that for the most part, it seems to me that authenticity may be a chimera.

How can we possibly know if what we are, what we do, is authentic?


No comments: