Spotlight Series

Spotlight: Contemptorary

This summer, Daily Serving is shining a light on some arts publications that we admire, and this week we’re focusing our attention on contemptorary, a publication that has been running “on the desire to catapult and transform art conversations about power.” Co-founder Gelare Khoshgozaran writes, “With the ongoing debates surrounding the foundations and violences of ‘Freedom of Speech,’ we hope you read ‘The Freedom to Oppress’ by Eunsong Kim and Maya Mackrandilal. Kim and Mackrandilal address the racialized politics of ‘arts freedom,’ and in order to do so, examine the U.S. Constitution.” This article was originally published on April 19, 2016.

FEMelanin, Performance Stills from Bedtime Stories of White Supremacy, November 15, 2015 at Mana Contemporary, Chicago.

FEMelanin. Bedtime Stories of White Supremacy; performance stills, November 15, 2015, at Mana Contemporary, Chicago.

First, we must name this phenomenon that keeps popping up in our social-media feeds: the idea that the lived experiences and perspectives of historically marginalized people pose an existential threat to the foundational values of liberal democracy, freedom, and culture. Let’s call it “Dominant Culture Persecution Complex.” We see it on the Left when Jonathan Chait, writing in New York Magazine, laments the return of the “language police,” who supposedly enforced an anonymous code of proper, non-racist or non-sexist conduct in the 1980s and ’90s before “going into remission.” Now they’re back, and Chait catalogs what he perceives as restrictions on “free speech” from the academe to Twitter and other social-media platforms.

In this respect, the Right is in agreement with the Left. On his widely read blog The Dish, commentator Andrew Sullivan is equally aghast at the “extreme identity politics” of responses to Chait’s essay. “Freedom of speech” is repeatedly invoked, even though, for all the deeply problematic metaphorizing of “policing,” marginalized groups are not in structural or state positions of power to enforce censorship. The authors assume that the default White-dominant culture’s status quo should enjoy protected status, and the mere expression of other perspectives is an affront to the founding principles of the U.S. Constitution.

Read the full article here.