So, I wanted to share an interview I did with Ken Gonzales-Day for our short paper writing assignment on “The Past”. While the interview tackles issues surrounding the Western monumental tradition, I think Gonzales-Day acts as a sort of arts activist in his eagerness to bring awareness to ongoing matters concerning race, art, and standards of beauty. Here is a link to the Profiled exhibition I am interviewing him about:
My questions for Gonzales-Day:
- In relation to Profiled, how do you believe your work challenges the history of the Western monumental/sculptural tradition?
The Profiled series looked at the development of academic canons of beauty and scientific notions of human difference (from the Art Academy to the Natural History Museum) as well as sculptural depiction of race and human difference. Finding and photographing the historical objects allows the viewer to consider the subjects and treatment of the human figure through time.
- Do you believe the western traditionalism of monumental/ sculptural art is still an effective or relevant form of remembering and memorializing a people’s past?
The monumental sculptural tradition is in need of critical re-examination, with regard to whether these objects are serving the needs of the communities or institutions they were created to serve. There is also the question of “audience”, and artistic intention, but, as I attempted to demonstrate in my own public art work at Metro Division in LA, I sought to create a new context where historically problematic objects could be re-engaged in new ways (e.g. signage, re-contextualized). That being said, no object should be destroyed because it is a part of the historical record, but, as with many of the objects I have photographed, they have been placed in storage, and in fact today we need to critically engage with these objects, in order to understand human difference as it is constantly being negotiated and “constructed” around us all the time.
- What take-away message do you want your audiences to grasp from Profiled?
Modern conceptions of race (including whiteness) are historical and ideological constructions that were crafted over hundreds of years (Enlightenment Project, Slavery, Colonialism, Imperialism, Manifest Destiny) and may require many generations to undo. As such, these existing objects require reexamination in order for us all to better understand the power of such non-verbal signifiers ( e.g. bodies, tools, weapons, posture, facial features, economic, and cultural signifiers), to correct the errors of the past and to build a better future.