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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Modernism, Post Modernism and the Problem of the Visual in Afro American Culture : Michele Wallace

Sadhana Shanbhag

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Topic Sentence (TS)

In 1954 in the case of Brown versus The Board of Education, the Supreme Court ruled

that segregated schools were inherently unequal, discriminatory and illegal.

Supporting Sentence

Made by NAACP , the case include finding by two black PhD's Kenneth & Mamie

Clarke who used a doll and colouring test to find out how racism and segregation

damaged self esteem of black children.

Key Word: - segregation.

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There has been much debate in the fields of psychology and sociology and about the

meaning o Clarke's research, most of t focused upon the scientific validity of testing


Supporting Sentence

It is not unusual for media to refer back to this research as evidence and racism is an

unambiguously deprivational experience while ignoring w hat the visual implications of

such findings might be.

Key Word: - Scientific Validity

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The documentary interpreted this information as corroboration of the fact that blacks are

still comparatively poor and disenfranchised in comparison to whites

No Keyword

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Poverty and powerlessness feeds a child's perception of what it means to have black skin,

but his process is much more complex than a direct correlation could encompass.

Supporting Sentence

The societies already operative evaluation of images further inscribe by skin color that

affects the child's opinion of race.

No Keyword

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The absence of back images in the reflection of social mirror, which such programmatic

texts invariably construct, could and did produce the void and the dread of racial

questions that Clarke fond in the fifties particularly in the northern black children who

already were attending integrated schools.

Supporting Sentence

On the other hand, southern children who attended segregated schools displayed less


Keyword: - Image.

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We all know in our hearts as any mere child in our midst today must know that

in "nigger," "black," and "Schwartze," are often used interchangeably in our language to

mean an abject "other," and yet we persist in denying it just as the NAACP, Kenneth &

Mamie Clarke and the Supreme Court denied it in 1954.

Supporting Sentence

Donald Newman's charcoal drawings and Jackie Mason's reference of a mayoral

candidate as a schwartze and a sizeable downtown New York controversies showed that

this charade which has become one of the principal tenets of bourgeois humanism that

color is an innately trivial matter.


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How one is seen as black and therefore what one sees in a white world is always already

crucial to ones existence as afro American.

Supporting Sentence

The very markers that reveal you to the rest of the world are visual. Not being seen

by those who don't want to see you because they are racist, what Ralf Ellison called


Keyword:- Invisibility

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Among other things afro Americans have not produced because they have been prevented

from doing so by intra racial pain and outside intervention, a tradition in the visual arts as

vital and compelling to other Americans as the afro American tradition in music.

Supporting Sentence

The necessity which seems to persist of its own volition for drawing parallels or

alignments between afro American music and everything else cultural among afro

Americans stifles and represses most of the potential for understanding in afro American


Keyword Positive/Negative Seen of Instruction.

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It appears that the only reason black artists aren't as widely accepted as black writers is

because shifts in art historical judgment results in extraordinary economic contingencies.

Supporting Sentence

The closed economic nepotism of the art world creates a situation in which artists of a

colour, face and industry wide restraint of trade limiting the ability to show and sell their


Keyword:- Economic

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If black writers had to rely on the kinds of people that determine the value of art and had

to be accepted into rich white people homes none of us would have heard of the great

black writer.

No Supporting Sentence

No Key Word

Paragraph 11 – 14 context "history of the author's fascination with the visual"


Growing up in the author constantly found herself in a world where though speaking

of race was an embarrassing topic, there was no a single visual reference of black .

Television rarely had a black face, comics and magazines had no mention of the word

race. On a visit to art galleries of France and Italy, there were only endless streams of

white faces

Key word :-Race and Visual

Paragraphs 15 – 17 context of Black Aesthetic

The author finds that the whole concept of self-consciousness developed by Kenneth and

Mamie Clark was something that would later be called "Black Aesthetic" but for a very

long time was confined to the problem of not liking dolls the same colour as yourself ,

unless carefully educated to do so. Also citing her mother example, Faith Ringgold

obsessed herself trying to take seriously her relationship to the tradition of Western

painting, before she became interested in the questions of a Black Aesthetic.

Key Word: - Black Aesthetic

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According to Raymond Williams, hegemony is a process that relies upon the mechanisms

of tradition and canons of old Masters in order to waylay the utopian desires that are

potentially embodied in cultural production

Supporting Sentence

The underlying structure of tradition lies in wait behind contemporary variations which

are selective in favour of maintaining the dominance of a brutal status quo as much as

one may try to subvert it.

Key Word: - Tradition

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I cannot recall a time during which I didn't perceive Western Art and Western Culture

as a problem in ways that seem to me now akin to the manner in which Modernism, Post

Modernism and Feminism raises such Problems

No Supporting Sentence

No Key Word

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It was widely interpreted among a black Middle class intelligentsia in the '50s

and '60s , "they," or white Euro – American high Modernism, had borrowed from "us,"

the African peoples of the world, even if "they" were incapable of admitting it.

Supporting Sentence

The debate was precisely situated in the paradox that Picasso, Cubism and subsequent

Modernists had borrowed heavily from African Art,

Key Word: - Borrowed

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My Interest in Modernism only accelerated once I had become knowledgeable enough

about the visual and literary production of both Afro-Americans and white Europeans and

Americans in this century to know that Modernism took place in the Afro-American as

well as in the white American –European milieu

Supporting Sentence

"Critical Signification," is an attempt to describe the mechanical relationship between

Afro-American culture and Euro-American Culture

Supporting Sentence 2

This Relationship can also usefully be described as dialogical, or as one of intertexuality

Key Word:- Relationship

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But the problem remains the unilateral unwillingness of Euro-American culture to admit

and acknowledge its debt, or even relationship, to African and Afro-American culture.

Supporting Sentence

In fact this problem, has such a long and convoluted history that its enunciation has

become one of the telling features of Afro-American Modernism

Supporting Sentence 2

One of the early practioners of Afro-American literary Modernism , Ralph Ellison, even

gave it a name: invisibility

Key Word:- Problem

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According to the myth of the blackness in Ellison's Invisible man, it is the opposite of

whiteness, or it is so much "the same" that it is invisible

Supporting Sentence

Both dynamics are, infact , aspects of this "invisibility's" inevitable and structural binary


Supporting Sentence 2

Invisibility, a visual metaphor, is then employed as a way of presenting a variety of

responses to racism and cultural apartheid.

Key Word:- Invisibility

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There is a problem of being the patriarch of a black family whose role must be defined in

opposition to that of the patriarch of the white family.

Supporting Sentence

Myth constructs' the black family on a model contrasting with the Freudian/Oedipal/

Modernist drama of individuation

Supporting Sentence 2

The most psychologically damaging residual is that the subjectivity of the black woman

becomes unimaginable

Key Word :- Subjectivity

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In Euro-American Modernism, and in Afro-American Modernisms, as well , for that

matter, the position of the "other" is as unitary and as incapable of being occupied

by categories more diverse than "women and blacks" as was the formerly unified ,

omniscient subject from which it split

No Supporting Sentence

Keyword :- "Other"

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The difference in motivation is only a function of the extent to which the performance

and consumption of these texts are interrogated by a critical discourse emanating from

white, black ( brown) feminist and Afro-Americanism discourses.

Supporting Sentence

The relative scarcity of such interrogation in the media and in academia is as telling as

the relative scarcity of a multicultural "object" presence in the various field of visual

production, from museum administration to film

Key Word :- Motivation

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But we move from the Afro-American Modernist novel par excellence to the Afro-

American Post modernist novel par excellence , Ishmael Reed's Mumbo Jumbo, there is

an interesting black female character who comes in view,

Supporting Sentence

It is the dancer who shares African art, and with Picasso and the Cubists , a mutual

location is Paris of the '20s.

Keyword :- Juxtaposition

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When one arrives at the Post Modern scene, marked as it is by reproduction and

simulation, the rampant exploitation of international capitalism, not to mention much

speculation regarding the death of the subject, the death of history and the total blurring

of lines between pop culture and high culture, spin-offs of the Josephine Baker model


Supporting Sentence

There was also a popularity in Europe of an ethnographic photography issuing from the

process of the colonial/anthropological exploitation of a third world Asia and Africa that

proceeded and overlapped with a burgeoning interest in Europe in African and Oceanic

art which is really about an interest in other ways of seeing and looking that had not

before occurred to the west

Keyword: - Exploitation

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In this way, representation of black women with large and fatty buttocks came to signify

not only black women but all other categories of women , such as prostitutes, who were

thought to be as sexually wonton as black women

No Supporting Sentence

Keyword :- Sexually Wonton

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Les Demoiselles might be seen as illustrating the occasional advantage of art over

institutionalized history or science in that it seems to represent the desire to both reveal

and repress the scene of appropriation as a conjunction of black/female bodies and white

culture- a scene of negative instruction between black and white art or black and white


Supporting Sentence

Gillman describes Hottentot Venus (by Picasso) as prolegomena to intersection issues of

race and sexuality in Les Demoiselles D'Avignon of five years later.

Keyword:- Prolegomena

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Unlike the positive scene of instruction of Afro-American and Euro-American music

in which mutual influence and intertexuality is acknowledged , in the negative scene of

instruction of Afro-American art and Euro-American art the exchange is disavowed and

disallowed .

Supporting Sentence

And, in more or less simultaneous with this subtle but effective metamorphosis, the black

Aesthetic emerges as the unambivalent, uncompromised link-up between Africa and

the "New World" in which Euro-American Influences are superfluous and negligible

No Keyword

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Herein lies my opportunity to usher forth new knowledge as Pollock names it in

conceptualizations of the visual in Afro-American culture that would consider the inter

dependency in issues of ethnicity and sex.

Supporting Sentence

This new knowledge would be constituted in the excavation of the black artistic

versus the white artistic experience under the historic heading of modernism and post-


Keyword: New knowledge.

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What gives modern primitivism any critical import in this cultural revisioning of the

visual that it appears to be an ongoing category in the modernist, post-modernist and

feminist discourses, a fundamental way of discounting the blackness of the occasional

black artist whose accepted within the ranks while rejecting the category of black artist in


No Supporting Sentence.

Keyword: Modernist primitivism.

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This disembodiment with its attendant disexualization of black literature and high culture

occurs in response to the over sexualization of black images in white mass culture.

Supporting Sentence:

If this process of desexualization and deprimitivization had not been in the black high

culture within Afro-American studies, there would be many more black female artists,

writers and singers.

Keyword: disexualization.

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On the other hand, the absence of black voices in the debate over Primitivism show The

Museum Modern Art in 1984 was no accident.

Supporting Sentence:

Therefore, it should come as no surprise that in a few isolated instances so called

primitive art would be as good as western art for the people who made these objects as

people too.

Keyword: Primitive Art.

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Yet I am not convinced that minority artists of the colour in the west who in some

sense along with African and third world artists, the rightful heirs to the debate around

Primitivism will ever surface up in discussion.

No Supporting Sentence.

No Keyword.

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Black criticism was blocked from the discussions of modernism which are defined as

exclusively white by intricate and insidious cooperation of art galleries, museums and

also, blocked from any discussion of primitivism which has been colonized beyond

recognition in the space of the international and global museum.

No Supporting Sentence.

No Keyword.

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Primitivism becomes the magical commodity whereby white European art will

appropriate the ritual function of tribal art and resist the process, which the museum

space makes inevitable of being reduced to a lifeless commodity.

No Supporting Sentence.

Keyword: Magical commodity.

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And yet finally, there is only an implied entry way here for the artist or the critic of

colour who is not a member of the post colonial intellectual elite suffer the problems of

modern and cultural identity. Perhaps more than anyone and the unified subject of this

and another analysis of the post modern never mind the modern continues to render us as

invisible and silent.

Keyword: Minorities.

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The so called discovery of tribal objects by Modernism is analogous to an equally

dubious discovery of the new world by European colonization.

Supporting sentence 1:

What was there was not, infact, "discovered but rather appropriated or stolen".

Supporting sentence 2:

In other words, both European and non-European cultures were transformed by "new"

and closer relationship to one another in the new world.

Keyword: Proximity.

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While the most concrete sign of that something new is generally referred to as Post

Modernism, unfortunately this move usually carries along with it the inscription of

modernism's apartheid.

Supporting sentence:

There is another sign just as indicated of novelty which is best represented by the cultural

contributions of Afro-Americans to popular culture.

Keyword: Modernism's apartheid.

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