Friday, June 6, 2008

The Assassination of Barack Obama

image Yesterday ( June 04/08) Yazmany Arboleda had the brilliant idea to rent a space for the public display of his "art".  Many new artists have a hard time drawing attention to their work, hence the phrase starving artist.  What separates Arboleda from the rest is the title of his piece, The Assassination of Hilary Clinton and the Assassination of Barack Obama.  For some reason this idiot could not figure out before hand, that the secret service might view this as a threat to the presidential candidate. He was summarily arrested, and taken away for questioning.

Now that should be the end of this little story shouldn't it.  Unfortunately it is not. There were images of nooses, references to his bi-racial status as well as a graphic image of a black phallus, next to the words "once you go Barack."  Even the Obama girls are featured with a caption that says, "nappy headed hos." Art is intended to make us think outside of ourselves. Occasionally it enrages us, as it moves in a direction that is often contrary to conventional social ideologies/themes, however racism cannot be claimed as art. There was nothing new or adventurous in this display. All that this so-called artist did was prey upon the racial stereotypes that have plagued POC of color since we first stepped foot on this continent.

“It’s art. It’s not supposed to be harmful. It’s about character assassination — about how Obama and Hillary have been portrayed by the media.” He added, “It’s about the media, as was reported by the New York Times. “The Secret Service had to do a whole questionnaire with me,” he said. “It was about an hour of questioning. They asked if I owned guns, if I was a violent person, if I had ever been institutionalized.”

Mr. Arboleda answered no. Nonetheless, he said the Secret Service asked him if he would voluntarily take down the exhibition title from the window.

“I’m renting that space; the space was allocated for an exhibition and it’s my right to put those words up,” he said. “They said it could incite someone to do something crazy, like break the window. It’s terrible, because they’re violating my rights. If someone breaks a window, they’re committing a crime.”

He added, “The exhibition is supposed to be about character assassination. It’s philosophical and metaphorical.”

Not to keep beating a dead horse but this is very similar to the image of Michelle being lynched that was in the Daily Kos.  This is not the behavior of an ally. Rather than being an attack on the media representation of Barack vis a vis racism, what this exhibit does is perpetuate cultural myths/stereotypes that are harmful, and degrading to POC.  Consider the image of the erect phallus next to the phrase "once you go Barack", this is meant to insinuate in the mind of the viewer that the black man is the ultimate sexual "partner".  He will please, you and tease you, that is his sole function, however also encoded in this imagery is the black sexual savage who socially is constructed as dangerous.  Yes while the caption may indeed imply sexual gratification in actuality black male sexuality is the dark sexuality. It is predatory, and consuming.  Considering that in terms of sexuality the media portrays Barack as effeminate, due to his "ball busting" wife, I hardly see how this relates to him as a person.  Instead it stands a social commentary on how all black males are perceived. Indeed how the artist himself views black males is evident from the big throbbing black penis; a small degree of envy coupled with irrational fear. There is nothing philosophical about a stereotype that is alive and well within a culture.

What was the purpose of describing children as nappy headed hos?  Clearly this is a take off of what Imus said, but how is this meant to engage us?  Well obviously there is the historic licentious black woman, but when coupled with an image of children it asserts that this kind of sexualization is not only specific to black females, it is our natural state.  Like all women we are the originators of sin, but only black female bodies encompass, and reify the sin.  I cannot see  the sexualization of children as art, or even worthy of commentary rising above derision. Yazmany simply sought to draw attention to himself and used racial stereotypes for this purpose. This was hardly an artistic or even altruistic venture.  With images of erect penises, nooses and words like "Nappy headed hos", he has the nerve to scream about his rights being violated.  He was never concerned about our shared right to human dignity. At the end of the day the only thing that is worth acknowledging is that racism, and sexism are alive and well in the US today, hardly earth shattering news.

The link for this story was found at whataboutourdaughters


SjP said...

Using "assassination" and the name or names of a living president or presidential candidate in the same sentence is really not too bright. Guess starving artists gotta do what they gotta do...but this is kind of stupid unless he was trying to get 3 hots and a cot.


Renee said...

I more upset about what constitutes art in this case than the fact that he used the word assassination.