For those who are still talking about it (and many are), this is the one question framing all of the post-dialogue about Quentin Tarantino's film. And in this case, the "where" in "Where did you watch Django Unchained?" is not just an issue of geography but demography, too.
In Rembert Browne's response to the film on Grantland, he predicts 2013 will be the year that the long-anticipated national conversation on race finally comes to pass, and not just the Kumbaya conversations we've been pretending to have every year around Martin Luther King's birthday for the past half century, but one that centers on "how we talk about and react to race in mixed settings."
And let's not kid ourselves, those mixed company convos can be a bitch to navigate sometimes. (You know, kinda like the Fresh Loaf comments' section on occasion.)
In the latest Django diatribe, the PostBourgie.com crew (G.D., Jamelle and Joel) parses it all out in a podcast they call "Django Unpacked" with Slate's Aisha Harris and Northeastern University Professor Sarah Jackson. Despite it being a discussion between five black writers and intellectuals, they crush the monolithic myth with a conversation that turns out to be much more nuanced than black-and-white. Until, that is, they realize that their differing interpretations of the film are almost evenly split down a contextual color line.
It starts around the 17:24 mark (posted below), when Prof. Jackson says that based on her totally "unscientific poll" of black friends who saw the film, those who really liked it "saw it in theaters where it was a majority black" audience, while those who felt more apprehensive and didn't like it "saw it in theaters where it was a majority white" audience.
It's being called "the Django Moment," as Gawker's Cord Jefferson labels it, and which Browne refers to and defines as "the controversial act of seeing the film in mixed company in a theater."
So here's my Django moment:
Recession? What recession?
According to conventional wisdom, Atlanta's arts scene should be all but dead. As the story goes, when economic times are hard, arts and culture are the first activities to get the heave-ho as private and public belt tightening squeeze the life out of artists and nonprofit arts organizations.
But there's a problem with the conventional wisdom: exactly the opposite appears to be happening. A casual look around Atlanta reveals that after years of deep freeze, more arts projects are springing up in the city than any time in recent history.
A groundswell of new arts organizations is enlivening Atlanta from the bottom up. Scarcely a week goes by that some new arts production group, some new publication, festival or financial support vehicle isn't announcing that they've arrived on the scene. And although it's true that Atlanta's legacy arts institutions recently have suffered cutbacks and hardships, the once unspeakable idea that new arts activities might be fueled by the down economy is starting to seem more plausible.
For 15 years, art critic Felicia Feaster was the voice of visual art criticism at Creative Loafing. For many she was the voice of visual art criticism in Atlanta. When she left the paper in 2008 to serve as senior editor at the Atlantan, many in the art community waited eagerly to see what would become of her writing at the publication.
In fact, Feaster breathed new life into the upscale glossy. For nearly three years she covered the major Atlanta art institutions. But she also became known for introducing underground staples such as photographer Stephanie Dowda and rock 'n' roll silkscreen printers Methane Studios to a readership more likely to sip Chardonnay than to swig PBR.
Recently, the sudden news of Feaster's dismissal from the magazine, along with editor-in-chief Nancy Staab, left art watchers shocked. The magazine was bought last August by Dickey Publishing, the parent company of Cumulus Media, which owns and operates Jezebel magazine. Now, the new owners are restructuring the editorial staff.
Magazines get bought out. Publishing missions change. Such personnel switcheroos occur routinely in media, and it's usually nothing personal. But Feaster's departure leaves me wondering about a much bigger issue: What's the future for Atlanta's authoritative voices in art criticism?
When Gary Black, Georgia's new commissioner of agriculture, takes office Jan. 10, one of his first orders of business will be to chuck art history out the window. That'll be the upshot if he follows through with his plan to banish several George Beattie murals made in 1956 from the Department of Agriculture building. The offense? Two of the paintings depict somewhat sanitized images of slaves at work and one depicts scantily clad Native Americans.
You'd be forgiven for not having heard of the murals. Even though a few lobby visitors have quietly expressed feeling "disturbed" by the images, they've sat largely undisturbed and unprotested in the downtown building for more than half a century.
Meanwhile, SCAD's had its own plans for playing hide-and-go-seek with art: The annual Open Studio night last October featured the work of fourth-year photography student Nicole Craine, one of whose photos depicted a seated, nude man awkwardly cradling his own scrotum and penis. Although the work had been selected by photography faculty for display, it was pulled, according to Craine, after a last-minute decision by SCAD administrators on grounds that the photo was inappropriate for a "community open house with children in attendance."
2011 marks the dawn of a new decade. It also may mark the dawn of a whole new style of gagging public expression in the arts. Although yanking art from view after public protest has a long history in America, doing so before any significant public protest smacks of a new skittishness that puts civil society itself on the defensive.
Welcome to the "chilling effect." That's what activists called it during the culture wars of the late 1980s and early '90s. Back then, artists and their supporters warned that tactics as diverse as criminal prosecutions of museum personnel and revoking federal grants that supported writings critical of the government sent a clear message: Artists, don't rock the boat. Threats of censorship from above would seem like child's play compared to the self-censorship that arises out of a fear over what might happen if you say something someone doesn't like.
As far as Atlanta's street life goes, it's barely alive.
Thick forests of razor wire, overgrown lots, discarded tires and boarded up buildings can make getting around town an unpleasant chore at best and downright dangerous at worst. There are a few lively mini-environments: Little Five Points or the West End for example. But moving from one to another requires hopscotching through urban wastelands. Even Atlanta's tonier districts and suburbs sometimes feel less a part of a city than a desert of parking lots surrounded by the homes of people who suffer unforgiving commutes for the privilege of parking in those lots.
Earlier this month, I joined a number of Atlanta's contemporary art aficionados in a very different kind of city: Miami. That's where Art Basel, the so-called Super Bowl of the art world, took place in an alternate universe of sunshine, music and high-rolling art deals. And people. Lots and lots of people throughout the city who enlivened the light-filled streets and friendly sidewalks.
It's not exactly fair to compare Atlanta's worst stretches to Miami's best during a global festival. But the contrast does reveal with startling clarity how dysfunctional many of Atlanta's streetscapes are and, on the other hand, what a city full of vibrant public spaces might look like.
The Hudgens Center is known to Duluth residents as part of the sprawling Gwinnett Center, a multipurpose complex running along an otherwise undistinguished stretch of suburban asphalt 12 miles outside I-285. It's also home to the newly established Hudgens Prize. Announced last winter as both an art prize and a "juried show," the winner-take-all prize includes $50,000 in cash provided anonymously by a Duluth-based family foundation for a single Georgia artist. The prize jury boasts a trio of bona fide national and international art world players: Sylvie Fortin, executive director of Art Papers; Eungie Joo, director of education and public programs at New York's New Museum; and David Kiehl, curator of prints at the Whitney Museum of American Art, also in New York.
After nine months and almost 400 artist entries, the Hudgens announced its five finalists: Ruth Dusseault, Hope Hilton, Gyun Hur, Scott Ingram and Jiha Moon. All five are familiar names to Atlanta art-world cognoscenti. The final winner will be announced Nov. 30.
The strange thing is what happened immediately following the announcement of the finalists. Basically nothing. The chattering classes of the art world, always eager to express an opinion about who should've gotten what, mostly fell silent. The press produced a trickle; the blogosphere, crickets. Even social networkers didn't move the needle, preferring to report on making a ham sandwich or someone's cat doing something cute.
In 2009, Atlanta passed a milestone that few within the arts community paid attention to: 2009 was the year Atlanta logged a higher rental property vacancy rate than Detroit. Detroit! That’s according to the U.S. census bureau, which counts up all the properties that could be rented but aren’t.
Sure, everybody knows about Detroit’s legendary ghost towns and derelict properties, which — being uninhabitable — don’t get calculated into census data at all. Still, it’s a sobering statistic that Atlanta’s imminently habitable real estate is emptier than a city built for twice the number of residents than living there today.
Artists have traditionally rushed in to these empty spaces where others fear to tread. Setting up studios, pop-up galleries and other artistic uses of otherwise unused space has often kept entire neighborhoods from spiraling into economic death. Houston’s Project Row Houses — a combination of urban development and arts programming spearheaded by artist Rick Lowe — has been the most spectacular example. But others abound: Baltimore, Md.’s, extensive network of artist-initiated alternative spaces or the city of Paducah, Ky., for example. Qualified artists in Paducah can purchase live/work spaces in key urban zones for as little as $1 as part of the city’s Artist Relocation Program.
All of these efforts keep properties from becoming boarded-up eyesores and magnets for crime. But the Atlanta real estate world on the whole has been slower to recognize how artists can inject vitality and energy into flagging neighborhoods.
All eight perform at a high level given their relative youth. All deserved attention. But CL's super eight artists reflected an arts scene deeply at odds with the Atlanta in which most of us live and work: Our chosen artists all were white.
Not surprisingly, many readers were P.O.'ed. And rightly so. As commenter "L.Shaw" said, "We live in a multi-racial, multi-cultural city. Inclusion should be in our DNA."
But the Sept. 2 issue of Creative Loafing shows that it's not in our DNA, and that it's not safe yet to dismantle the watchtower of racial justice in the capital of the New South.
Unfortunately, some have already begun to view this matter in the hackneyed terms of the 1980s culture wars: Namely, that achieving diversity in the arts is a chore that the majority culture must guiltily undertake for the benefit of everyone else. That zero-sum view is false and distractingly out of date. It's a viewpoint that says the pie is only so big, and every advance by an artist of color displaces a deserving white artist who otherwise should have had the spotlight. How else to explain one commenter's distaste at the idea of "substituting" one artist for another in terms of race?
It quickly became a tale of two artists: Both received significant critical attention from the local arts press. Both maintained a full calendar of exhibitions in the city, including representation in the following year's biennial at the Nexus Contemporary Art Center (now the Contemporary). But ultimately their paths diverged: Walker left. Bailey stayed.
For those unfamiliar with the tonier provinces of Artworld-istan, both artists are international successes. Walker is a staple on the global biennial circuit, and Bailey will soon be the subject of a major midcareer retrospective at the High Museum. Both can and do write their own tickets in a world where artists are usually forced to choose between being exploited and being ignored.
Despite the worldwide kudos, those of us who spend our time blowing on the embers of Atlanta's cultural scene are tempted to see in these two artists both a success and a failure: Bailey represents the city's success in holding on to a major cultural figure, and Walker represents our failure to catch that lightning in the same bottle.
At last month's Gather Atlanta, an annual conference for local emerging artists and organizations, someone in the crowd announced he intended to disturb the room.
It was Lionel Flax, general manager of Sam Flax art supplies, speaking up from the standing-room only audience of 250 during a Q&A session on "Art and the Public Sphere." Although those who spoke on the "Art and the Public Sphere" panel dissected issues of public art, marketing and connecting to audiences, Flax was unsatisfied. He rightly took the panel — and the room — to task over why no one had mentioned the public school system as part of the public sphere. "Why," he asked, "aren't artists beating down the door to work in the public schools?"
The responses to Flax's question from painter Fahamu Pecou and street artist HENSE ranged from defensive to exasperated. Why should they as artists work so hard to crack a system that in turn has so little interest in artists, they asserted. Follow-up comments from other audience members ratified the notion that artists don't work in the school system because it's an unholy stew of suspicion and bureaucracy.
The entire discussion, however, overlooked one pertinent point: There are artists working in Atlanta's public schools.
@ The Truth
"The more revenue the stadium generates, them more tax revenue the state…
This article, as well as every comment everyone has left here, as well as any…
The more revenue the stadium generates, them more tax revenue the state generates, since they…
you're crazy and your only saving grace is that your craziness prevents you from recognizing…
*****UNHIJACKED THREAD POST REVITALIZER****************
Pretty good recent vid, climate change hoax intermixed:
ok this my limit, i will be dragged no deeper.
have fun jerking yourself…