Response to Speaker

I have been having a lot of feelings come up since yesterday’s class visitor and want to write them down before I lose interest. This comes from a place of vulnerability and deep self-reflection and I hope any responses could come from a similar place.

To pretext, I want to say that I do not have an issue with learning from white people (if I did I wouldn’t know a lot of the shit I know). I also hold deep value in learning from people who hold very different beliefs than me, however obviously part of a learning process is critiquing how one is learning and through which processes. Perhaps this response to our class visitor comes from an understanding that I will very rarely at NYU or any large institution, learn from someone who has similar ancestry as me and it will always be my job to pull apart and inspect the various components of what people teach— take what is useful to me and how it relates to my world view.

I find it incredibly irresponsible, almost funny, that white people compare their accumulation of wealth to a magical / intuitive “hunch”. I find it more irresponsible that the methodology of accumulation of wealth is compared to the methodology of creating a process-driven art project surrounding themes of power. Yes, of course, I believe within academic confines we can argue that the accumulation of wealth, the understanding of economics and the development of technology that serves the elite can be seen as “art”, but I think the desire to compare social justice movements to this type of practice says something much greater (and depressing) about U.S. society and our search of spirituality through money.

There is nothing magical or intuitive about white people getting richer. Elon Musk accumulated status and wealth within a system that requires whiteness or proximity to whiteness to gain capital (also, Musk has wealth and privilege partly through his dad’s accumulation of a Zambian emerald mine— talk about sustainability). The way we experience capitalism on a global level has so much to do with transatlantic slave trade and colonial genocide and theft of land, so when we frame getting rich as part of something inherent to the human spirit, I see it as a disrespectful appropriation of people who have had to resist by using intuition (Will mentioned this in class, which I appreciated).

(Also, side note re: Tesla— when an entity that seeks to serve the super rich, and make people richer uses words like “sustainability” it’s also an appropriation.)

In my experience, process-based and movement-based practices are part of anti-capitalist projects. I am in no way saying there is no room for inspection and reflection on very real parts of our society such as Wall Street or global capital or how the 1% gets its money— this is all actually very fascinating to me! However, I think that framing it as an art project or part of an art practice is what I find difficult. I see it as part of the growing elitism within the art world. In an interview I read several years ago when I was just learning about art elitism, Bay-area based screen-printer, Favianna Rodriguez said, “The art world is already such an ultra-capitalist environment and sometimes that’s all we’re offered, that is shown to us as the ideal.”

I’d also like to point-out the speaker’s own negation, or denial of very real circumstances that could lead to such a place of intuitively knowing. A lot of the people I know do not have the same knowledge of economics (neither micro or macro), nor have had the privilege to study trends, learn about tech companies and do not necessarily have the space or time to exercise and eat healthy so that they are able to make informed decision. But a lot of them do know how to stay alive, though. 

I don’t know what my “process” is yet, but perhaps it is getting overwhelmed and saddened by all the ego-driven corporate fuckery I’m constantly swimming in, and trying to find a place in which I can intervene. Maybe that intervention is presented as something intuitive, maybe it is passed to me through my ancestors or God or perhaps I need to finish the assignment so I give myself a date by which I need to decide or move on.

One thought on “Response to Speaker”

  1. I really appreciate and welcome your response. Our guest was invited to come to class to discuss energy, as he had expertise in two fields of energy work – body movement and renewables. Perhaps this is a fault I should examine, but I historically don’t vet invited guests’ presentations beforehand. This was a wild card. I think we should discuss it in class as a group. I only regret that this speaker, because he came first, appears as some kind of false precedent. Art(s) and design are plural, and occupy many spaces beyond the elitist art world. (As an aside, I just met Favianna last weekend in her capacities as an artist and a coalition organizer)

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