I find that lately I’m really interested in storytelling, discussing privilege, and helping people to tell their own stories. Or at the very least, telling stories that allow people to see themselves reflected in them.
While I wasn’t familiar with Sam Durant’s “Scaffolding” installation, I was amazed that the artist hadn’t (at least from what I could tell), considered the fact that replicating gallows that were used in government sanctioned executions, would be traumatic for some people. What didn’t surprise me, was statements from art critics that tried to place place the artist in the victim role.
Telling a narrative that isn’t your own, even in the larger scope of bringing awareness to something as important as government sanctioned executions, needs to be handled with care. Consulting those who’s stories you are hoping to tell, needs to be mandatory, not optional. Equally important is being able to actually hear the concerns of those people, and being able to admit when you are working outside of your experiences. Intent, while important, does not excuse ignorance.
This isn’t to say that difficult topics cannot be expressed through discomfort in art, but that the art should be intentional, respectful of the topic, and not using other’s pain solely for the sake of making others uncomfortable.