Ideas: June 2008 Archives
Laurie Anderson performance of Homeland at this year’s Spoleto Festival was similar to a couple of other performances: They felt a little late in the game.
Drag queen and performance artist Taylor Mac and the Nottingham Playhouse’s performance of Seamus Heaney’s The Burial at Thebes had political overtones, too. But while one maked fun of the absurdities of the past eight Bush years (airport security, etc.), the other underscored the tragic elements of those years (the social and political dangers of nationalism and xenophobia).
In neither, however, was politics essential to what they are. They had more to offer.
For instance, Mac, the transgressive, cross-dressing trickster and fool, is a master shape-shifter, able to manipulate and charm any kind of audience. Though some of his material has lost its frisson (i.e., jokes about “unattended bags”), he elicited an amazing range of emotions — from mirth to sadness to pity to respect.
On the other hand, Thebes was a spartan and ingenious production that spoke to timeless themes of concern to all of us — death, duty, honor, family, and religion. King Creon himself was an oblique allusion to George Bush, but one could completely ignore that allusion. Creon is a tragic figure that has stood on his own since Sophocles wrote Antigone.
The same couldn’t be said of Anderson’s Homeland. It depended almost entirely on politics and current events that aren’t as current as they used to be. It felt stuck in time.
It’s been a couple of weeks since the end of the annual international arts festival here in Charleston, but I’d like to post a few of the things we did here at Charleston City Paper, primarily from the paper’s blog, Spoleto Buzz. Our blogs, during May and part of June, attracted some 742,000 hits from more than 58,000 unique visitors. Not great, but not bad for a mid-sized independent weekly newspaper in a city of about 600,000 people. Let’s start with this.
I never thought the one-drop rule affected me personally until I read David Matthews’ memoir, Ace of Spades.
The one-drop rule is a phenomenon of American slavery. It determined who was black and who was not. In brief: If you had as little as one drop of “black blood” in your ancestry, you were considered black. If you were half black, you were black. Looked at the other way: If you were half white, you were black.
It damned African Americans if they did and damned them if they didn’t.
At its core, Matthews’ 2007 memoir is about a youth spent “passing” as white — and the serious and obvious questions the social phenomena raises about the metaphysics of race and the paradox of racial identity — while coming to terms with the price he paid for abandoning his heritage and family.
“I was not a racist; I was a hater. I hated the netherworld in which I found myself, the one that tacitly reassured me that it would shun, relegate, fear and ignore all of me if I acknowledged half of me. Half-black, eighth-black, mulatto, quadroon, octoroon — all meant black.
I have five aunts who married black men. Four on my mother’s side I never got to know well, nor did I know their children, my cousins. On my father’s side was Margie. She married Jerry. They had three boys and girl. I grew up with them. I went to church with them. We ate Sunday dinners together and played in our grandfather’s apple orchards together. We knew each other. We were blood relatives.
Yet in my childhood, my entire family, even I suspect Margie and Jerry, thought of my cousins as black.
Warren, Douglas, Phillip, and Bathsheba are as white as I am. But such is the perniciousness of American racial pathology — the unconscious yet ubiquitous application of the one-drop rule — that I came to understand my own kin as the Other. Their blood was my blood, yet they were black, not white.
They were seen to be different from us even though they were the same. Race in America, as was the case in my family, has always been either/or. With us or with them. One thing or the other. Never both. A throbbing paradox. I hope my white family had no intention to privilege one race. I’m certain my “black” family members themselves didn’t. Even so, are we, all of us, guilty?
Yes, I’m afraid we are.
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Terry Teachout on the arts in New York City
Andrew Taylor on the business of arts & culture
rock culture approximately
Laura Collins-Hughes on arts, culture and coverage
Richard Kessler on arts education
Douglas McLennan's blog
Dalouge Smith advocates for the Arts
Art from the American Outback
For immediate release: the arts are marketable
No genre is the new genre
David Jays on theatre and dance
Paul Levy measures the Angles
Judith H. Dobrzynski on Culture
John Rockwell on the arts
innovations and impediments in not-for-profit arts
Jan Herman - arts, media & culture with 'tude
Apollinaire Scherr talks about dance
Tobi Tobias on dance et al...
Howard Mandel's freelance Urban Improvisation
Focus on New Orleans. Jazz and Other Sounds
Doug Ramsey on Jazz and other matters...
Jeff Weinstein's Cultural Mixology
Martha Bayles on Film...
Fresh ideas on building arts communities
Greg Sandow performs a book-in-progress
Harvey Sachs on music, and various digressions
Bruce Brubaker on all things Piano
Kyle Gann on music after the fact
Greg Sandow on the future of Classical Music
Norman Lebrecht on Shifting Sound Worlds
Joe Horowitz on music
Jerome Weeks on Books
Scott McLemee on books, ideas & trash-culture ephemera
Wendy Rosenfield: covering drama, onstage and off
Chloe Veltman on how culture will save the world
Public Art, Public Space
Regina Hackett takes her Art To Go
John Perreault's art diary
Lee Rosenbaum's Cultural Commentary
Tyler Green's modern & contemporary art blog