Flash Points

Self-consciousness around controversial issues

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Jenny Holzer, WHITE, 2006. Nichia white LED’s mounted on PCB with aluminum housing, 192 1/4 x 216 5/8 x 5 3/8 inches. Installation view: Cheim & Read, New York. © 2007 Jenny Holzer, member Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York.

I’m interested in the idea of self-consciousness when it comes to contemporary art—around the controversial issues and artworks that we know are important to talk about and discuss with others, that we think are critical to talk about with students, but that we are terrified of dealing with poorly, worried that we may overstep boundaries, our own comfort levels, or worse—someone else’s.  As John T. says in his comment on the Flash Points introductory post

Another issue was my incredible and obvious sense of trepidation, on so many levels. Scared of getting fired. Scared of being considered racist. Filled with white guilt and pathetically trying to get some kind of pass. Feeling some guilt about “Michael Mooreing” my own class for my own personal artistic desire to make a film.

What are the boundaries that we create for ourselves around initiating these kinds of conversations? What responsibilities do we have in discussing these works of art? How have others—teachers, parents, curators—opened up discourse around controversial topics using works of art?

 

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