Tyler Green
Art-focused Journalism by Tyler Green

Tyler Green Modern Art Notes

The irony and the spin

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Central Indiana Community Foundation president Brian Payne has an op-ed in this morning’s Indianapolis Star. The CICF is the lead funder on the suspended — and possibly kaput — site-specific Fred Wilson sculpture project titled E Pluribus Unum. The headline on Payne’s op-ed is “Let’s keep connecting on sculpture project,” and he uses his piece to call for greater dialogue around Wilson’s proposed E Pluribus Unum sculpture.

The op-ed is richly ironic. Nine months ago CICF said it would hold a series of community-wide conversations about E Pluribus Unum. Last month Payne [at right] told MAN that CICF has has organized no such ‘connecting’ events.

It’s also odd to read Payne urge people to ‘connect’ after Payne told MAN that he did not talk with Wilson before announcing that Wilson’s sculpture, designed for a specific site, would not go there. As I reported here, Wilson heard of Payne’s decision through two third-parties, including from a journalist.

Payne’s spin about CICF’s decision is no less striking: He writes that CICF “recently announced the removal of the City-County Building as a potential location for the artwork.” Wilson’s artwork was commissioned by the Indianapolis Cultural Trail (and effectively from CICF) as a site-specific work. If you unilaterally eliminate the site for a site-specific work, you are left merely hoping the artist will stick around to work with you on another project.

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Comments

  1. This is a prescient analysis of the CICF stance on the Fred Wilson sculpture. Discussions about racist representations and African-American heritage have always been at the heart of African-American culture and discourse, so all that is new in this case is that the arts community has awkwardly found its way into that discussion and now risks appearing self-congratulatory about initiating it. We need to be clear that CICF is doing very good work and trying its very best to be part of a discussion that has failed Americans for a half-millennium, but it risks misunderstanding grassroots community organization in African America–which does not happen in conventional “public hearings.” This discussion is less about an artwork and perhaps even about the representation of color as it is about how we talk across and along the color line in broadly defined art communities. CICF deserves a lot of support for their ambition, but a modest amount of ethnographic work would yield a very different relationship with the many African-American stakeholders in the city.

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