Yesterday there was an interview in the NY Times featuring Kanye West. I had several thoughts about it but there were three that that stuck with me. The first, is that Kanye is one of the only Black men in pop culture who continues to evolve publicly, in real time, while remaining squarely in front of his narrative.
Second, a big part of Kanye’s public evolution has to do with his willingness to be vulnerable and emotional, publicly. He is willing to be vulnerable, honest and wrong. When I say emotional I don’t mean full of rage, there is space for Black men to do that in pop culture, in fact some folks expect it. In fact way back in 2008, I wrote about his willingness to be vulnerable with the album 808’s and Heartbreak.
Last, I realized that a huge portion of the public sphere conversations about art don’t pivot around Black artists who put their craft first. On Twitter, we talk about Scandal (and Shonda Rhimes certainly puts her craft first but our conversations on Twitter aren’t about that dimension of her work), we talk about Love and Hip Hop Atlanta, we talk about rap music lyrics if they are inflammatory. But Black visual artists who are craft first!?!? But perhaps one of the issues playing a role here is privilege, my own personal privilege that I need to own in this conversation. By privilege I mean the ability to know, study and read about Black artists who are craft first. When I think about Black artists who are craft first the folks who come to mind are Ava Duvernay, Wangechi Mutu, Sanford Biggers, Bradford Young, Dee Rees, Aisha Simmons (who is on and engaged on Twitter). This list isn’t exhaustive, these are the folks who came to mind. I am not saying that they don’t have online presence, they do, what I am saying is that reading that Kanye article made me wonder, where are the artistic conversations by young(er) established and emerging artists in 2013? Or perhaps the conversations exist and I am slipping. If you are aware of such conversations, please link me, I’d Love to see them.
If a huge portion of the Black public sphere is happening on the internet, and this is MY observation, then what does it mean if we don’t see these artists in these spaces having conversations. Or is the issue also of one around time, space and labor. In other words, if you are too busy shooting documentaries, shooting photographs, writing novels, creating web series, creating multi-media work, then you simply may not have the time to be on Twitter.
Social media is labor.
Anyhoo, just some thoughts that the Kanye interview had me thinking about.
I guess also has me thinking that as I move forward with the book and the doc, one of the questions rattling around in my head is whether will the historic spaces that I have visited and participated in, will they feel the same? Will the internet conversations be enough?