Category: Bully Pulpit

In the moments when I feel like I do not belong or that we are not doing enough to decolonize inherently colonial institutions such as museums and universities, I try to pause and think not only about the absurdity and seeming infeasibility of the project we have set for ourselves, but also these moments when the intangibility of our research materializes in practice.

Centering on T.C. Cannon as narrator of the exhibition, and decentralizing my curatorial voice as the authority, was an intentional strategy I employed to activate Cannon’s Native perspective and to build empathy with the audience.

Dell Upton follows up on the theme of his current book, What Can and Can’t Be Said: Race, Uplift, and Monument Building in the Contemporary South (Yale University Press) by asking a team of individuals critically engaged with public art, memory, and the nation about the recent debates around Confederate monuments and efforts to recognize histories of lynching.

A monument leads an unhappy life. The best it can hope for is to molder quietly under a mantle of pigeon droppings, for when the people or events it celebrates attract a critical eye, its travails begin. Because a monument holds up its subject to memory, even adulation, it is likely to suffer for the failings of the animate.

In the context of the recent Confederate memorial debates, the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama, directly challenges the heroic narrative of the Confederacy as an honorable struggle and the idea that slavery was a benevolent institution.

Do we have a responsibility to the nation in our teaching and writing on American art? How would this responsibility be enacted and can it be done without seeming to be jingoistic? Does a new understanding of our nation impact our teaching and study of American art? How do you feel about the idea of a national narrative? Have you been challenged to rethink the relationship between American art, the nation, and its citizenry at any time in the last year?