Un-Making Image Session #5: “Post-colonial” in what sense?

Un–MAKING IMAGE

In the 5th session of Un-Making Image, a long-term project by Sarmad Magazine, we will host Miguel Peres dos Santos, Den-Haag based artist, at TENT Rotterdam and will watch two of his short films (video works), each followed by a conversation with the artist. Each conversation aims to discuss the different personal, political and formal layers of each work extensively.

A main goal of this event is to discuss, together with Miguel and the audience, in what sense exactly, the time that we live in today can be considered “post-colonial”.
This event is organized within the theme “Image and Power”, in which Sarmad Magazine tries to investigate how image can essentially be seen as a source of power, an instrument either to reinforce and perpetuate an existing power structure or to resist it.

– “There Are no Images” deals with a personal father-son relationship which takes the viewer to…

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a virtually colourless and tasteless water-soluble protein.

Now that that showcase of western and white superiority bigotry, conceptual desintellectualisation and populist “art” at the Boijmans has ended, we need to have a talk. So dear pseudo-intellectual cultural entrepreneur that goes to museums to post about it on @insta, white 50+ visitor of museums, and white 50+ museum directors that keep bragging about their heroic defence of “artistic freedom” and struggle against “censorship”… sit. the. fuck. down!

Analysing the political statement that is made by placing gigantic replicas of feces on Persian carpets on the hallways of a museum, does not require a PhD; I would go as far as saying that you don’t need any type of education at all, academic or otherwise. Insults and bigotry towards the religious practise of the muslim community are, most regretfully, as common in our days, as they are vulgar, intellectually impoverished and a result of the narcissistic self-cultivated and self-proclaimed western and white cultural “superiority”.

By opening the doors of your museum to such a display of vulgarity and intellectual impoverishment, makes you, specially when you are a white middle-aged privileged director of a museum, as vulgar as the work you display. Nobody asked your silly ass to protect “artistic freedom” or to conduct “censorship”, art is not under attack, and making sure that the art you showcase has any intellectual value whatsoever, is not called censorship, it is called taste (before your mind just goes: “taste is relative”, pick up a fucking dictionary and look up the relation of the term to aesthetics), and more: it is what you are payed for. It is your freaking job!

Now, we are not done just yet, you are going to have to bare with me. When activists, cultural critics and writers (among many others) expressed their discontent about the use of blackface, and other forms of blunt racism, in the PR campaign and the show on display; the heroic middle-aged white male museum director, felt compelled to jump on his white horse (disclaimer: any similarities with Sinterklaas are pure coincidence) and fight the crusade (this one is intentional) against “censorship”. I can understand that from your ivory tower perspective, the real world is far from your bedshow, but you could have at least try to understand the implications of your actions.

You chose not to, and the institutional realms of the “art world” kept the critique as low profile as possible, as always. Complicit to racist and islamophobic bigotry, institutions in The Netherlands are to a very large extent lead by coward middle aged white men, like yourself, who are more focussed on their career and their mortgages, then they are on doing what needs to be done in order to try to decolonize the art world. They may complain on social media about the state of things, they may even set up a project or two that vaguely engages with that subject, but few are the ones that go straight to your face, and tell you what they truly think about what you do.

The people that will do just that, are, for the large majority, outside of the institutional world, you know, the one you are totally disengaged with. It is there that the real work is being done, and not at your chair, in your fancy office, where your silly ass sits once in while. It is the people that take their precious time, to go to your office and explain your white privileged ass, why YOU ARE WRONG, for you just to pretend you are deaf (in this case “Indonesian deaf” as your racist culture refers to Indonesian resistance to obey you) and jump again on your white horse, write a letter in the name of a “artistic freedom” that is not at risk and against a “censorship” that nobody asked you to perform, publish it somewhere, and go home with a clear consciousness. 

Well i am afraid it doesn’t work like that. You see, there is always somewhere, someone that, without personal gain, is willing to invest time and energy to write a rant of words on your last day of work, just before you go on vacation… a rant on how fucked up racist and islamophobic the show you putted up actually is, and how coward, privileged and colonial it is to defend it with inexistent argumentation about “freedom” and “censorship”. Just for the record.

As for the white @insta cultural entrepreneurs that in their free time go to museums with their friends to objectify racialised bodies, I hope the pictures and boomerang videos were worth it, they are as vulgar as yourself. For the white 50+ visitor of museums: please keep buying your museumjaarkaart, the museum director needs to pay his mortgage. 

White privilege is not a theory, it is a praxis.

 

I came late to the party. Again. As I understand there was allot of commotion around antiracism activists this March in the Netherlands; I was busy quitting my job and helping in the campaign of woman of colour of my party at the municipal election, so the whole thing flew over my head. For what I can see, but I might be wrong, was an article of Miriyam Aouragh in socialisme.nu the trigger. Then there was apparently an social media uproar (I guess Twitter), and then Michell Esajas posted an article on his blog promoting his work and making reference to Aouraghs’ article, to which of course came a reaction this time by Jazie Veldhuyzen in Republiek Allochtonië website. 

Coincidentally at around the same time this apparent social media uproar was going on, people were experiencing within our own party, power structures that (un)consciously and (un)deliberately, excluded antiracism and decolonial discourses from the campaign mainstream output. What exactly happend is something for the party to solve internally, but the reactions that comrades got when exposing white privilege and white washing within the party, echoed in me with parts of the argumentation used in the above mentioned articles and consequent social media uproar. Maybe I didn’t came late, maybe I was just at another party… but the music was most certainly the same.

The conversation has since then moved on from white privilege argumentation, to identity politics of Black activists apparently (like as if this is really an issue). But I want to go back to the corner stone of some of argumentation’s made around white privilege. Some argue that white privilege is a theory, that it is divisive (where did I hear this before? oh yeah, from white people whenever they are confronted with their own privilege or with racism) and that it is theoretically unground. Okay so let me break it to you: white privilege is not a theory, it is a praxis. Unfortunately is western academia engulfed in (white) philosophical enlightened theory up to its chin; and I understand, that when you are trying not to academically drown, you probably still try to grasp some black activists and writers quotes on your way down; but in such a situation, you certainly do not have the time to ground your analogy into the origin of the system you apparently are trying to fight against. So bare with me, I’ll be quick.

The imperialistic system that Socialists refer to, has one single root: colonialism. Let me brake it to you: the first company in history to issue bonds and shares of the stock market was the Dutch East India Company colonial project in 1602. The first major global corporation, and influential to the rise of corporate-led globalisation in the early modern period, was that same colonial project called Dutch East India Company. As you probably are  most aware of, the whole colonial project was based in a basic praxis: maximal exploitation of resources elsewhere, including humans, and therefore the complete dehumanisation of every other ethnicity, society and culture than the white. This is the praxis upon which the colonial project develops and yes it is based on white supremacy.

Nothing new on the horizon, right? But what we often forget is that there is no such thing as a postcolonial praxis. There is allot of theory on post-colonialism and on postcolonial praxis, and even some experiments in some universities, but not in the real world. Not outside the white walls of a classroom in a colonial building that hosts the postcolonial studies department in the University of Amsterdam. The truth is that the colonial system remained intact until today the day, mainly in the so called “west”, but also in the exported epidemic corporate-led globalisation. In the Netherlands in particular, it is almost impossible to talk about race or identity; and this is exactly why this discussion is so problematic here: in this same country, race is systematically erased from any social-economic debate. Even when an attempt is made towards reanalysing the dutch colonial project, race is replaced by the “entrepreneur”  character of the dutch colonial endeavours (oh irony).

The truth is that the same racial construction and institutional racism resonates today (for this small piece I am going to focus on unemployment, but I could refer to education, poverty, healthcare, justice and so on). The fact is that while the unemployment rate for a white dutch male is 6%, the same rate is for someone with Moroccan roots 18,7% (that is more than 3 times more!), and for people with Antillean ancestors 17%, followed by people with Surinamese and Turkish ancestors 14,5% and 14,2% respectively – see CBS. Now, Houston we have a problem… not an immigration problem as some may be inclined to believe (these people have been here for decades now). This is also not a problem on the labour market that we can simply eradicate by demanding better education, demanding quotas or by fining corporations. No, I believe we have a deeper problem, namely: we live still inside a colonial system that is economically but also certainly racially constructed. Capitalism did not replace colonialism, capitalism is colonialism 2.0.

The project didn’t change, the institutions remained intact, the processes adapted to modern ages and technologies but the praxis remained precisely the same. In order to dismantle imperialism, I believe, that the task at hand is therefore to decolonize. Decolonize our society, our culture, our institutions and mainly decolonize our minds. And to begin with, we may as well begin by addressing the reality that is staring you in the eyes: white males are statistically in a richer social-economic position, have better chance to acquire education of excellence and other resources, and are statistically less vulnerable for unemployment or social exclusion. Therefore social-economically but also culturally, socially and politically white males enjoy the privilege that comes with their skin colour. That is not a theory, that is a praxis. And that praxis is called: white privilege.

Now, can we get on with our lives?

 

BS 1 No, this is not about your own silly white ass.

BS 2 If the truth is divisive, imagine the world of lies you live in.