Thursday, 19 September 2013

Against Authenticity

Pompeii Knoob. Third Wurld Tourist spies on Dead Europeans. 

I am tired of being a good little yellow house elf for liberal whites. Offering up sad, sad stories like canapés at a dinner party. I think of how disappointed they must be if they saw this blog, with its stupid Primark outfits, valley girl tics and mac book selfies. And I start to smile.

I've been thinking a bunch about ideas of the 'authentic' 'third world' person. The 'authentic' person of color. A construction so elaborate, so important they wouldn't trust someone like me to do the job right.  Well meaning white bbs have to wear my skin like a costume. Quite right too. I'd only mess it up, I mean I didn't even finish Edward Said's 'Orientalism'. I think of spammy emails in my junk mail, telling me I've won the lottery, email addresses with Arab and African names.

This inevitably brings me back to the Gay Girl in Damscus blog, ick, ick, which I previously wrote about here

I read this quote and it makes me feel weird:

"In June 2011, it was revealed that Amina Abdallah Araf – the woman behind the A Gay Girl in Damascus blog – did not exist. The person behind it was revealed to be an American student at Edinburgh University, Tom McMaster. The disappointment was palpable; authenticity – on the web, and elsewhere – is a prized attribute, and when it is eroded, people understandably get angry."

Amina was the perfect third wurld narrative. She was exactly what a Syrian girl should be, a photogenic fairytale, a middle aged dude living in Scotland. My blog will never be as authentic as hers. It will never be as authentic because I am a real person. That's why the Guardian was so ticked off. 

I think of so called 'outsider' artists like Bill Traylor and Horace Pippin and am reminded of the "Pippin paradox". 

"Is a black artist like Pippin caught in a dilemma in which he may be excluded because he is black (and therefore 'inferior') or be included because he is black (and therefor 'primitive')?"
-Cornel West

What do you think? By all means you can disagree. Unlike Amina this blog isn't gospel.

And there is Meschac Gaba whose art originally wasn't accepted by the 'West'. Why? Cos the Benin born artist was not 'authentically' African. He wasn't self taught. And he lived in a city. Because urban life is contained to the civilised, self deprecating #firstworldproblems. I mean duh. 

The artwork above is fabricated bank notes of European artists who appropriated African art. Picasso is shown as the President of Ghana. The bank notes are hanging from the money tree.

But when I'm getting glum I remember Jenny Zhang's beautiful, beautiful piece for Rookie. Looking at how a single story drops dead when faced with a really cute outfit

The piece itself is from the November 2011 Girl Gang issue. I should say that I'm not really into the whole 'girl gang' internet vibes. But, hey, that's another story for another day.

The essay explains the fashion histories of American women of colour and the photographs of the internment camp Manzanar are the most dear to me. 

Famous photographers came to the camp to capture bad things and pin them in their photo albums like dead butterflies. They wanted to get real sad pictures of sad girls in sad places. I wonder if they were more horrified to see the camps, or if it was the girls themselves that freaked them out. Girls with curled hair and confident smiling faces. Girls who were doing tragedy all wrong.  

To quote Jenny again "we contain multitudes". And that doesn't mean real deep shit. Like that I'm secretly composing a tragic violin solo on Syria stuff, or whatever it is people expect me to be doing in my free time. It means after I publish this post and shut my laptop I'm gonna watch Dynamo: Magician Impossible and eat honeycomb. It may not be 'authentic' but it's the real, honest truth. 

1 comment:

  1. Yeah! Racists fucking love "authentic" shit because, to them, "authentic" means "of the past" which makes it way easier to deny folks their rights and to reserve privileges for the white/wealthy/western b/c they, like, think POC are characters in the charming historical fiction novelizations of their WASP lives.