May 28, 2017

The Walker Art Center in Minneapolis will dismantle "Scaffold," a sculpture "partly inspired by the gallows where 38 Dakota Indians were hanged in Mankato in 1862."

The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports:
"I regret the pain that this artwork has brought to the Dakota community and others," [said Walker Executive Director Olga Viso]. "This is the first step in a long process of healing." She said that [L.A.-based artist Sam Durant] told her he was open to seeing his work dismantled because "it's just wood and metal — nothing compared to the lives and histories of the Dakota people."...

For the second day in a row, protesters gathered Saturday afternoon outside the fenced outdoor exhibit, holding signs with messages such as "Not your story" and "Hate crime." Earlier in the day, messages that had been placed on the fence Friday were removed, exacerbating tensions....

Rory Wakemup, a Minneapolis gallery director who specializes in contemporary native art, initially thought "Scaffold" was a ruse. He was shocked to hear that community leaders had not been consulted about it.

"Anything this heavy needs to have approval from a wide range of the community. There's no singular voice that can just do this," he said. "It's opened a wound and sets [Indian relations] back years."
We're told that the artist, Durant, "intended to raise awareness about capital punishment and address America's violent past." That's a comfortably safe political position for an artist in present-day America. Art should challenge us, and this artist chose to challenge the people who support the death penalty and the people who don't think enough about the violence done to Native Americans. But a work of art, left standing in public, cannot fine-tune its message. It can't say think only of it in these terms and not other terms.

Durant and the art museum obviously didn't intend to inflict pain on the Dakota people. Apparently, they assumed the Dakota would feel good about the amplification of their story in the public space, but they assumed wrong.

What an embarrassing show of elitist obliviousness! They assumed their well-meaning presentation of a painful story — a blunt replica of the gallows — would work as they intended, to inflict pain on the the right people, the sort of white people who voted for Trump, who'd think it makes sense to say Make America Great Again, when all the good people know America was not great.

And they didn't think about the possible impact on the very people whose story they wanted to beat the ignorant folk over the head with.

Why didn't they think to ask?! Wakemup — great name — got it right. You should have consulted with some people in the Dakota community. Show some respect for the people you want to show yourself off respecting.

I found this story because the commenter dustbunny brought it up in the comments here. She said: "Looks like censorship to me." It's not censorship in my book. The museum and the artist spoke first. Some people spoke second in response, and the response made the museum and the artist decide to change what they would say going forward. It's just like a conversation whether X makes a remark, Y says that's a terrible thing to say, and X then says, I'm sorry, I shouldn't have said that. I call that persuasion.

You know, public sculptures are big intrusions on a city. They just sit there. It's a lot worse than a book that was published and now sits where you don't have to read it. These sculptures are big, and they are in our space. A great deal of thought should be given to what belongs as a permanent fixture in our shared public places. A 2-story gallows is an awfully bad idea.

What were the mental processes of the elite arts people who decided this was a good idea? Now, they have to backtrack, because their mistake was so bad and they want to salvage their reputation. They're dismantling the thing they should never have put up. That's not censorship. That's belated shame.

72 comments:

AJ Lynch said...

Well libruls are mentally ill. Who else would think "let's make a sculpture of a hanging from 1862 that very few people know about".

Are you sure this story is not a spoof of dumbass libruls?

Bad Lieutenant said...

Haha you suck. What sauce does the revolution prefer when it eats its own? Try some on Al Franken.

Rob said...

Pace Ann, the lesson here is that the primal urge (in present-day America) to be a victim must have its due. There was no art that could satisfy the eager-to-be-offended, and likewise, the absence of any art on the subject would have been considered its own form of offense. You can't win.

hoyden said...

They should have just stuck with the huge blue rooster and the giant spoon and cherry. When Liberals do history they only do the parts they like.

Inga said...

Jeez, seriously bad judgment. They certainly should've consulted with the Dakota community first. How could they have thought this wouldn't bring up memories of horrendous times in which the American native was in danger of becoming extinct? The Dakota people don't need to be reminded that they were once victims. In protesting the statue they're seem to be proclaiming they are no ones victims anymore. Good for them.

Yancey Ward said...

In other news, the descendants of Harriet Beecher Stowe has asked that all book sellers stop selling Uncle Tom's Cabin.

chuck said...

Everyone is cannon fodder for the lefty war machine, POC should have learned that lesson long ago. Clarence Darrow experienced that reality more that a century ago and nothing has changed since.

Ann Althouse said...

BTW, it was bad art from an aesthetic perspective. I object to it for that reason. Also it's political propaganda — for a routine cause that is already well-known and agreed upon by the liberal elite.

Big Mike said...

What were the mental processes of the elite arts people who decided this was a good idea? Now, they have to backtrack, because their mistake was so bad and they want to salvage their reputation. They're dismantling the thing they should never have put up.

Same mental processes as so many of the self-proclaimed elites. They don't need to talk to people -- their motives are pure and all that has to happen is they implement their plans and all the proletariat will kneel in adoration.

Lewis Wetzel said...

"Anything this heavy needs to have approval from a wide range of the community. There's no singular voice that can just do this," he said. "It's opened a wound and sets [Indian relations] back years."
That's the purpose of art. To set and follow community standards.
I was born and raised in Minnesota. Any Minnesotan who feels strongly about the plight of the Indians in MN should get off their butt and move somewhere else.
We're told that the artist, Durant, "intended to raise awareness about capital punishment and address America's violent past."
Minnesota hasn't had a death penalty for over a century.
What about America's violent present? Is it okay to incinerate Japanese civilians with a nuke? Howabout killing Osama? It's not like he got a trial.
Why do artists feel they have the authority to lecture others on their morality, anyway? What makes the moral sense of someone who has been to art school superior to someone who has been to engineering school? Or someone who has never been to school at all?

Bill, Republic of Texas said...

Now it's a conversation. Piss Christ and Mary Virginia with elephant dung was art that the Neanderthals wanted to censure and destroy.

I'm so sick of leftists full of hatred and prejudices preening about their tolerance and niceness.

Bill Peschel said...

I agree it's not censorship, whose definition should be limited to government bodies attempting to suppress free speech.

What makes you think the Walker officials were acting in good faith? They could well have been virtue-signalling. They were certainly condescending.

At least the indians have learned how to mau-mau the flak-catchers. Or is that cultural appropriation as well?

Ambrose said...

Wakemup before you go go
Best dismantle that there scaf - fo
It's a real big no-no
Causing pain to the ol' Da- kos

Ann Althouse said...

I hope everyone clicks on the thumbnail and sees how the "sculpture" looks.

I think it's more of a historical replica that might have a place in a historical museum. Maybe the dismantled piece should be reassembled in a place that told the story of Native Americans or the National Museum of Crime and Punishment, which has an exhibit of execution devices.

robinintn said...

"Hate Crime" is just a tiny bit over the top. Kind of makes me think the people claiming injury are exaggerating. Kind of makes me want to tune them out.

Yancey Ward said...

Protesting the existence of the art and protesting the quality of the art are two different issues, aren't they?

I don't understand the protesters here- would they have protested any kind of art this artist created that referenced that event, or just this one?

Ann Althouse said...

"What makes you think the Walker officials were acting in good faith? They could well have been virtue-signalling. They were certainly condescending."

What are you saying that I didn't say in the post?

Good faith at what point?

I think they thought they were doing well, were abashed at not being thought well of, and they took a different position so they could continue to look good. What step would you call "bad faith"?

I don't think they put up the gallows as performance art with an intent to rouse protests and the dismantling was always on the schedule, but it's at least possible that they did that. I might call that "bad faith." Is that what you mean?

tcrosse said...

The Scaffold was a boneheaded idea, particularly at the Sculpture Garden, and the Native Americans got a chance to reassert their rightful place in the heirarchy of victimhood.

Michael said...

Althouse wrote: "Art should challenge us...." Why is that? Where was this cliche born? Marcel Duchamp? Are we "challenged" by Constable and Turner? The Chartres Cathedral? The ceiling of the Sistine Chapel? This idea of art is a modern thing and a concept that has as its fruit an unlimited amount of crap produced for people paying up to be "challenged." Observe the "work" of Sam Durant. It is crap from a to zed. Utter shit. I challenge anyone to look at his opus and tell me otherwise.

Oh, and the curator!! Opining that the healing has just begun with her utterance, her banal belch. One hundred and fifty years later and the healing is beginning. Holy fucking shit but the art world is full of idiots and pretenders and, now, people puzzled by their lack of WOKE.

mockturtle said...

Art should challenge us

Really?

Rob said...

Here's art that challenges us. And no one could possibly take offense.

whitney said...

It's unbelievable that the idea of cultural appropriation didn't cross their minds. Do they think that only "the others" can be guilty. Weird

Marc Puckett said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ann Althouse said...

"Are we "challenged" by Constable and Turner? The Chartres Cathedral? The ceiling of the Sistine Chapel?"

Absolutely.

Jay Elink said...

What Michael just said. +100

How, Ms. Althouse, does the Mona Lisa "challenge" you? Or how about a Faberge egg, or Benvenuto Cellini's salt cellar? Or Donatello's David?

Granted, anti-war works such as "Guernica" are meant to do that, but they are only a tiny fraction of what the world calls art.

Lena Dunham's father churns out what *he* calls "art". Ever seen it?

https://tinyurl.com/ya9ttjbk

Is that art, Ms. Althouse? Does it "challenge" you?




Michael said...

His scaffold, by the way, is a reprise of another scaffold he did earlier. Think of it as a challenging reiteration of his first and more (?) challenging "installation."

Otto said...

A Frankfurt School brain fart. Critical theory is passe. I love that term dialogue. What BS. we gave them diversity, lower standards so they can compete, and casinos so they have $. I think we have had enough of white guilt and we don't need Ann coming off sanctimoniously elite in her own way. Case closed - next

Marc Puckett said...

I'd be interested to read the artist's explanation how an assembly of scaffold parts used for (several, legal) executions relates specifically to the 'Dakota 38'-- were all
of the people executed 'unjustly', for instance, according to his mind, I mean? "In 2005, [Sam Durant's] exhibition Proposal for White and Indian Dead Monument Transpositions, Washington D.C. was shown at the Paula Cooper Gallery in New York. This work derived out of a residency he was conducting at the Walker Art Center in 2002. He reproduced 30 Indian massacre monuments that are based on similarities to the massive obelisk Washington monument." (Wiki)

It sounds like a great mess of nonsense all around-- for people who are professionally concerned about art-as-healing and art-as-rectification-of-injustice &c &c the Walker people and Durant all of them seem to have royally screwed up. At least it appears to be money privately raised-and-managed misspent, not tax monies.

The badly written newspaper article (e.g. from 100 applauders at the outset to 'hundreds' a couple of paragraphs in) is of very little use.

YoungHegelian said...

Well, according to the Wikipedia article (and I don't know this period of history well enough to critique it), the Dakotas gave a lot worse than they got, casualty-wise. I imagine the killing of about 800 (according Lincoln) settlers, men women, & children, didn't exactly put the residents nor the US government in a peaceable & forgiving frame of mind.

No race or ethnic group has a monopoly on murder & brutality.

Michael said...

Althouse: With all due respect... You may be moved, inspired, awed, humbled, amazed, and invited to think about the subject and the technique(s) of the aforementioned art and artists but I would not bring "challenged" in its modern sense of defiance to a definition the purpose of art. From Pater to Nietzsche to Vasari you will not find the concept.

3rdGradePB_GoodPerson said...

"I don't think they put up the gallows as performance art with an intent to rouse protests and the dismantling was always on the schedule, but it's at least possible that they did that."

Maybe they just hoped for such. But, didn't actually schedule it.

Seeing how things have gone, what's the downside from their POV?

They've maxed out their attention seeking meter. And, it's impossible to quantify the psychological joy these folks must get from their heroic act of social justice-ing. With folks in sheets harder to come by, sometimes ya gots to work both sides of the street so ya can rack up a concrete victory.

Big Mike said...

I did click on the thumbnail, Althouse, and I was appalled when I did so. It looks like a genuine late 19th century gallows suitable for hanging multiple people simultaneously. That is one sick "artist."

Ann Althouse said...

""Hate Crime" is just a tiny bit over the top. Kind of makes me think the people claiming injury are exaggerating. Kind of makes me want to tune them out."

Hyperbole is part of rhetoric. You used it whenever you've said "I'm starving" or "You're killing me." No reason to tune it out. Just understand it. Don't be so immature.

Ann Althouse said...

Re "challenge"

I put up a new post.

Ralph L said...

The woman in the photo is fat enough to break the rope.

Now THAT's offensive!

Laslo Spatula said...

A Farce from all parts.

Gallows Humor.

I am Laslo.

Bay Area Guy said...

"What an embarrassing show of elitist obliviousness!"

I think Althouse pretty much nails it here. Not much to add.

St. George said...

This is reminiscent of the controversy over Richard Serra's 'Tilted Arc,' which as basically a steel wall that ruined a public space in Manhattan.

60 Minutes did a piece on it. As I recall, one of its defenders was Walter Mondale's wife.

From Wiki...

Commissioned in 1979, Tilted Arc immediately attracted intense negative feedback, prominently from Chief Judge Edward D. Re, as well as fierce defenders.[8] Those who worked in the area found the sculpture extremely disruptive to their daily routines, and within months the work had driven over 1300 bureaucratic employees in the greater metro area to sign a petition for its removal.[8] Serra, however, wrote "it is a Site-specific work and as such is not to be relocated. To remove the work is to destroy the work." Designed to be counterintuitive, Tilted Arc effectively redefined the space in which it existed, and due to this intimate relationship between the location and the meaning of the work, Serra's side argued, it could not exist as a piece of humane art unless it remained in that exact location within the Foley Plaza.[5] Therefore, it was claimed that by removing the physical steel sculpture, the government would destroy the broader work, regardless of its physical existence.[10] Because the sculpture forced the site to function as an extension of the sculpture, it was in effect "holding the site hostage." Calvin Tomkins, an art critic for The New Yorker magazine, was quoted saying, "I think it is perfectly legitimate to question whether public spaces and public funds are the right context for work that appeals to so few people – no matter how far it advances the concept of sculpture."[10] The Storefront for Art and Architecture invited prominent NYC artists and architects to envision the future plaza as a protest in "After Tilted Arc".[11]

The Cracker Emcee said...

"This is the first step in a long process of healing."

Damn, just the first step? That's 155 years down the toilet.

rhhardin said...

Indians on warpath.

rhhardin said...

Think of the damage white man could have done with Apache attack helicopters.

rhhardin said...

Ticket scalping at the Redskins games.

JBeuks said...

Another comment noted in passing the cases of "Piss Christ" and the elephant-dung portrait of the Virgin Mary. I think these parallels deserve greater consideration. As I recall those cases, people who protested the insults to their religious beliefs were given the back of the liberal hand -- told they were philistines who knew nothing about either art or the principle of free speech and should just go away. But in this case, let the complaint about the "hurt" being done by a work of art come from a group that leftists favor, and the museum can't move fast enough to give in to their demand to remove the work from public view. As the saying goes, if leftists didn't have double standards, they wouldn't have any standards at all.

rhhardin said...

Ikea has the Galge home gallows, some assembly required.

khesanh0802 said...

The central cause of the Sioux uprising was the failure of various Indian Agencies to fulfill their parts of the the treaties ceding land to settlers by providing the Sioux with promised food , clothing and shelter. From what I have read the Sioux were desperate for the treaty goods and finally a small incident at one farm caused the conflagration.

The installation is absolutely in the worst taste and shows very poor judgement - but we are talking about the art world after all. MN has been making an effort to support native American traditions. It's hard to understand how any person at all familiar with public life in MN could think this piece anywhere near appropriate.

Ralph L said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Char Char Binks said...

Good points, Rob. One day showing art that opens old wounds is forbidden, another day it's compulsory,and the Party is always right.

Michael K said...

Did anyone mention the 500 settlers murdered ?

If so, I missed it.

Mary Beth said...

In protesting the statue they're seem to be proclaiming they are no ones victims anymore.

What statue?

Char Char Binks said...

Did anyone mention the 500 settlers murdered ?

Their lives didn't matter.

Scott said...

"Durant and the art museum obviously didn't intend to inflict pain on the Dakota people."

Was it a stabbing pain, or a dull one?

So we have an institution [the Walker] metaphorically "inflicting pain" on the constituents of what is in this day and age a nebulous social construct [the Dakota people].

Why is it not preferable to say that the Walker put up a statue that offended some people? To write that they inflicted pain on an entire race is sophomoric.

The Walker, which puked buckets of progressive virtue by displaying the statue, now gets to demonstrate their immense social "sensitivity" by removing it. How fortunate for them. They got a twofer for their very own "Piss Christ" moment.

CWJ said...

As is often the case, Scott comments quite well. Thank you.

David said...

Abraham Lincoln was urged to commute their sentences but declined.

BillyTalley said...

This resembles the recent Whitney Biennale controversy concerning Dana Schutz's depiction of Emmit Till lying in state in his coffin. In both cases, the cross racial virtue signaling fell short, mostly for aesthetic reasons. Their art failed to persuade that their empathy was sufficient.

Danno said...

If you read about some of the victims and especially the Kochendorfer orphans (the four older children fled into a ravine as their parents and toddler sister were slaughtered) like I have, hanging was much too kind for these Indians. See links.

http://www.dakotavictims1862.com/family-photographs-of-dakot/index.html

http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=34633762

My great-great grandfather and family moved into the general area of southern Minnesota where this occurred two years later from Horicon, Wisconsin.

Bad Lieutenant said...

Why aren't all traces of Indian culture eliminated like all traces of Confederate culture are being eliminated? Both opposed this country.

Swede said...

Offended Indians?

The horror. THE HORROR.

Piss Christ?

Fuck you, Christians.

Art. It must offend and challenge.

Because making something beautiful requires talent.

cyrus83 said...

It's poor artistry is what it is. In this case, the artist and the people who approved the exhibit didn't understand their subject well enough to know what kind of reaction it would cause, and thus they ended up with an unintended reaction. Of course, had all their criticism come from the people they were targeting, they doubtless would be patting themselves on the back for their courage.

The thing about propaganda - which this display should be considered - is that it only works if the propagandists understand the underlying psychology of the audience and how the work will be interpreted - and that especially includes the group being exploited to make the point.

dustbunny said...

Thanks Althouse! I agree it was elite obliviousness on the part of the Walker but that has been their position for decades. I was interested that they were forced to censor themselves for their cluelessness. The same piece was displayed in a sculpture park in Scotland and in Germany with, as far as I can see, no public protest, so the director failed to think of any local repercussions. I was also interested that the artist so readily agreed to the dismantling by saying the work was just wood and metal. One would think if he was so passionate about his ideological content (lots of work about white supremacy) he would have pushed backed. could it be that the entire premise of his art is just a fashionable scam? Yup.
Hoisted by their own petard, or in this case, gallows.

AllenS said...

I refuse to comment until I hear from Elizabeth Warren.

Big Mike said...

@David, 303 Lakota warriors were condemned to death by military tribunals. Abraham Lincoln commuted the sentences of 264 of them, and one more was later reprieved. He let the death sentences stand only for those convicted of the most heinous crimes against civilians. Lincoln may have been urged to commute more sentences, but by the same token there was strong political opposition to his commuting as many sentences as he did.

Virtually Unknown said...

"This is the first step in a long process of healing."

No. This is just one more poke in the eye in a 500 year long string of pokes in the eye.

This is where the waters began to cease their rise.... blah blah blah Cripes. I would rather read Jual Vimax.

Virtually Unknown said...

I think that one of the most annoying things about the gender wars is highly privileged people elbowing their way into the ranks of genuine victims of America, who still bear their history like chains, Indians, and descendants of enslaved laborers. Those guys have serious moral authority, and of course, the white left wants to take it from them for the white left's own use.

Owen said...

Locally a 1905 carousel is to be mutilated by removing a panel of original hand-painted art because it shows two black children. They are said by the activists to be depicted in a less than flattering way and thus pain would be caused. Away with them. The argument of hypothetical offense yet to be experienced by an entire class of cultural plaintiffs, is now well advanced. In sociopolitical terms it is like the rise of the class action in tort litigation: nearly as lucrative and no less terrorizing.

James Pawlak said...

The waged war against the USA and that in time-of-war. That is "Treason" as justified the hangings.

AllenS said...

Owen, is that the Dentzel Carousel? Why not paint over the 2 black children image, and then repaint with pictures of Shawn King and Rachel Dolezal?

Owen said...

AllenS: I think that's the one (Rochester NY) but I have only limited hearsay information. But your idea sounds great. Or perhaps it could be left intact and viewers told that the children are in fact white but just happened to be identifying as black when the painting was done. Or is it the other way around? The Dolezal-Warren Theorem involves conceptual transforms and grievance operators far beyond my comprehension.

Seeing Red said...

Don't take it down, just put a pic of Gacy up there.

Big Mike said...

I wonder how much the Walker's willingness to dismantle the alleged sculpture was due to their grasp of the pain they were causing the Lakota and how much was due to their sudden understanding that maybe the artist and their curators might find their bodies adorning it at the hands of angry Lakota activists.

Gordon said...

There ain't enough Lakota activists to manage a hanging. These are not all Lakota, and they are otherwise the usual suspects who show up for such an event. About 98 percent of Lakotas have never heard of this, and 98 percent of them wouldn't care about it if they were told.

Owen said...

Gordon: "There ain't enough Lakota activists to manage a hanging. These are not all Lakota, and they are otherwise the usual suspects who show up for such an event. About 98 percent of Lakotas have never heard of this, and 98 percent of them wouldn't care about it if they were told."

You may be right but I suspect that if 98% don't know or care about this Historical Outrage and Epic Disrespect, it is only because they still need to be "woke." Because this is about monetizing the butthurt, preferably fictional and prospective butthurt about remote past events that befell others. Once you get good at it, you can create a backstory of suffering around almost anything, implicate some rich white males as the problem, and collect reparations in very short order. I am working on franchising the necessary software.

5/29/17, 4:15 PM

St. George said...

Pissing Pug statue added next to resistance girl facing Wall Street's bull statue.