Questions for Artists

As part of the Dissertation Research I sent the following email to both Smoking Dogs Films and Iwan Bala.

My name is Michelle Wright and I’m a student at Coleg Menai in North Wales studying BA (Hons) Fine Art with Bangor University. I’m in my Final Year and my Dissertation research is the reason for my email. As part of the dissertation process we have been asked to acquire a direct quote from a practising Contemporary Artist to include with our essay.

For my Dissertation along with the essay, I have to curate an imaginary/theoretical exhibition at an existing gallery. The title of my theoretical exhibition is Diaspora, Decoupling and Representation and I am bringing together the artists John Akomfrah, El Anatsui, Mona Hatoum and Emily Jacir.

Please may you consider the following questions and provide your opinion as a response that I may use as a quote in my dissertation.

  • In your opinion does a Fine Artist have to belong to a particular Diaspora/Minority Group in order to accurately represent them in a Fine Art context?
  • Do you believe a Fine Artist can accurately represent a Diaspora/Minority Group using ethnographic research methods?
  • If an artist uses ethnographic research to represent a Diaspora Minority Group, do you believe this can create resistance within the Diaspora/Minority Group to the Fine Artist’s work?

Finally I would like to thank you for the consideration and say that any comments you may have will be very useful and much appreciated.

Best Regards

Michelle Wright

I received two responses and used the comments from Iwan Bala in the Dissertation Catalogue.

Below is the response from David Lawson at Smoking Dogs Films.

Dear Michelle,

Many thanks for your e mail. John has done many interviews over the years and there are many on- line, including Tate shots, and a Barbican film to accompany his recent show, Arnolfini have one on their website. So please feel free to quote from any of those as he is concentrating on two new commissions at the moment.
Very good luck and best regards
David Lawson
Producer
Smoking Dogs Films
Below is the response from Iwan Bala.

Dear Michelle

This is quite a complex thesis to undertake, but here are my immediate responses;

In your opinion does a Fine Artist have to belong to a particular Diaspora/Minority Group in order to accurately represent them in a Fine Art context?

I believe that an artist not of a Diaspora/Minority Group might understand, but would find it difficult to fully empathise and express the situation honestly. So, my answer would be Yes, an artist would need to be from within the Group.

Do you believe a Fine Artist can accurately represent a Diaspora/Minority Group using ethnographic research methods?

It is a well rehearsed argument that ethnography can be dubious in its ‘outsider/insider’ dichotomy. Western intellectual claims of academic analysis are predisposed to certain assumptions. However, it may be the only way to try and understand.

If an artist uses ethnographic research to represent a Diaspora Minority Group, do you believe this can create resistance within the Diaspora/Minority Group to the Fine Artist’s work?

Certainly it can. By the end of the twentieth century, diaspora/minority groups had begun to represent themselves and became more resistant to the Eurocentricity of ‘outside’ observers and commentators.

Hope this helps.

Cofion

Iwan

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