TW: racially charged language, sexual language
I wrote a piece about New York photographer and performance artist Clifford Owens and his intention to take a score written by Kara Walker to a point where he would sexually abuse a random audience member. Needless to say, I received numerous replies via e-mail, Reddit, and other avenues. However, I wasn't the only one to get a message about Mr. Owens' intentions. The author of the score also did, and she was horrified enough about Mr. Owens' extension of her idea that she issued the following to Clifford Owens:
I am withdrawing my piece from your Anthology Series. Your interpretation of my score, which I composed as a hypothetical, a ‘modest proposal’ in the Swiftian sense has pushed at the boundaries of what I deem acceptable. It has been told to me that you plan to take the gesture a step further and “force a sex act” on a viewer in an up coming performance. I refuse to have this idea of mine cause anyone physical harm. Challenging and highlighting abusive power dynamics in our culture is my goal, replicating them is not. Please cease and desist.”
Even though Ms. Walker had requested Owens not perform her work, the decision whether to "take it there" and face the consequences or find an alternative rest upon the shoulders of the 40 year old artist.
So what went down at the Museum of Modern Art this afternoon?
As it turns out, Kara Walker showed up and participated in her inaugural live performance.
According to Gallerist's Rozalia Jovanovic, it went down as follows:
“Perhaps they are wondering what they will do or how they will react if they are chosen,” Ms. Walker said in her opening remarks, a show of empathy with the audience, many of whom, she added, may have read Gallerist’s article or heard about what Mr. Owens planned to do in this performance. She explained that she first heard of his intentions to force a sex act on an audience member in the article we published on March 8. She then told the audience what they could expect: Mr. Owens would say things like “I’m going to fuck your brains out,” and “You know you want it, baby” and “This is what you think I am, just a nigger toy.”