Sunday, March 18, 2007

Flags are powerful symbols

From the AP:

When artist John Sims sees the Confederate flag, he sees "visual terrorism," and a symbol of a racist past. When Robert Hurst sees the flag, he is filled with pride as the descendant of a soldier who fought for the South during the Civil War.

Their differences have flared into a war of words, catching a local museum in the middle.

Hurst walked into the Mary Brogan Museum of Art and Science this past week and saw an exhibit by Sims, including a Confederate flag hung from a noose on a 13-foot gallows in a display titled "The Proper Way to Hang a Confederate Flag."

Hurst asked the museum to remove the display, along with 13 other pieces by Sims.

The museum, however, announced Friday it is standing by Sims' work, on display since Feb. 26, because it wants to inspire dialogue in the community about a symbol that engenders a diversity of strong responses.

"There's a balance between the nature of the art that we show and the outcome that we seek, which is to promote dialogue and conversation, and have you maybe think of something in a slightly different way," said Chucha Barber, the museum's executive director.


In this case, I would likely stand behind the museum and the artist. I am not in all cases against the display of such flags and symbols; it all depends on the purpose of the display. Is it because you want to glorify (and bring back) what is being represented? Or do you have educational purposes? Are you saying that what is being represented should never happen again? Are you trying to get people to think?

I liked the museum's reaction to protests against its display of the confederate flag:

The museum, however, announced Friday it is standing by Sims' work, on display since Feb. 26, because it wants to inspire dialogue in the community about a symbol that engenders a diversity of strong responses.

"There's a balance between the nature of the art that we show and the outcome that we seek, which is to promote dialogue and conversation, and have you maybe think of something in a slightly different way," said Chucha Barber, the museum's executive director.

3 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

What people fail to realize is that symbols can be co-opted. The Nazis did this with a variation of the Buddhist symbol that became known as the swastika. There is no reason why the so-called "Rebel flag" can't be co-opted by black Americans to the point that they don't have to worry about it being displayed because white people will abandon it.

This could happen very simply. All it would take is a powerful black rap artist to start wearing the flag and displaying it and saying "This is OUR flag! This is the flag of my brothers and sisters!" I guarantee you that once the flag becomes a black symbol that white America will drop it faster than a hot potato.

1:13 AM  
Blogger Wulingren said...

Interesting comments. It's kind of like that Dr. Seuss story with the those with the stars on their bellies and those without. But, do you think that could work, say, with Jews and the Nazi swastika? Could they really co-opt that symbol? Would it suddenly become devoid of its reference points, and the reality behind the symbol? Its recent history, the violence, the man behind the mask, if you will. Even in the scenario you mention: would the rap artist's move be accepted within the Black community at large? Would he use the flag wholesale--that is, just as it is? Or would there have to be a transformation of the symbol.

For instance, the Nazis didn't just use a Buddhist symbol for their flag; they altered it; they transformed it into something that was their own. And they did it, for the most part, in an area of the world that was unaware of other forms of the symbol.

7:30 AM  
Blogger Marta Clavero said...

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r who faced many setbacks before he managed to debut. Because of this, he could understand the feelings of those who aspires to be singers, hence the tears.
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11:06 AM  

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