Monday, February 15, 2010

Dawoud Bey at the CAA

Dawoud Bey, one of Columbia College's most successful teachers in the photography department, was selected as this year's Keynote Speaker at the 2010 College Art Association Conference, held February 10-13th here in Chicago. I was unable to attend, unfortunately; but Bey has posted to his blog a transcript of his speech. After reading through it, I feel hopeful but still grounded. Bey does an excellent job of addressing the role of teachers in students' lives. Specifically, he asks educators to encourage their students to make work grounded in our society, not just in Art society, and to think holistically. He also talks about the importance of history, and how educators should constantly tie students' to their predecessors, to learn from them and realize the role they play in contemporary art. I am in total agreement with these statements.

"Those of us who are writing, teaching and otherwise shaping and presenting past and present history need to be mindful that history traditionally has always been a place of selective exclusion as much as it has been a place for selective inclusion masquerading as historical fact. I was reminded of this not too long when I found myself at dinner with a couple of young curators and their patrons. None of them knew the work or name of a single black artists that I asked them about, all of whom I confess had emerged before the 1990s. None of these rang a bell for these young art historians and museum workers who are charged with mounting exhibitions and writing publications that document the expressive work of our time. And these were not obscure or marginal me anyway. If one is going to do this work, one has to be willing and able to do the serious job of excavating history, not merely recognizing the already recognized and hitching your wagon to them. There are still histories waiting to be told and written, and the subjects are indeed hiding in plain sight. One has to believe that the work of bringing others into the center of the discourse truly matters."

To read the rest of this wonderful speech, check out Bey's post here.

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