A few weeks ago the freeDimensional site carried a post entitled February 18 Elections in Uganda // Honoring slain school teacher & LGBT activist David Kato. The very next post was about the death of a 24 year old artist, Victor Leiva, killed in Guatemala City. From the viewpoint of freeDimensional & the Creative Resistance Fund, there was a common condition that allowed both of these heinous acts to happen … a lack of support and protection! Many times, I am asked to provide a formula for how or why an artist gets into life-risking danger. Of course there are stylistic forms of censorship and suppression that are different from one region to another and when levied across diverse demographics, but I suppose there is a sort of countdown or sequence of events that is discernible: When the rule of law erodes (or has never formed) and the protective layers of civil society are stripped away due to contested elections, civil war, cross-border conflict, etc; when we know that journalists are fearful to give literal accounts of the impunity faced by their communities, then we also know that artists who bear witness to the societal condition will face danger. The outcome is the same for a artist in Guatemala and an LGBT activist in Uganda. Conversely, I would argue that to improve conditions for culture workers in areas of unrest would make it safer for grassroots activists (and vice versa). It’s also important to consider how sexual orientation can be used as grounds to economically marginalize a person regardless of whether his/her work is related through personal activism. For example I recently asked a grantee of the Creative Resistance Fund if sexual orientation had anything to do with the eminent danger faced. The answer was yes, but with the caveat that there is no way to know for sure until it is too late. Unfortunately, I have heard this on several occasions. When I think about all these overlapping vulnerable groups – grassroots activists, LGBT community, artists in conflict (or unsafe) areas – the concepts of precarity and intersectionality come to mind. According to Wikipedia, precarity means “existence without predictability or security, affecting material or psychological welfare.” And, “intersectionality holds that the classical conceptualizations of oppression within society, such as racism, sexism, homophobia, and religion-based bigotry, do not act independently of one another; instead, these forms of oppression interrelate, creating a system of oppression that reflects the “intersection” of multiple forms of discrimination.”
The image used for this post is by Velimir Zernovski, one of the few artists to directly explore notions of identity and popular culture as well as sexuality and gender identity in Macedonia. Zernovski states that “Artists are not here, especially now, to produce beautiful paintings to hang in your living room; our obligation is far more complicated.” freeDimensional & the Creative Resistance Fund have invited Velimir to talk about the issues laid out above while he is in New York for Alice, what else is out there? an exhibit at Gallery MC from 7-21 April. Stay tuned for more information on that talk or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.