Yesterday, someone (h/t June Jacobson, Dick Ranck at Brainstorms), shared the following YouTube clip as an example of inspired pedagogy. In this clip (9:45), the (older/white/male) professor uses an extremely provocative drawing my Kara Walker, a young, African American, woman artist to get reactions from his students and spark a discussion. (I wrote about the Kara Walker exhibit at The Whitney Museum back in 2007, here.) The professor, John Thornton, is leading an art class and he videotapes the class and the students’ reactions as he conducts the class. Here’s the clip:
In the context of a museum exhibit with curation that explains some of the artist’s intention, Walker’s work is meant to use racist images to question, challenge and critique stereotypes. I should say, too, that I admire Walker’s work a great deal and find it compelling, if disturbing. Yet, in this class, Thornton takes one of these images and uses it without that context. To me, this is many layers more complex than the controversy over the Delonas cartoon, and I still don’t know what I think about this use of Walker’s work. So, I’m posting it here to ask you all what you think. Is this inspired pedagogy? Or, is this a problematic use of a racist image out of context? Or, is it something else altogether?