“Scaffold” at the Sculpture Garden Should Not Open

I must have been in the 3rd or 4th grade and was just learning how to cuss. My parents had heard me and washed my mouth out with soap. I must have really internalized their lesson because a couple days later I cussed again and didn’t even wait for them; I washed my own mouth out with soap and bit the bar so that they would see the teeth marks as proof.  Another time I was staying the night at my friends house and Real Sex came on HBO. I called my Dad and told him we were watching “boobie movies.” The point is I’ve never been able to ignore the pit in my stomach, the overwhelming feeling I get when something is going down that ain’t suppose to.

I got that feeling tonight as I stared at the fence around the Walker Art Center’s Sculpture Garden. Lined with banners and posters denouncing the sculpture “Scaffold” by Sam Durant which depicts the gallows used to murder 38 Dakota men –the largest mass execution in American history– the fence, the structure and the rent-a-cop standing guard on the other side are a grotesque reminder of where we are at. Despite the outcry from the Native community and others standing with them, and despite the acknowledgment of the history this structure is rooted in, the white folks in charge of the Walker have yet to choose humanity. Instead they put out a pseudo-apology calling it a learning moment and stated they were going to hold listening sessions where they will undoubtedly explain why they are right to keep the structure because we (white folks) obviously know best.38-hanged The structure will be constructed as a sort of jungle gym where kids (more specifically wealthy white kids) will be playing on Native trauma. This is not art. This is a perverse satiation of white guilt. The learning moment is over, it came in the outcry.

The fucked-up-ness of this should be apparent. This piece isn’t trying to make that more apparent, or say the things that Native people are already (and have been) stating pretty damn clearly.

No. This piece is for all of us perceived as white who already know this is atrocious but are hesitant to do anything about it. We are the ones that need to step up right now. The time is now to make it very clear where we stand. It’s easy to stand up to Trump and Richard Spencer, but what about when the racism comes from the “cultured” liberal? Where are we then?

As I stood by my car a woman from the small group of protesters still there walked over to me asking who I was and if I was a cop. 18740403_1585588718117875_2634764172826713758_nI totally understood why she was asking, I was the only white person there, and random white people don’t got a real solid track record in this work. It’s time to change that. It’s time to Retweet, share the post, make the status AND show up and put our bodies on the line.

We know, when we listen truthfully to our hearts, what the right thing to do is. We also know this is beyond disrepectful, it is dangerous. When we don’t do everything in our power to resist this type of fuckery we move, collectively, farther from our humanity.  When we don’t act with courage in accordance with our values redress, repair and reconciliation becomes that much harder. Peace becomes more and more ellusive.

I refuse to accept that. I cannot allow any more space between me and the rest of humanity.  I need to stand with the Native community and make it clear to the Walker that this structure needs to be removed immediaetly.  I want art that tells the truth and moves us closer to humanity as oppossed to facilitating erasure and making a mockery of history. I am paying attention to the pit in my stomach, and like when I was younger I got to do something about it. I hope you do too.

13 thoughts on ““Scaffold” at the Sculpture Garden Should Not Open

  1. The kids at the Cheyenne River Youth Project had the pins knocked out from under them when a company that promised them new playground equipment suddenly backed out. Take this piece of “art” apart, ship it to the Youth Project in Eagle Butte, South Dakota and fill it with slides and swings. When it’s full of the ancestors’ children having fun and smiling, I’ll call it art.

  2. I don’t know if it should be called “art” or not, and it’s important to figure that out because what we call something has a huge impact on how we use, perceive, and reference it. But how is this any different than maintaining Auschwitz or historical mental institutions and prisons or Nelson Mandela’s cell from the apartheid era? These atrocities serve to remind humanity of what we can be and do and to inspire change. If this Scaffold can serve that purpose, then maybe it should remain. It would then be the public’s duty to remind the “artists” of this so that they might not lose focus on the ultimate goal of what this “sculpture” could serve.

    1. It’s different because it is not an actual artifact of the events. (Also, it will not be staffed or otherwise equipped for “historical interpretation,” and it is not placed in a dedicated setting for such purposes. It is placed alongside a giant chicken, a spoon with a cherry on it, and a mini-golf facility.)

  3. I can’t believe anyone would be ignorant enough to even “think” this so called sculpture is art.
    It’s horrific and needs to be taken down!
    The nerve of people to even try a stunt like this is uncaring self entitlement, it’s thoughtless and it’s unbelievably cruel.

  4. I cannot bear to think of the pain and horror this abomination has done to the original people of Minnesota. Walker Art Center, you know this is not Art, not Artistic, not a “learning experience.” This gallows is how you thought to teach who? Have Native American’s ART on your grounds; Then you might “teach.”

  5. Yet, do we want to forget it happened? Seems to me this will be the result. I guess most have forgotten anyway. Why do we have the Haulicost Museum and the new Black History museum in Washington DC? Art is a reflection of the good and bad that happens in people’s lives.

    1. It is not in an appropriate setting for this purpose, and it will not be staffed or equipped for this purpose. It is in the same setting as a giant glass fish, a giant blue chicken, and a giant cherry and spoon.

  6. You may not like the history of our state, but if we ignore or hide that which we do not like, we can’t learn from our mistakes.

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