Pictures of you is the title of a workshop held in Turin on March 21st-22nd, 2011 with a group of students from the Accademia Albertina (Art), the University of Torino (Philosophy) and from the Holden School (Writing) working with artist Kara Walker and writer Rebecca Walker.
Pictures of You have been a two-day exploration of human empathy through artistic and narrative means.
The workshop - curated by Luca Morena - was part of the project Kara Walker: a negress of noteworthy talent curated by Olga Gambari and produced by Fondazione Merz, Torino.
Here we report some bits of the Q&A with Kara and Rebecca Walker.
Part one | Questions to Kara
How - and to what extent - do you think the passage of time affects the contents of your work?
What can stereotypes tell us about humanity? Will stereotypes always exist in the collective human consciousness? Or will we be able to get rid of them? Are there any positive stereotypes that might spread and reinforce tolerance and acceptance? Does intention matter in applying a stereotype?
What kind of fight should women carry on in art? Do you believe art can still be a form of social struggle?
When we encounter an environment which is culturally, politically, socially, economically different from ours, we feel like outsiders and experience how difficult communication and integration can be. We feel our identity threatened, but we don't want to be reduced to a stereotype just because we belong to an ethnic, social or cultural group. On the other side, we risk to apply stereotypes to the unknown reality, because our own background and history burden us with prejudices. How can artists shake our habits and make us free from everyday limiting reactions using their expressive power and imagination?
Regarding the representation of social injustice that is essential to your works, do you succeed in putting some distance between you - your background - and your artworks? Or are you inevitably and always part of your works, not only as their author, but somehow also as their hidden/visible subject?
Do you see yourself not only as a visual artist but also as a kind of “visual narrator”? Is there a line of continuity between your style of “visual narration” and the styles that have been used by the masters of the past? Why do you use “shadows/silhouettes” instead of images?
Part two | Questions to Rebecca
Do you think photos and other forms of representation augment or diminish the humanity of depicted subjects? How can an object (of a representation) still be a subject?
Do you think the election of Barack Obama was a significant step towards equality between races in US?
Even if neuroscience shows we're naturally inclined to empathize with others, this proves to be tough at a deeper level, also because of the influence of stereotypes. You tried to focus public attention to new forms of human relations and families which don't fit traditional stereotypes. When encountering a human being, we're struck by diversities and feel uneasy. How is it possible to recognize/reconstruct/imagine an identity for the other that goes beyond this first glance?
What are the features that, according to you, may turn an orphan photo - depicting ordinary life scene - into a photo with some historical relevance, into a piece of collective Memory (with the capital M)?
Part three | Questions to both
Art, your art, could be considered a way to release unconscious psychic energies, trough the reworking of archetypes? What is for you an archetype?
In your artistic experience, in what sense (and to what extent) can an artist work with stereotypes? Is it somehow culturally "dangerous"? And can art raise questions that prejudice and stereotypes hide?
What aspect strikes you the most in orphan photos? Is it the depicted portion of reality or what has been left outside? What are the issues that are raised by the existence/nature of orphan photos/documents that interest you the most?
The music that come with these recordings is by Inane and by Primitive Thinkers.