The Obligation to Explain
One of the striking aspects of the controversy around Kelley Walker’s exhibition at the Saint Louis Contemporary Art Museum (CAM) is how many important issues it raises, including, obviously, the perilous state of race relations in the country; the dilemmas that arise when one person’s freedom of speech is perceived by someone else as hate speech; whether white artists, or writers, musicians, etc. can tackle the subject of black experience without engaging in cultural appropriation; and the extent to which social media may now put pressure on museums and other public institutions to bring more transparency to their curatorial process (many protestors want to know who decided to show Walker’s work and why). All these topics urgently require discussion, but there is another one, perhaps less linked to social problems, that I would like to examine: Whether artists are under any obligation to explain themselves or their work?
Read Raphael Rubinstein’s important essay in full, exclusively at artcritical.com