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You are watching: Gone with the wind silhouette
Kara walker talks about her interpretation of Gone through the Wind, and how it motivated her first silhouette piece, Gone, An historic Romance the Civil war As it emerged Between the Dusky Thighs of Young Negress and also Her Heart.
rwandachamber.org: your very very first silhouette work, Gone, An historical Romance of Civil war As it developed Between the Dusky Thighs of Young Negress and also Her Heart, makes recommendation to Margaret Mitchell’s novel, Gone through the Wind. What influence did this novel pat in the advance of her work?
WALKER: Gone through the Wind was one of those books that I already had preconceived principles about: I currently knew that ns wasn’t walking to like it. (LAUGHS) and also some of my experiences in Atlanta v the mythology of Gone v the Wind had things prefer the sequel to it that come out approximately the time ns was functioning in a large bookstore. And also some the the much more personal and also private events that taken place in and also around places like the Cyclorama, which is not too far away from whereby they filmed components of Gone with the Wind, and also where the fake Tara was.
I had accumulated prejudices against Gone with the Wind. The very first time I thought I would job-related with it, I remained in graduate school, and also I to be making a collage on peak of the book, Gone v the Wind, yet really, without having actually read it. I chose that wasn’t going to work, around halfway through.
And so, i plopped down, began to review the book, and also was dazzling with how engrossing the story was, and how grotesque it to be at the same time. Mine interests were already running along the present of various other versions of the historic romance—the permutations that Gone v Wind, to some extent. It was the most fitting choice of text to job-related with. However the romance of it, the storytelling—it to be so rich and also epic, and also that was what ns hadn’t expected. I hadn’t supposed to be titillated in the method that stories favor that space meant come titillate. And, at the same time, it to be so much fodder because that the work-related that I want to do.
rwandachamber.org: In some ways, that sort of storytelling is prefer the silhouette itself: evasive, yet confrontational.
WALKER: The silhouette lends itself to avoidance that the subject—of not being able to look at it directly—yet over there it is, all the time, staring girlfriend in the face. There it is, the whole human being of Gone with the Wind and also its legacy and also the way that influence people’s everyday encounters. I went v my young adult life in Atlanta half-blind, let’s say, ignorant to part extent, due to the fact that there that was. I was actually blinded through this melodrama. And the melodrama consists of a type of soft-focus view of racism and laws that room passed and also were passed, and also continue to be change to affect some kind of change, or to influence some sort of—oh, i don’t know how to explain it specifically . . .
You know, that designed to prevent the confluence the disgust and desire and voluptuousness that space all wrapped increase in this bizarre construct of racism. Girlfriend know, what black means in white America and what white represents in white America room all loaded v our deepest psychological perversions and fears and also longings. And it’s a dangerous means of doing things, but it’s just human, weirdly human.
rwandachamber.org: can you talk more about the fodder of Gone through the Wind? You defined the storytelling as soft porn and other stuff the was an extremely offensive.
WALKER: What deserve to I say? in ~ the story of Gone with the Wind—the yes, really novel and then the permutations of that in film and in life—my expectation, as I said, was to walk in and be kind of horrified and disgusted with representations of happy servants or ignorant slaves. The mammy number is both soothsayer and also does every little thing to you re welcome her white folks. And I entered my analysis of the book with a clear eye towards inserting myself in the text, somehow. And the distressing part was constantly being recorded up in the voice the the heroine, Scarlett O’Hara.
Now, ns guess a lot of what i was wanting to do in my work, and what I have actually been doing, has been about the unexpected. Friend know, the unexpected instance of type of wanting to it is in the heroine and also yet wanting to death the heroine, in ~ the very same time. And that sort of dilemma, the push and pull, is sort of the basis, the underlying turbulence that I bring to every of the pieces that i make, including the specifics: the mammy characters and also the pickaninies and also the monster sorts the descriptions.
At one point, Scarlett, in she desperation, is digging up dried-up roots and also tubers down by the slaves’ quarters, and also she’s overcome by a “niggery” scent and also vomits. (LAUGHS) and also it’s scenes favor that—that can go washed end by the type of vast, epic structure of the story—but the is an epic moment for me. What does that mean? and why is over there an presumption that ns should know what the means? and where go this idea come from, friend know: why is this odor so overpowering?
rwandachamber.org: So, the job is to concern the underlying structure of racist reasoning in one epic as quintessential together Gone with the Wind?
WALKER: Well, civilization will shot and question it. Stop say the gets doubted . . . But more poetic gestures take place in the real world, favor the Margaret Mitchell home burning come the floor (LAUGHS)—by no error of that is own, i’m sure. I desire to carry this conversation right into the now—with, friend know, Trent Lott or whomever, or just the idea the somebody prefer Strom Thurmond deserve to be in office for an eternity and bring see from another era into the twenty-first century. But it gets ploughed under and ploughed under to such a level that we assume, or the public assumes, that it’s not so important.
rwandachamber.org: What’s no so important?
WALKER: It. The It: the “niggery” scent. The gross, brutal manhandling the one team of people, dominant with one kind of skin color and one kind of perception of themselves, versus one more group of human being with a different kind the skin color and also a different social standing. And the presumption would be that, well, times adjusted and we’ve moved on. But this is the basic mythology, ns think, of the American project. The history of America is constructed on this inequality, this structure of a gyeongju inequality and a society inequality. And we buy right into it. Ns mean, whiteness is just as man-made a construct as blackness is.
rwandachamber.org: who is the Negress in the location of Gone, An historical Romance…? Is she your invention?
WALKER: Well, the Negress, together a term that I use to myself, is a real and also artificial construct. Every little thing I’m act is trying to skirt the line between fiction and also reality. And for the many part, I’ve title exhibitions and a book or 2 as though they to be the inventions of a “Negress of notable Talent” or a “Negress of part Notoriety.” ns guess it comes from a emotion of being a black color woman, an african American artist—that in chin is a title v a certain set of expectations the come v it from life in a culture that’s, maybe, no accustomed to a an excellent majority of african American females artists. It’s prefer a thing in itself. And it’s a construct that is not any kind of different to me 보다 the Negress.
The Negress that I originally was introduce to was out of cutting board Dixon, Jr.’s The Clansman. This is the good racist epos of the so late nineteenth century, the Birth of a Nation was based on. And there’s a figure in there, who’s defined as a tawny negress who is component secretary, part lover—this nefarious, dark vixen. She manipulating this misguided white statesman, who desires to placed blacks in greater offices and readjust the culture—and through this tawny negress, with this vixen, it is in the arbiter that our society norms. Can this symbol of all the is wrong and also sexual and vulgar be uplifted to the highest? mine answer being: Yes, she would, she will.
rwandachamber.org: So, yes a melodramatic facet not only to the type that the occupational takes, but additionally to life together it’s live now?
WALKER: Melodrama . . . I’ve constantly been interested in the melodramatic, in outrageous gestures. One point that gained me interested in working this way, with the silhouettes yet then functioning on a big scale, had actually to do with two longings. One to be to do a history painting in the grand tradition. I love history paintings. I didn’t realize i loved them because that a lengthy time. I believed that they to be ridiculous, in their pompous gesture.
But the much more I started to examine my own relationship v history—my very own attempts to position myself in my historical moment—the an ext love I had actually for this artistic, painterly conceit, i m sorry is: to make a painting a stage and to think of your characters, your portraits or whomever, as personalities on that stage. And also to give them this moment, to freeze-frame a moment that is full of pain and also blood and also guts and also drama and glory. The just came to be all the an ext relevant to my project.
And mine project, the been around many things. However I think—and I periodically forget to cite this—but the 2nd longing is around trying to study what that is to be an afri American mrs artist. So, it’s not simply an check of race connections in America today. Ns mean, it is a part of it; the a component of gift an african American woman artist. It’s about: “How carry out you make representations of your world, provided what you’ve to be given?”
rwandachamber.org: can you talk around the humor in your work? Is that a catastrophic humor?
WALKER: Giddy humor, giddy. I think I described this sort of disturbance that drives most of the work, and also it’s a turbulence that’s not unlike melodrama, or the type of dredging increase of every feeling one could possibly have about a case that is all around feeling. And it’s an overwhelming not come laugh off that behavior—that feeling of being overloaded, the end of control, can not to contain also the horror of being able to think about something the you understand you shouldn’t be reasoning about, or that you know isn’t going to deal with itself simply by thinking around it. It can not resolve itself through talking about it. It can not resolve itself by it spreads widely laws about it. Or writing around it.
And it’s that feeling of needing to make this giving as a kind of fact telling, no matter exactly how awful that is, and then—ugh, girlfriend know—being flabbergasted at even having to carry out that! Why should that also have to it is in done? and then, sometimes the occupational is simply ridiculous and silly and weird.
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rwandachamber.org: That sort of reality telling should be exhausting! perform you ever question yourself: “Why me?”
WALKER: I never ever say, “Why me?” I offered myself this job. (LAUGHS)
This interview was originally published on PBS.org in September 2003 and was republished on rwandachamber.org in November 2011.