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Imagine my surprise when I saw Richard Prince tweet a 6ft inkjet printed picture of a screenshot of an Instagram post of mine hanging up in my hometown of Detroit at MOCAD. I didn’t consent to my face hanging in this art gallery. What Richard is doing is questionably legal, but even if something is legal and “starts a dialogue” it doesn’t mean you should actually do it. Not all legal things are ethical. This, in my opinion, is a reckless, embarrassing, and uninformed critique of social media and public domain. This is appropriation artwork. This isn’t progressive, this isn’t even subversive. Maybe it was when he began doing this in 1977, but in 2019 it’s tone deaf. I am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. Part of the reason I take "sexy selfies" is because I am reclaiming my own sexualized image. To see my image on the walls of MOCAD feels as though a picture I've taken of myself to reclaim my sexual body is being used to violate me all over again. Given that millions of people are sexually assaulted each year, I imagine I'm not the only one who feels this work is a violation of boundaries on a much deeper level.
“Like many contemporary cultural institutions, MOCAD has always been a space for the playing out of disparate and conflicting ideas. We state in our mission that we fuel critical dialogue, we are proud of the critical and important work we are doing to present progressive and challenging artists and exhibitions for vast audiences. The works in the exhibition are not for sale, and are designed to prompt discussions about context, ownership, and originality—questions first asked in an institutional setting over 100 years ago by Marcel Duchamp, and more pressing than ever in our world of social media and big data. We invite audience/visitors to our free public programs to engage in the dialogue. MOCAD presents over 17 exhibitions and over 250 free public programs a year.
A talk by Brian Wallis on the work of Richard Prince will be held on Nov. 7 with a community dinner to follow, furthering the discussion. RSVP would be greatly appreciated.
The point of the exhibition is to speak about these issues of ownership and ask these questions. This is a very relevant discussion. Is social media empowering people or co-opting artistic production? Where do our expectations and perceptions around privacy and consent lead us when using social media? What are you consenting to when posting? Is all photography exploitive?
MOCAD respects the opinions of the community that it serves and artists that are exhibited and stands by their right to express themselves freely. With regard to the subject of the portrait, as soon as I learned of her concern I reached out and invited her to come and speak and share concerns. We met before the show opened to the public at the Museum. We asked if she wanted us to remove the work from the exhibition and at the time, she said that she did not want it taken down unless we removed all the works in the exhibition. MOCAD has no plans to censor the entire exhibition.
Anyone who undertakes a Richard Prince show understands that some visitors may have difficulty with the work. We invite their perspectives and further discussions about Richard’s artwork.”
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