Wednesday, March 28, 2018
Durham’s retrospective exhibition has reactivated longstanding debate surrounding his self-identification as Cherokee and his refusal to be categorized as a Cherokee artist. We acknowledge that Durham does not belong to any of the federally recognized and historical Cherokee Tribes in the United States, which as sovereign nations determine their own citizenship.
The opening and closing texts of this post appear in "Remai Modern Supports the Artist Jimmie Durham" from the Remai Modern website, on the occasion of Jimmie Durham: At the Centre of the World, which opened at the Remai this week.
The question I have of the opening text is not Durham's self-identification, nor the Cherokee Tribes' non-recognition of Durham as a citizen of its nation(s), but the word "debate." Has a debate really been reactivated concerning Durham's self-identification? Or is it a controversy, given the stakes and the way this touring exhibition has -- and has not -- played out?
Why not use the word controversy instead of debate, when that's what Durham's self-identification has sparked -- a controversy.
In its anxiety over hosting this controversial artist, the Remai has side-stepped the word controversy in favour of something that sounds like a conversation -- which it isn't. Not when the artist refuses the topic, and not when the museum has programmed a lecture series -- with no mention of something more dialogical, like a panel.
... the exhibition is accompanied by a lecture series featuring the exhibition’s curator Anne Ellegood, art historian Richard William Hill, and curator, artist and educator Gerald McMaster, adding perspectives on Durham’s influence in Canada. The museum will also present a series of films selected by Durham, giving insight into his interests and influences.