What’s the best response when someone actively belittles or condescends your art? That was the topic of an illuminating conversation I had this weekend with choreographer, dancer and artist @iam_katemarch
about some of our experiences with individuals who aim to make our work feel small or stupid. For me, I just had a string of racism-tinged interactions at my @PhotovilleNYC
table where I was demo’ing “Asian in America” with a tasting of the last course “Fancy Because It’s French”. Many people immediately began to grimace when I explained the concept of the piece; a few stayed to eat but refused to watch the VR because they aren’t interested in this sort of stuff; one nasty fellow responded angrily when I suggested he watch the VR piece to better understand the food before taking a plate, walking off saying “Looks like soy anyway” in the most spiteful manner. I was so demoralized by the time I made it over to Kate’s, where she shared in solidarity that someone had dismissed the intricate paintings she creates using her whole body as a paintbrush as “high end mud wrestling”.
There’s no “right” response to make these interactions better, but after some self-reflection I began to see that being in tune with my own vulnerabilities does not mean I should allow myself to be more porous to others’ negativity. My innate tendency to accept the blame of others’ problems, having grown up with very conditional love, was clear. My hero @BreneBrown
has consistently championed this idea that vulnerability can be courageous, but I never quite understood it until now. Being vulnerable is courageous because showing your scars is frightening, but also because it is saying, “I can turn my ugly pieces into something meaningful, instead of casting it as more ugliness into the world.”
I’m sure I’ll still feel terrible the next time someone puts down my work, but instead of internalizing their angst I’ll know I’m creating art that touches a nerve. I’ll probably still spend too much time wrestling that hateful energy away, but eventually I’ll stand, walk up to the podium and share a story, just like this, about vulnerability and why it is art.