Week 3: Kent Monkman

Please post your responses to this weeks readings here. View more of Monkman’s performances and his incredible paintings on his website.  Screen Shot 2016-02-14 at 11.34.38 AM

7 thoughts on “Week 3: Kent Monkman

  1. Taxonomy- The simple reversal is quite remarkably effective. It shows of how self-centered people can be, when they live inside their moral imaginary, to think of themselves as the center and the other as a token. Suddenly when the tables are turned, it is amusing to see the truth simply laid out. This recalls how amused we are when we see people do impressions, of politicians, celebrities, or of our friends and families. The ability to shine a lens on ourselves is attractive. But where does the line get drawn between flattery and spoof, and real social commentary. As “too-perfect mimicry is a threat” how close can you get to a seething report, before it turns the viewer off, and they choose to not listen anymore?

    Romanticizing or degrading… Our accounts of history are through a painter’s lens, and therefore their experience and artistic interpretation alone. And whose pictures are on display where? In which museums? And I don’t go to museums. So who researches this, for when things are shown on tv or movies? We are looking through a lens of a lens of a lens. The “obsession with what has already been said is still not enough” as opposed to new ideas. So, it’s no wonder we say “they no longer exist” or “we don’t see that anymore”. We are so busy looking through multiple dimensions of lenses that we forget to go looking for what’s rght in front of us.

    SO INTERESTING that this is being performed at the Smithsonian for the American Indian. I feel that is a tokenizing museum.

    Blood quantum and proof of authentic heritage as a main strategy of colonialism- divide and conquer. It deletes the idea of culture, and how culture and blood have no relation to each other. But then, where dos the line get drawn? But then…where does a culture’s line get drawn? Cultures (like accents) used to have very specific locations, but in the 20th century world of heavy immigration and cultural sharing, what does “culture” mean?


  2. While reading through the intro to Monkman’s three performances I was interested in the idea of identity being a series of performative acts rather than an “inborn essence.” Does this mean identity is something you create? Something you actively choose? Or something you are born with? Is identity defined by yourself or by others? By carrying out “performative acts” are you able to create your own identity or will your idenity still be decided for you by other people’s perceptions of those acts?

    I loved looking through Kent Monkman’s paintings on his website. I found them humorous and then chilling. The combination of drag performance and explicit sexuality with human genocide and the destruction of culture is extremely unsettling.

    I also found myself wondering: Can our reality ever truly change if the past is and will always be a part of the present?

    Side note: How can one human be so good at writing, painting, film AND performance? Would love to meet and talk to Kent. Awesome.


  3. I’m fascinated by the way Miss Chief simultaneously inhabits paintings, museum dioramas, and live performance. Being in her presence feels like wandering with a time traveler, and seems to create a singular, new focal point that gazes over the entire history of art from a deeply personal and passionate perspective.
    It’s interesting (and entertaining) to me that Kent Monkman uses Miss Chief to revisit history through a modern homosexual lens—but I’m frustrated that he does not examine the nuanced differences between modern queer culture and the two-spirit tradition. Much of his satire relies on gay/camp tropes—hyper masculine ideals, magenta pump heels, humorous come-ons—that are the product of a highly commercialized twentieth century gay culture. The two spirit tradition, to me, seems as distinct from modern homosexuality as the differing gay cultures of medieval Japan, Persia, and ancient Greece, all of which embody different value systems. Equating two-spirit people and modern gay men feels like its own act of historical and cultural erasure.
    –Jack Dwyer


  4. Wow I want to see Miss Chief performing this script live so badly! It was interesting how particular things in the first two pieces reminded me of things I have heard or learned in other classes. For example, I was able to make a correlation with articulation class (where we are learning about neutral masks) with the entry, “Man in the simplicity and loftiness of his nature, unrestrained and unfettered by the disguises of art, is surely the most beautiful model for the painter” (Taxonomy of the European Male). The third piece made me really mull over the concept of Blood quantum (for obvious reasons, it was talked about a lot haha). I had never even known what BQ was before this class so it was interesting, and frustrating, to hear stories involving it.


  5. We see truth in laughter. This performer leads us to truths by way of absurdism. We start with something extreme, find ourselves laughing and suddenly we realize what’s so funny? Is this drag character really anything that far out? The aggregate of of the absurdity of a people’s suffering. Satire cuts the deepest. She’s like the bright light of truth. Stranger than fiction.


  6. Kent Monkman’s performance left me wondering who has the right to determine an individual’s cultural identity. Does the government have the right to grant privileges for cultural groups? If laws were passed to eradicate the Native American population, then why do they persist and how, if it all, do they benefit Native Americans?


  7. Viraj’s post:

    The Taxonomy of the European Male explores the phenomenon of exotification in reverse, with Kevin Monkman treating Europeans as the exotic subject while Miss Chief appropriates the status quo. While exotification usually establishes a hierarchy with the status quo in power, the phenomenon (in my experience with first person accounts of Europeans in India) generally attributes a raw beauty to the exotic subject that could not exist in the normative civilization of the status quo. However, this connection to a spiritual world or nature does not endow the exotic subject with powers beyond piquing the interest of the status quo, as normative civilization has grand systems working in relation with one another, whereas exotic subjects usually do not have a singular front or united government. Basically, the process of exotification fascinates and disgusts me with how the normative viewer finds beauty in an exotic subject that is directly tied to defining this other as a subaltern only in relation to the viewer’s home.


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