DANIELA ORTIZ: ABC OF RACIST EUROPE @ MIMA
I’ve written about this time and again, over and over. I am prepared to admit that i have vested interests (things i am aware i’m circumnavigating in my own work) and bias, and a lot of this is a question of taste. But i guess i like writing about different art in the same way. I think when me n Gab are 30 we’ll look back at the ppl, the writers we are now the way I look back at my teen journals. Like. I don’t really keep a journal any more bc twp fills the same function, it satisfies that same part of me that wants to make sense of my life & the things around me by writing about it. And i think that’s where doing this, writing about different art in the same way, that’s where this gets interesting kinda.
I wana write about this show by writing about the way it handled its form; the way the polemic/the didactic rubbed against itself. I know i know i have written the same thing over and over. I wrote about this (kinda) when I wrote about Imran Perretta @ Jerwood, and Rehana Zaman @ Tenderpixel also. bUT! we are all ever evolving and changing and I shift and change and i think what i like the most about being a ~critic~ about stating ur thoughts so publicly, and so visibly: it’s that I have to acknowledge that i’m never standing on even ground. I’m never the same when i encounter these things. I’ve always moved on, forward, backwards, sideways maybe even the odd diagonal who knows. These things can feel strange or familiar.
I love a fierce woc who’s unafraid to shout in the face of whiteness. I wish that was me. I have a fear of confrontation (it might surprise u to know) (i think my boy rubs off on me, he is the biggest libra I have ever met) Gab always has to remind me not to unnecessarily apologise in emails, to make sure my speech is self-assured. bc these things r obvs gendered. and if it’s gendered, then ofc it’s racialised too. But I also fear the way that shouting could maybe feel singular in its address. Does shouting like that belong in art? i mean, i’m not saying yes or no, and neither should you. But i always like it better when art doesn’t simplify itself, should we, WOC simplify ourselves, our message, our speech so we can slide it that lil bit smoother into a white institution?
While i sit here and weigh up these questions, overthink, think in circles, convince myself out of saying anything in the meantime:::: I feel like this is when Daniela Ortiz stopped thinking and started doing. The curator who took us round this show at MIMA told us that Daniela is also an activist, she’s been in literal prison for her activism. There is something rly rly radical about an artist who says: “fuck it, i’m just gonna do it” n departs from there ;;; does ;;; makes ;;; acts ;;; esp when i feel that weight, that gaze pressing in around me. Making art as a woc can sometimes feel like walking on eggshells. ORTIZ DOESN’t CARE. SHE STOMPS ON UR EGGSHELLS. There is no minding ur tone, considering how a white audience would absorb this work. There is not a single fuck given in this show ((( this show is literally called ‘ABC of Racist Europe’ and if u were not sure what the title was, in the corner of the room is a blackboard with those exact words spelt out for u, so if u didn’t kno now u kno. ))) I really really appreciate that. Because i often find myself wondering about complicity and how much do i assume an audience’s complicity in my agenda, the vocabulary i use. there is something unapologetic about that lack of consideration for the complicity needed to just get ur head around the title. it made me smirk. i was in on the joke. a ha ha ha.
Lemme walk u round the show in my mind & in us bc i rly wana make u understand just how few fucks were visible to the naked eye. so you walk in. in the middle of the room is a long bench, little stools tucked under, pens and paper on the bench and then displayed on the length of the bench is the ABC, the ABC of Racist Europe. ’N is for Nation: National borders and nationalities are systems created by Europe… the end of the colonies didn’t mean the end of the colonial global order” “I is for Island: Europe will turn into an Island in their attempt to stop us, while calling us ‘illegal immigrants’. They will put razor wire all over their territory and we will laugh from the outside when they realise they are trapped inside” there is something about this format i found so so so funny. Like educating white ppl, let’s start like u teach a baby: ABC, say it with me, England is racist, address ur complicity. Behind that bench, along the long wall: in the middle was a broken statue on a high plinth, a white bust of a white man, CEO of Frontex (they’re the ppl ‘managing the European migration crisis’ aka: running brutal deportations, managing and guarding the border, and letting migrants drown). Next to the bust, was a video of Ortiz slapping the bust in the face, punching holes into its delicate skin. On the small wall was a large cluster of small landscape paintings by Omid Haskemi. the sea, some cliffs, a beach, forest covered in snow, barbed wire (these were all landscapes of places migrants on boats have landed). I didn’t think much about the symbolism there, i mostly just thought they were really nice, sweet paintings; they have that nice matte finish that acrylic paint has, that vivid colour of films when u watch on torrents. something dreamy and magic about them. I just thoroughly enjoyed looking at them tbh.
There is something about that 0 fucks visibly given that just fukin charmed me. It is brave, idc idc idc if u think it’s not; idc if u think this is offensive, boring, trite, overdone. idc about Waldemar Januszczak saying identity has taken over, wah wah. i do not give any fucks any more. I am a brown female art critic and i do not care what my white readers think of the validity of my opinions. This show was brave and loud and it was far from singular. It felt like blood rushing to ur face when u stretch ur arms in the morning. I wish i wasn’t so suspicious of the polemic, of didacticism, of diatribe. Anger is powerful, it is a tool we can use to affect, to move, change, act, make. I wana use it. As we came away from the exhibition, the curator gave us a book that accompanied it. It was a children’s book called ’There is a monster under my bed!: a tale about the beast of the immigration office’ I am going to give it to my tiniest, favourite cousin (she is 5 years old, and I’m trying to teach her about all these radical things, make her a fierce antifa) and I am glad. I am glad this book exists, i am glad this show exists, i am glad that even if i am afraid of shouting, other woc aren’t. I am glad to have them to remind me i should shout too. And most of all, i hope when my tiny cousin is older, she isn’t afraid to shout either.