Updated: Mar 22
I must comment on the moral and ethical practice that is often lacking in the European art world.
It is inexcusable to create work based on a culture that you are not a part of, You have no right to exploit others, and as the artist it is your ego and pocket that is boosted by the work. I feel very strongly about this especially as someone who’s heritage and culture are not the same. I have Romany heritage and as much as i would love to create work based on it, I have grown up in a “british” working class (and for a short wealthier period middle class) family. I have only experienced “racism” in the whitest way possible, first when i found out about my Roma heritage and the common stereotypes were thrown at me, and more recently when i have been needlessly pestered about where i come from. These are nothing compared to the racism and inequality faced by people of other cultures and races, and they do not give me any right to create artwork surrounding racism, as it would be an insult to call it actual racism.
White people do not need to create work based on other cultures! There are many capable creatives within those cultures to create the work! We are surely past the time of the white saviour mentality.
Collaborative work is a solution to those who want to raise awareness of issues, use your privilege to give them a voice and to give them opportunities that have not been afforded to them thus far.
Exploitation also exists between anyone who has more privilege than their subject in social standing, economic, gender, sexuality, etc. So always check yourself and what you are producing to make sure you are not exploiting others. Consider who is privileged between you and your subject, if it is you make sure the work isn’t focussed entirely on you and the voice is of the subject.
Peter Devito has created work that focuses on those who struggle to get equality and to be able to be themselves, He creates work that gives the models a role in the idea, they aren't just passive objects in the portrait but part of the performance of making it. The images create a conversation not only between the artist and the viewer, but the model as well who is also speaking to the viewer about their experience. He shows how difficult subject can be tackled by giving a voice and power to those within the portraits.
Check out more of Peter Devito's work here
Ai Weiwei is a Contemporary Artist and activist, he creates work that talks about freedom, human rights, and censorship. In his latest project 'Human Flow' he has journeyed and lived with refugees walking quite literally in their shoes, this project is quite a personal on for him as he was once exiled by the Chinese government when he was a child. Although the project he creates is not based upon his experience but showing the experience of those refugees and giving them a voice. As he is a respected by the art world people are willing to listen to him and he has a large following, this gives the work more of platform to make the public aware of what it is really like. Below is a video of Ai Weiwei speaking about 'Human Flow' in more detail.