It’s a Thing

Xandra Ibarra, Lumpy Lumpen, 2018

Xandra Ibarra, Lumpy Lumpen, 2018

We asked artist Xandra Ibarra to meditate on Michelle Handelman’s Hustlers & Empires at SFMOMA. While she was experiencing the performance installation, another hustle unfolded in her mind. Here’s the script. —Eds.


 

White Thing with Power and Brown Thing enter an empty room with one chair. White Thing with Power walks toward chair and sits while Brown Thing stands aside. White Thing with Power motions swiping credit card between Brown Thing’s butt cheeks and signals Brown Thing to sit on lap. Brown Thing sits on lap while White Thing with Power holds Brown Thing’s waist.

White Thing with Power:
(Formal in manner but eyes wander) Brown Thing is here and is considered one of many mediocre artists of color. She has proclaimed her hatred of white audiences for over a decade and in recent years has been sidelined by arts funding trends that focus on healing. Brown Thing has questioned her “hustle” in the arts industry by stating, “My game is vulnerable and not where it needs to be.” I am pleased to have yet another mediocre Brown Thing with us due to our funding demands. Welcome.

Brown Thing:
(Pops gum, chews and adjusts several rings on fingers)
Hi. Thanks for having me.

White Thing with Power:
This is a vulnerable time, isn’t it? (Strokes Brown Thing’s inner thigh) So, what do you mean by your game being vulnerable and not where it needs to be?

Brown Thing:
(Speaks in a hurried and irritated ESL fashion) I guess I mean to say that I have really been struggling to figure out how to become something other than other. If you are an artist of color, you better be an upstanding citizen making work about displacement, immigration, HIV/AIDS, police violence, war, prisons; your race, gender, sexuality, class and/or disability. If you aren’t making these themes neat and digestible in your work, you aren’t being (finger-counts to three) funded, hired, and/or reflecting the times. You feel me, White Thing with Power? And god knows many of us do reflect the times. The market requires that you phone it in, fake it till you make it, adopt alternative facts, share, like, tweet, and gram your basic AF political views in between writing fake-ass work proposals and uploading pictures of openings, attending fake “Women’s Marches,” works-in-progress, selfies, tits, ass, and drinks to social media.

White Thing with Power:
(Furrows eyebrows) So let me get this straight, are you saying you are making “fake” work about race, gender, sexuality, class, etcetera? 

Brown Thing:
(Uses decorated hands to speak like an ASL interpreter on hallucinogenic drugs) There’s a lot of well-funded anti-racist sanitized-feel-good-non-profity-products that lack artistic ingenuity and critical race politics out here. This work isn’t changing shit; it’s not even able to rally the troops to give a shit. At the same time, I recognize game, White Thing with Power.  This game right here… is boring. It’s sanitized. That’s what I mean when I say my “game is vulnerable and not where it needs to be.”

White Thing with Power:
(Laughs in knowing way and adjusts grip on Brown Thing’s waist) Yes, I agree that you are not adept at hustling. So you are saying anti-racist messaging in the art industry is a trend?

Brown Thing:
Mira, (points and looks at White Thing with Power with index finger and pinky) Brown Things can make liberal campaigns sexy with the aesthetic of “la résistance” AND can get a paycheck for making market-friendly racial content, shit, maybe even a salary. But it seems like artists of color are getting hustled tho. (Opens eyes as wide as possible then purses lips) Just saying. (White Thing with Power runs fingers through Brown Thing’s tangled hair). Cash me outside, me entiendes, Mendez?

White Thing with Power:
So what?

Brown Thing:
If we are going to hustle, let’s hustle. Let’s fuck already.  (Tilts chin upward and raises hands as if to say “come at me bro”). If I am surplus, if I am out here because you’re gonna check a box on your report. Then I wanna take this money, be dirty, offensive, obscene, wasteful, messy, delinquent, criminal. I wanna hustle YOU con estilo. (Taps skin under right eye gingerly with ring finger as if putting on concealer in an upward motion toward temple) I am looking basic and fake AF out here.

White Thing with Power:
(Leans forward to smell Brown Thing) Yes, I agree. You are as fake as they come. Thank you for cumming.

Brown Thing:
Thank you for having me. (Kisses White Thing with Power’s left cheek)

Leave a comment

Please tell us what you think. We really love conversation, and we’re happy to entertain dissenting opinions. Just no name-calling, personal attacks, slurs, threats, spam, and the like, please. Those ones we reserve the right to remove.

required

Sign Up

Join our newsletter for infrequent updates on new posts and Open Space events.
  • Required, will not be published