October 21, 2020

During these uncertain times, SMoCA has invited artists and staff to utilize our blog Inspire as an outlet to make meaningful connections by sharing personal reflections and insight into their practice. 

Gabriela Muñoz and Christina You-sun Park, Silence will not protect US, 2020. Site-specific installation on the exterior of SMoCA.

When initially invited to create a temporary, free installation for SMoCA that specifically dealt with politics, it was a difficult prompt to process on multiple levels. In this time of racial reckoning, it seems most pertinent to examine and address our everyday complicity in the multiple injustices that make up the reality for our Black peers. 

Gabriela and I are both women of color, but we are neither Black nor Indigenous, and it’s important to us to underscore that BIPOC populations are not monolithic and we have not all lived through the same experiences. America’s history of inequity, enslavement, and cultural genocide, means that within BIPOC communities we have different privileges within the various circles of access we inhabit at the margins. 

That being said, at the center of our collaboration we have a common experience as moms of color. This embodied knowledge led us to ask of ourselves: what does it mean to be in healthy solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, as mothers of biracial children and as allied women of color?

Another question that was part of the development of this project was how we would respond to the place in which the piece is currently installed. COVID-19 has exacerbated already large economic divides and laid bare the inequities prevalent in our field of visual arts. The museum field, much like the world of philanthropy is made up of predominantly white institutions (PWI), which reflect our nation’s history and acquisition of wealth. The field has acted as the steward of eurocentric standards of beauty and has recently begun the important work of self-inquiry for growth and inclusion that more closely reflects the communities it engages and serves. This new call to repudiate patriarchal structures of power holding for the sake of a healthier field led us to engage in dialogue. By inviting two brown artists to create political artwork in this moment, we thought deeply about what it means for SMoCA to make space for this type of inquiry? And how do we respond, knowing that this is the background, the place and the context for this new artistic collaboration.

Christina You-sun Park putting the finishing touches on Silence will not protect US before installing the work on the exterior of SMoCA.

This piece is the visual manifestation and reflection on these questions. In it we aimed to highlight the allyship of the Portland moms earlier this year in supporting the safety of BIPOC activists. These moms engaged by recognizing the inherent privileges that they hold as white women who could no longer stay silent. This shift to solidarity with a lens of racial equity is intrinsically tied with the health of our communities. For help in understanding our journeys as allies, John Hopkins Medicine Office of Diversity Inclusion and Health Equity list is a good place to start, and a first solid step is to donate to the Black Lives Matter Phoenix Metro organization here.

Gabriela Muñoz in process of creating Silence will not protect US.

To close these thoughts, we re-center in Audre Lorde’s writing from her book Sister Outsider, which is quoted on the artwork itself:

“In becoming forcibly and essentially aware of my mortality, and of what I wished and wanted for my life, however short it might be, priorities and omissions became strongly etched in a merciless light, and what I most regretted were my silences. Of what had I ever been afraid? To question or to speak as I believed could have meant pain, or death. But we all hurt in so many different ways, all the time, and pain will either change or end. Death, on the other hand, is the final silence…My silences had not protected me. Your silence will not protect you…In the transformation of silence into language and action, it is vitally necessary for each one of us to establish or examine her function in that transformation. . . .”—Audre Lorde

Entry by Christina and Gabriela

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