Apparently I got so angry I dissapeared

Work, this time. But I’m back now. Hopefully folks didn’t miss me too much.

I have a lot of posts floating around in my head right now, but not sure which one I want to work on first. However, I did want to share something with you all before I forgot about it:

The Proper Way to Hang a Confederate Flag

AP Photo/Phil Coale

When artist John Sims sees the Confederate flag, he sees “visual terrorism,” and a symbol of a racist past. When Robert Hurst sees the flag, he is filled with pride as the descendant of a soldier who fought for the South during the Civil War.

Their differences have flared into a war of words, catching a local museum in the middle.

Hurst walked into the Mary Brogan Museum of Art and Science this past week and saw an exhibit by Sims, including a Confederate flag hung from a noose on a 13-foot gallows in a display titled “The Proper Way to Hang a Confederate Flag.”

Hurst asked the museum to remove the display, along with 13 other pieces by Sims.

The museum, however, announced Friday it is standing by Sims’ work, on display since Feb. 26, because it wants to inspire dialogue in the community about a symbol that engenders a diversity of strong responses.

The very first paragraph in that is the most important bit, I think. People on both sides of this issue have such strong reactions to this symbol, but they are so, so vastly different. That’s why I really like this piece of art. Not because it reflects a POV I agree with, but because it smacks everyone in the face with the question: What Does This Flag Mean To You and Why?

I would have preferred the piece to be untitled, or at least have a title that does not reflect a clear bias on anti-Confederate flag because I really think that art can be both neutral and partial at once. And it allows for so many other questions and discussions. How would you feel if that was an American flag instead and the artist was Iraqi or Afghani or Saudi? Or even if it was the scary Burger King doll-man and the artist was an obese person? I mean, there is so much going on here, so much more than just “The South Sucks”. I want discussions to reflect that.

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23 Responses

  1. I agree that it would have been better without the title… the title is a little didactic.

    I have a lot of sympathy for people who want to be proud of the South, and of being Southern, despite the troubles of history.

    But I don’t manage to have a lot of sympathy for the use of the Confederate flag as the symbol of that pride.

    I’m trying to come up with a good analogy that won’t trigger Godwin’s Law… :-)

  2. How would you feel if that was an American flag instead and the artist was Iraqi or Afghani or Saudi?

    I would feel the Iraqi, Afgani and other Middle Eastern people would have every right to be angry at the image that the American flag would create in their minds.

    The U.S. has been a vicious colonial, imperialistic, jingoistic bully for far too long towards every nation on this Earth.

    And America’s invasion (yes, that is what it was, no matter what Pan Troglodyte says), of Iraq is just one more notch in its belt in this country’s hell-bent agenda of aggression against any nation that does not kowtow to its greedy materialistic demands.

    If Iraqis chose to burn the U.S. flag out of anger, or hang it in a art exhibit, I know that they will be justified in their actions, as a people, and in the artwork of an individual artist.

    Just as justified in their anger as a black American would be at the sight of a flag that has condoned the torture, rape, lynching and destruction of black people in this country.

    As for the title.

    I would have much prefered my following take on what I would consider to be the appropriate title:

    “Arrangement #1, In Red, White, and Blue, Portrait of a Flag”.

  3. (P.S.: I never did like for artists to give their artworks the name “Untitled”.)

    Untitled always sounded like a cop-out to me.

    Just give it a name, for goodness sakes.

    You can’t please everyone, and no matter what title you give the artwork, someone is bound to get pissed off on just the subject/content matter alone.

    That’s the chance you take as an artist.

    Either learn to live with the controversy your work may cause, or go into another line of painting.

    Shall we say, millwork/cabinet painting?

  4. Freedom of speech is freedom of speech.

    I have no problem with this piece of art, and I wouldn’t even if it were the American flag. It’s a piece of cloth, a symbol, not something to be worshiped.

  5. And I did miss you, ABW.

  6. It’s hard to be objective when I agree with the artist. Personally, I don’t think this work of art is bashing the South or even the confederate flag. I think it’s just illustrating the very association that makes that flag so painful to some people. It’s saying you can’t separate that flag from those gallows and all they represent.

    I agree with the first poster: Southern pride is fine. I’m confident they can come up with other symbols of the positive that don’t carry such negative connotations.

  7. I have looked at it and see the symbolism. Indeed the flag does represent terrorism. It is a bit of American history some wish to forget, and yet others wish others “get over”.

    That in itself demonstrates that this country has not gone very far in terms of race relations and any improvement.

    It is a telling visual and I wonder it it still stands as pictured. Some people have an odd contempt for such things.

    The truth hurts.

  8. As an a conceptual artist it is sometimes important to be clear about the intellectual source of the process. This piece is a extension of Dread Scott’svery important work called” What’s the Proper Way To Display a US flag”. This is why I entitled it the way it is. Any in case I am happy that folks are talking about the formal issues around the work and Flag issue itself. Stay posted with http://www.johnsimsprojects.com or myspace.com/johnsims

    John Sims

  9. Mr. Sims.

    Welcome.

    I left a comment over at your site.

    Sorry if I was a bit harsh in my comment about artists and painting millwork.

    And as for what Robert Hurst has to say about your exhibit:

    Hang tough, stick to your guns, and let no one turn you around.

    This flag symbolizes the lowest level a group of human beings can sink to.

    If the white people of the South really wanted to show so much pride in this region, they would do well to work with their fellow black citizens in the truest sense of the Bill of Rights, the U.S. Constitution, and the Bible.

    Worrying more over how to be a decent, humane human being is more important, than crying over a flag that has destroyed many untold black lives in this country.

  10. Oh awesome, a comment from the artist himself. Welcome!

    I wasn’t aware this piece was in ‘conversation’ with Dread Scott’s work. Now I completely understand why you titled it that way. I find this kind of art very interesting – part of a dialog between other pieces of art as well as the people who view it. And, as I said above, I do really like this piece.

  11. I like the title. He knew what the piece was about, and he freakin’ well had the balls to say it.

    I also have absolutely no sympathy for the people who are offended. I’m from Georgia, the state who had a protracted battle over having the confederate flag as our state flag. Thing is, the state flag was changed in the 50s because of the civil rights movement of the era. It was CLEARLY meant as a racist symbol, and I’m disgusted and ashamed that they couldn’t get it off our own statehouse without resorting to a hideous compromise that still contained the confederate flag. Ugh.

  12. Untitled always sounded like a cop-out to me.

    Just give it a name, for goodness sakes.

    A thing is what it is. When I make a quilt or bake a pie, I consider it art just as much as when I write a story. I usually name my stories (not always); I never name a pie. (I named a quilt once, I called it Miroslav).

    No need for installation art to carry a name. “Untitled” isn’t a name, it’s just a phrase that galleries use to indicate that the thing has no title.

    Besides, I’m not good at naming things. Just my $.02.

  13. “No need for installation art to carry a name. “Untitled” isn’t a name, it’s just a phrase that galleries use to indicate that the thing has no title.”

    Yeah, yeah, I know.

    I just like titles.

    I know the world does not come to an end if some artists don’t name their artwork.

    And some of the titles that some artists have given their artwork, can be very snazzy, especially some that I remember to this day:

    ” Muscular Dynamism, Or, Unique Forms of Continuity in Space”, Umberto Boccioni

    and,

    “Nude Descending a Staircase”, by Marcel Duchamp

    And sometimes, NO TITLE can do the particular piece any justice.

    Sometimes the artwork itself speaks, and tells the viewer more than the artist might have meant.

    Just goes to show that NO TWO people are going to come away from a piece of artwork with the same impression.

    Therefore, Robert Hurst and I will NEVER see this gentleman’s artwork the same way.

    Ever.

  14. Ok, obviously alot of Americans do not realize that this is not a big deal. The title John chose just makes the piece stronger and more effective in the point he is trying to prove. On one hand, yes, this flag represents a chunk of history and culture we cannot forget. However, it is also seen as a very offending and racist item. John Sims had every justification in doing this. If people today can still openly participate in the KKK and perform acts of cruel prejudice, why can’t an artist make a statement about the way he feels his culture has been treated?

  15. I reside in Wakulla county, Florida just south of Tallahassee.

    We are constantly subjected to the remarks of Robert Hurst and his cohorts.

    Hurst writes letters to our local paper, writes a column for a monthly publication, Wakulla Area Times, titled The Confederate Journal. The kindest comment I can make about Hurst would be that he suffers from a severe case of cranial rectal inversion.

    It is my opinion that Hurst is a racist hiding behind his beloved Confederate flag. He and his group are not promoting Southern heritage, rather they are promoting hatred and bigotry.

    Recently, our community raised funds for a monument to pay tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the monument was placed on our courthouse lawn and dedicated just a few weeks ago. It was a time of great pride for many of us.

    The following week some imbicile wrote to our paper whining that they wished to have a monument erected to Robert E. Lee. He was unable to convey his request without taking verbal shots at the NAACP, Christian Coalition, and Dr. King.

    I also had the pleasure of recieving a threatning phone call as I had donated money to erect the monument to Dr. King. I won’t repeat the words used but I will say this, I was told I would be taught a lesson.

    You see, I’m an angry white woman who grew up in the 60’s. What “lesson” are these people going to teach me? None.

    I enjoyed the Sims exhibit, his message was clear and 100% on the money. I only wish he’d put Billie Holiday’s rendition of Strange Fruit in the” proper way to hang a Confederate flag.”

    What sickens me the most was reading Florida Statute 256.051 which offers full protection of the law to the Confederate flag and all other emblems of the Confederate States as well as ALL military and naval forces…

    Just consider me an old white woman who is sick and tired of hatred and the nonsense that goes with it.

  16. “cranial rectal inversion”

    I love you! :-)

  17. Here here! It is wonderful to hear from another angry white woman from Florida and to know that not ALL of us were jaded with the good ole boy dumbass mentality that was given to us growing up!! I loved this piece of art! I am still in awe of this and also of Dread Scott’s work, not just his american flag piece, but ALL of it. It speaks of what is STILL going on in our society – our world is crying for equality but nobody seems to be listening to the nice and politically correct requests… something like this gets listened to.
    The sight of a confederate flag turns my stomach, there is no way that I can make up for what some of my ancestors did (some of my ancestors were Irish slaves, but I am sure that even some of them participated in the racism prevelant in that day), the others were good ole german mississippi boys that i KNOW participated and while I cannot change that, I can move forward with my own actions and the actions of my children… part of that is respecting and supporting work like this.
    Bravo!

  18. I like this article by an angry black woman as honest. She does not persecute the Confederate flag on a whole sale basis as some do. If the flag used in Simms art had been an American flag we would have the same type of emotional response from citizens as this display did from some more historical savvy southerners. Only marginal artist need rely on such gimmicks.

    The Confederate flag does not have a government to defend it or to move into the future. Let’s keep in mind that cotton did not grow in the north and that the African slave shipping was from ALL northern ports.

    If you asked in 1861 what the Mexicans, Indians, or migrant Chinese what they thought of the American flag we wouldn’t be surprised. It is interesting that the Confederate Constitution was nearly the same as the United States Constitution and that they wanted to take the stars and stripes as well but the north already had it. In further, we must note that the newly freed black men were more than happy to be formed into regiments of buffalo soldiers and help enslave, rape, and annihilate the western Indians.

    When I see the Confederate flag I see it as a symbol of southern pride and smaller centralized government.

  19. A lovely desecration of a filthy cloth fit only for wiping a butt.

    We must destroy, mock, and humiliate every symbol of illegit power and misanthropy. Persecuting these symbols strikes at the core of the evil they represent.

    The Coffinederate Flag that flogs a race into subjection is to be abused and burned at every opportunity. I have done some Confetti-erate flag desecration rituals on my Justin.tv channel.

    Keep up the good work.

    Too didactic? Oh please. It’s a clever title and it works with the sight to form one complete desecration act.

  20. Don’t BS anybody.

    The Confederate Flag has only one meaning: White Supremacy.

    In practice: enslave the blacks, rape their women, whip the men, keep them away from education.

    The earlier version was the stars and bars as a small square in the upper left corner, upon a pure white field.

    Don’t let anybody kid you about what that soiled toilet paper of a flag really stands for.

  21. Untitled works of art simply means the artist can’t think of what to call it. Not that it speaks for itself, for it cannot speak or write or dance or swim.

    Ask the ghost of Derrida. I’m sure he’ll agree.

    “Not Untitled” is okay, too.

    :^)

  22. Vaspers, I’m going to have to disagree with your assessment. Now, I am no fan of the Confederate flag, as I hope is clear. But neither do I feel it should be used to wipe one’s ass. I actually don’t have a problem with people taking pride in their Southern heritage as long as they do so while acknowledging the negative aspects along with the positive ones. Northerners would do well to be the same way. bceuae, though there was no slavery in the North, it wasn’t a shining bastion of tolerance, either. Nor is it now. We make fun of Southerners and we look at places like Jena, LA and say “The South is still just a bunch of racist rednecks.” But, honestly, the same shit goes on in the North all the time.

    Which is a long way of saying that, though I disagree with most folks who would fly the Confederate flag, I don’t feel their flag should be desecrated any more than I feel the American flag should be so even though I’m not a huge fan of America. I think such attitudes are unnecessarily crude. The piece of art I wrote about in this post doesn’t enter the territory of desecration, IMO, because it’s commentary, not just a middle finger at the south.

  23. “though there was no slavery in the North, it wasn’t a shining bastion of tolerance, either.”

    ABW.

    I respectfully disagree with you.

    Slavery did exist in the North. As a matter of fact, that is where the institution of American slavery had its genesis.

    See this link:

    http://www.slavenorth.com/index.html

    The North has done an excellent job bamboozling the world into believing the lie that only the evil South kept black people in bondage.

    The North failed to develop large-scale agrarian slavery, such as later arose in the Deep South, but that had little to do with morality and much to do with climate and economy.

    North and South.

    They both ahd a hand in the degradation and brutal mistreatment of America’s black citizens.

    References:

    “Complicity: How the North Promoted, Prolonged, and Profited from Slavery”, by Anne Farrow, Joel Lang, and Jenifer Frank.

    “Many Thousand Gone: The First Two Centuries of Slavery in North America”, by Ira Berlin.

    And you are right.

    The North was no bastion of tolerance.

    And neither was the West either, with its Black Laws of the Old West, and the many Sundown Towns that were built all across America that drove black people from pillar to post under racial covenants, racial pogroms and ethnic cleansing that no other race, save Native Americans, have ever suffered under.

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