According to Janie Askew, the executive director of Redux Contemporary Art Center, there are three feelings that viewers might experience when they're confronted with one of Colin Quashie's works: First is mirth, then guilt, and finally sadness. We agree with Askew. After all, we here at the City Paper experienced these exact same emotions when we first saw Quashie's biting, satirical pieces.
From "Rainbro Row" to "Black People Love Pork Because Africa is Shaped Like a Pork Chop," the local contemporary artist has plenty to say about race, America's shameful past, and our future. And time and time again, he does so in the cleverest — and most uncomfortable — ways. Which is why we chose to run Quashie's "Slaveship Sardines" on the cover of this week's issue.
However, after much debate in the City Paper offices over a single word on this image, the decision was made to cover it up. Were we right or were we just being overly sensitive? Is it time to finally discuss America's past in its entirety or should we just try to forget it? Scroll down and judge for yourself.
Colin Quashie has written a lengthy and insightful blog post about the City Paper's decision to censor his piece "Slaveship Sardines." Here's a taste of what he had to say:
As an artist, I support publishing as is and urged that they do so with the caveat that they include a blurb on the inside cover stating their case for running the cover as is. The other possibility was moving a headline to cover the offending word - but I think that that would be the cheap and easy way out, which is something I am not for, but alas, would once again support their decision. Chris called back and stated that another angle would be to point out the elephant in the room by blatantly censoring the cover, explain why they did so and point them to the website where they could see the full cover and respond. Cool compromise but my thoughts ran to the fact that since many people consume their media online, what was the point in censoring the print version and not censoring the online content? Chris asked if I was willing to write an op-ed in next week's paper if they did decide to publish as is and I assured him that not only would I do so, but would also rally other opinions to chime in and support their decision.
After a few more miles and many more thoughts on the matter, I called Chris and asked that he point out to the Publisher that this was was not Charleston's main conservative newspaper (Post & Courier), nor was it the tourist aimed magazine (Charleston Magazine). This is the City paper, a slightly left leaning arts and entertainment paper that does a marvelous job of doing what the other publications fail to do. If not here, then where? Sure, they may catch some flack, but in my opinion they would gain greater respect and readership for taking what I felt was a correct stand. Where exactly is the line in the sand that controversy crosses? As long as the potentially offensive image or idea isn't gratuitous and is in proper context and has some degree of artistic merit (and I feel that SlaveShip Sardines meets this criteria), then run it and stand behind it.