Whitewalling on Stage: Art, Race, and Protest in Performance
Writer Aruna D’Souza, writer and artist James Hannaham, performer and choreographer Okwui Okpokwasili, and composer Daniel Bernard Roumain (DBR) convene for a conversation about the politics of race in the performing arts. Looking to D’Souza’s critical 2018 book Whitewalling: Art, Race, and Protest in 3 Acts, which traces the troubled history of art and race in America through three distinct controversies, the participants transpose these issues to the arena of performance, examining how artists, audiences, critics, and institutions can more thoughtfully engage in dialogue around these questions.
In particular, the discussion focuses on claims of artistic censorship that are levied in reaction to questions of who can or should authentically tell which stories. What are the limits of artistic intent and empathetic allyship in considering what work is created, by whom, and in which institutions it’s shown? Does the inherently collaborative nature of the performing arts allow for greater authenticity in developing more nuanced and inclusive work or is it bound by the same institutional biases as the visual art world?