While all art is a work of the imagination, there is no doubt that engaging with ‘the other’ presents particular pitfalls and responsibilities. Whenever you choose to do this, you should be clear on why you’re doing it, how you’ll avoid the pitfalls, and how you’ll fulfil the responsibilities.
If you are in the position of funding, publishing, nominating, reviewing or otherwise backing a project, it’s worth asking: is this the right artist to be making this project? Legitimate criticisms often arise when a project made by a white artist about people of colour, or one that uses their culture, is promoted with funding, marketing and awards, while projects by artists from the relevant community are ignored.
How do I do it?
Ask questions like:
- Why am I drawn to this project?
- Am I the right person to make it?
- Is there a danger of creating or entrenching cultural stereotypes?
- Am I appropriating cultural assets that belong to someone else?
- How will I research this project? How will I check I got it right?
- Is there a way to reimagine this project so that it doesn’t involve another culture?
- Would this project work better as a collaboration with artists who are cultural insiders?