Sheila Slaughter

I appreciate the honest, raw and socially topical and important way in which Kara Walker’s artwork, Event Horizon, keeps the evolving nature of racial and social transgressions in the forefront of our consciousness.  At The New School, it confronts us starkly as we ascend the stairs at Arnhold Hall.  But I worry too.  Considering the absence of consistent, balanced and positive representations of, and intellectual contributions by, people of color, as well as forms of revisionist history, could Event Horizon only serve to validate the mutual lived experiences of the oppressor and the oppressed, thereby propagating cycles of social dysfunction.  The deeply embedded spurious social constructs of oppressor and oppressed, depicted in Event Horizon, could easily perpetuate a victim mentality.  How then, do we understand its role as a commissioned work of art at the university? 

Event Horizon allows many to continue to consider race relations as if in parentheses, without actually delving into the heart of the matter: addressing how, in the 21st century, and for all of our so-called affirmative action advances, we still find ourselves woven into a tapestry of racial and moral decay.  It is far easier to continue to believe in a generalized notion of progress in racial matters in order to avoid examining our collective responsibility/participation in our emotional and social oppression.  

Could we include an interactive component, on-line and on-site, near this work that would collect histories and experiences of race at The New School?

What could this reveal about our everyday interactions and experiences?

What might we discover both about ourselves and about our participation in these social constructs?

Sheila Slaughter
Former staff member and alumna, The New School