Wednesday, July 5, 2017

I Hate Your Work

On May 16 The Field presented "I Hate Your Work," a discussion about biases in the arts sector. Hosted by Gibney Dance, the panel featured Moira Brennan, Executive Director of the MAP Fund; Maura Donohue, dance professor at Hunter College and writer at Culturebot; Kayla Hamilton, artist, mover, and educator; and Nicky Paraiso, Director of Programming at The Club at La MaMa Experimental Theater Company; and was moderated by our Deputy Director, Shawn RenĂ© Graham.

L-R: Paraiso, Brennan, Graham, Hamilton, and Donohue

"I Hate Your Work" references something that happened at Fieldwork. Fieldwork is our signature program in which artists meet weekly to show works in progress and share objective, non-directorial feedback. At the end of a recent session, one participant commented that they didn't want to, "talk about people whose work I hate." 

While that comment inspired the title of this panel, the topic of such strongly held biases has weighed on our minds for quite some time - both as an organization that serves artists creating work, and as artists ourselves. 

Who are these gatekeepers reading our grant proposals, reviewing our performances, and generally judging us? What prejudices are they bringing to the table? How can we navigate these biases? How can we challenge them? And the bigger question The Field is trying to answer: How do we ensure fair and equal access to resources and opportunities - so there's a place for all of us?

That's why we invited a panel of art makers, educators, and decision-makers to discuss the conscious biases that guide them as they judge people's work - and how to identify and try to correct the more insidious unconscious biases. (Spoiler alert: We could all probably use an equity auditor, Moira Brennan has some good reading recommendations for unpacking racially coded vocabulary, and Nicky Paraiso seems to really like pasta with garlic and oil.)

Click here for the audio recording of the full discussion. After the panel, we got personal as the audience broke into small groups to share the biases they've run against in their own creative work, and then we reconvened for a quick recap and Q&A. 

The goal of "I Hate Your Work" is to leave art-makers feeling understood, affirmed, and empowered; and for  gatekeepers to confront the unconscious biases that lead to inequitable situations. We must keep thinking about and challenging bias if we want to dismantle white supremacy in the arts. There is a lot of work ahead, as much as we may hate it.

"I Hate Your Work" returns in January 2018 at The Fire This Time festival. 

Nancy Ahn is a Program Associate in Artist Services at The Field.

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