Facing Human Wrongs:

Navigating paradoxes and complexities
of social and global change.

Artistic Practices And Pop Culture: Socially Sanctioned Ignorances

A socially sanctioned ignorance is a socially authorized and rewarded denial, like the denial that our comforts and securities come at other people and the planet’s expense. A socially authorized denial is something that is proactively not talked about in formal education, in the media or in modern institutions. We do not talk about the hidden violences and costs of  the promises of the current system because it is not easy or convenient to do so. Talking about it is uncomfortable and frustrating,  it can prompt feelings of guilt, shame, and anger, it can make us look in the mirror and see something that we don’t want to see, and it can make us enjoy less things that can be pleasurable if we don’t think about where they come from and at what expense (like learning how sausages are made).

Indeed, if given a choice, many people would choose to continue not to think about these things and to keep enjoying the pleasures of sanctioned ignorance uninterrupted. However, in the current state of affairs where these pleasures may be affecting the very possibility of the continuation of life in the planet, we all have a responsibility towards future generations of human and non-human lives to have the courage and honesty to face what we are collectively doing (to the planet and to each other) and to sit with the challenges of imagining and doing something genuinely different – “otherwise”. Arts and pop culture play a huge role in helping us see and challenge socially authorized denials.

The two collections of resources below (from arts and pop culture) present the case that art is about exposing what most people do not want to see. The first set is a collection of artistic works that force you to see something difficult to “stomach”. The second is a collection of videos that explore the difficulties of communicating what people prefer not to see. Take a moment to sit with the critiques presented in these collections and to consider your role in facing and communicating what most people would prefer not to see.

Collection 1

Engage with the selected works of the three artists below and think about how people in different generations might have responded to them.

Raven Davies: It’s not your fault

Rebecca Belmore: Fringe (the idea for this piece came from the fact that a Canadian doctor beaded the stitches of the sutures of an Indigenous woman after her surgery to “cheer her up”); Tower, tarpaulin ; Blood in the snow (all from the exhibition Facing the Monumental).

Kwame Akoto-Bamfo: ‘You see the faces of our ancestors’

Collection 2

Watch the three videos below and reflect on the difficulties of communicating something uncomfortable to people who are socially rewarded for not seeing or listening to you.  E.g. convincing people who enjoy believing that they have superior skills, intelligence, ancestry, culture, aesthetic sense, intellect , etc., that their perceived status happens at the expense of others rather than out of merit.

1. CBC: what systemic racism looks like in Canada

2. Baratunde Thurston: how to deconstruct racism one headline at a time

3. Black mirror episode: Men against fire [please read the synopsis here if you cannot watch it on Netflix]

Check your bus! What are you learning from observing your passengers respond to these two collections?

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