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Thursday, May 14, 2009

Public Art in a Cage

Posted by on Thu, May 14, 2009 at 3:25 PM

June 1 will be the 100th anniversary of the opening of Washington's very first world's fair: the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition, which, as HistoryLink puts it, succeeded in convincing a lot of people that Alaska was a suburb of Seattle.

The event was full of marvelous curiosities like the Upside Down House.

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It was also plenty racist. Eskimo and Igorot (Filipino) people were part of the "attractions," on display for the late Victorians to ogle.

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The Igorots were so scantily clad, in fact, that these upstanding Christian men had to be brought in as "moralist" judges. (They ended up OKing the loincloths.)

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HistoryLink's fairly awesome slide show of 58 images from the A-Y-P (where the above images are from) is here.

In remembrance of the way the A-Y-P put indigenous people on display, a group of UW public art students will go on display inside a 20-by-20-foot sculpture on the street for the duration of StreetFair this weekend. Could be interesting.

There's another act of anti-A-Y-P-racism coming up, too—an exhibition of objects by contemporary artists at the Burke called Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition: Indigenous Voices Reply, which opens May 30.

This whole A-Y-P centennial is ramping up: Here's the site for all the related events.

 

Comments (9) RSS

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Fnarf 1
As late as the 1920s "savage Negroes" (i.e., Africans) were toured around the West and displayed in cages to curious onlookers. I've got a newspaper ad for such a show; I should try to dig it out.
Posted by Fnarf http://www.facebook.com/fnarf on May 14, 2009 at 3:56 PM · Report this
joey veltkamp 2
4Culture also asked Dawn Cerny and Patrick Holderfield to create some AYP specific art. Can't wait to see it!
Posted by joey veltkamp http://joeyveltkamp.com on May 14, 2009 at 4:02 PM · Report this
Beetlecat 3
Folklife is lousy with AYP branded stuff this year, too. But then again, what does Stranger care about folklife. ;)
Posted by Beetlecat on May 14, 2009 at 5:25 PM · Report this
4
It's a little more complicated than you let on. The folks on "display" at AYP did it for a living-working fairs was a business.
That said- I like the idea of UW students in cages.
Posted by dj007 on May 14, 2009 at 5:44 PM · Report this
5
@4, Not only a lot more complicated, also a lot more interesting than simplistic readings of victimization. Read Coll Thrush's Native Seattle for a thorough narrative of the ways that indigenous tribes here took part, from Alaska on down to Washington, and what they made of the Exposition and what the Exposition made of them.
Posted by Matthew Stadler on May 14, 2009 at 7:57 PM · Report this
6
@4, Not only a lot more complicated, also a lot more interesting than simplistic readings of victimization. Read Coll Thrush's Native Seattle for a thorough narrative of the ways that indigenous tribes here took part, from Alaska on down to Washington, and what they made of the Exposition and what the Exposition made of them.
Posted by Matthew Stadler on May 14, 2009 at 8:00 PM · Report this
Posted by reminds me of this one: on May 14, 2009 at 9:46 PM · Report this
8
The UW students are in their performance art/environment right now, and they have been well aware of the complexities of the cultural displays of the original AYP from the beginning of their project. While some may view their artwork as criticism of the 1909 AYP Exposition, their intention is simply to put themselves on display, as a cultural entity, as a social experiment, and as a provocative artwork. Their environment is not exactly a "cage"; rather it is a fenced in area where they will be "being students" for all to observe and draw their own conclusions. In this case, the students are on the INSIDE, instead of the outside looking in. Fabulous artwork...gotta love 'em!
Posted by rocky54 on May 16, 2009 at 1:34 PM · Report this
9
I am a student inside the "caged" environment right now. Reading this article is interesting as are the comments from the people. With that, the real reactions from the crowds we're getting are very interesting and everyone is getting something different out of this. An experiment is very true. Are the viewers observing us or are we observing them? The comment above nailed our intentions.
In short, come see/learn for yourself..
Posted by tiffpru on May 16, 2009 at 2:33 PM · Report this

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