by Jen Graves
on Tue, Mar 19, 2013 at 4:25 PM
John Boylan, Seattle's most generous and truly best conversationalist (we are so lucky that these go hand in hand), is having another one of his open public discussions tonight at Vermillion. It runs from 7:30 to 9:30 and the theme this time is "Inclusion/Exclusion."
Even if you can't attend, reading his advance exploration of the theme is worth your time. It includes high-school outcasts, TED versus BIL talks, holiday dinner invitation lists, the fashion world, the gender of grunge, and Charles Krafft. You can get on his email list by just asking him.
I’ve been thinking lately about inclusion and exclusion. These opposing concepts tend to intertwine, and they often lie in tandem at the center of the ways in which we create our societies. They are at the root of tribalism: members of my tribe, clan, gang, platoon, ethnic group, or football team are better than those who are not members of my tribe, clan, and so forth. And they are at the core of the dynamics of adolescence: in youth, too often one is either part of the school in-crowd or the various groups who cluster around the in-crowd, or one is an outcast. Or in the case of a great true dork, even joining the outcasts is unattainable.
Exclusion and inclusion also form the root of how we build concepts of class, and of course of race, especially in terms of exclusion from place and from opportunity. And they are integral to how we build a sense of privilege. They are how we build deep friendships and exercise compassion, and how we inflict pain. They are how some of us live in exclusive gated communities, while others are exiled to a life on the street.
I’ve been wondering what would be the qualitative differences—and parallels—between these two statements: the first that old saw of white separatists, made all the more vicious for its ostensible innocuousness, “I have nothing against black people. I just don’t want to have to live next to them.” And the following: “Let’s not invite Betty to Thanksgiving dinner this year. She talks so much, and she’s bound to get into an argument with your uncle.” Is there a parallel?
In the arts, discussions of inclusion and exclusion seem to be everywhere these days. I’ve sometimes heard it said that large parts of the visual arts scene in Seattle are cliquish. I can easily see where that perception might come from, but I don’t think it’s true. To the extent that there is a certain incestuousness here, I think that it comes from laziness more than anything else.
The rest is on the jump.
Instances of the discussion pop up all over. The lovely musical play currently at ACT, “These Streets,” is in part an attempt to remedy the exclusion of women musicians from the history of Seattle grunge. (http://www.acttheatre.org/Tickets/OnStage/TheseStreets). Anna Telcs reports that her ongoing project “The Dowsing” is in part a response to the exclusiveness—and exclusion—of contemporary fashion (http://www.henryart.org/events/show/723 and http://www.vanguardseattle.com/2013/01/28/anna-rose-telcs-and-the-art-of-invention/).
Or listening to Karen Finneyfrock read from her new young adult novel, “The Sweet Revenge of Celia Door,” at Hugo House a couple of weeks ago, I was struck by the ways in which Celia negotiates that pure pain of being alone, a high school outcast. And by the fascinating juxtaposition of that isolation with the outpouring of inclusion that bathed Finneyfrock that evening. She was surrounded by friends, colleagues, and fans who obviously love her very much (http://www.karenfinneyfrock.com/).
Or looking at the offerings from the amazing and peripatetic White Privilege Conference, which will descend on Seattle this April (http://www.whiteprivilegeconference.com/). Privilege, especially when it is built so seamlessly into the fabric of everyday life, is all about insidious forms of inclusion and exclusion. If we seek justice, to what extent does injustice stem from a lack of access, access to just about everything.
And I’ve been thinking about the many recent conversations about Charles Krafft. As laid out in Jen Graves’s well-written and well-researched Stranger article (http://www.thestranger.com/seattle/charles-krafft-is-a-white-nationalist-who-believes-the-holocaust-is-a-deliberately-exaggerated-myth/Content?oid=15995245) and Krafft’s interview on a podcast (http://thewhitenetwork.com/2012/07/28/should-we-leave-the-holocaust-alone/), Krafft, a veteran artist who has long included Nazi imagery in his work, identifies as a “White Nationalist” and sees the Holocaust as “a myth that is being used to perpetuate multiculturalism and globalism.” He feels that in the United States “we are living under a Marxist tyranny.” The reaction to the Graves article has been intense, spawning a number of articles, discussion threads, and Facebook posts. Some conversations devolve into an absurd back and forth as to how many Jews were killed in World War II. Others involve thoughtful discourse, while still others seem to be dialog from bad theater. And meanwhile, the discussion has spread across the continent, as in http://hyperallergic.com/65557/what-do-you-do-with-white-nationalist-art-once-the-ironys-gone/ and http://www.theglobeandmail.com/arts/art-and-architecture/nazi-themed-artwork-monstrous-art-or-art-about-a-monster/article9132957/.
In Seattle, the conversation among artists has been colored by the fact that a lot of people have genuinely liked Charlie over the years, liked him for his perverseness, a deep sense of the weird, and his role as a provocateur. For now, the surge seems to be toward banishing him and his artwork from polite society, or at least polite artistic society, if that’s not too much an oxymoron, excluding the excluder. But I’m not sure what that exclusion means; I think that Krafft exiled himself some time ago.
Or elsewhere, on a lighter note: I’ve just missed another year of the fabulous BIL Conference, which happened last week in Los Angeles. BIL is a low-budget, very-low-cost, heavily participatory, and volunteer-run conference of ideas (http://bilconference.com/). It reminds me a little of the much smaller Smoke Farm Symposium (http://www.rubiconseattle.org/2011/01/symposium/). BIL is in part an inclusive response to the elitism of the TED conferences. The BIL organizers are proud that the cost of putting on an entire 600-person BIL conference is less than the cost of two or three tickets to TED. TED recordings are plentiful. But with tickets at anywhere from $3,500 to $7,000, actual attendance to a TED event has long been primarily reserved for wealthy jetsetters. BIL goes the other direction. Oh, and as for what the name means, think BIL and TED….
Finally, I haven’t put together any formal guests for this conversation. As a wise friend pointed out, having invited guests to a conversation about inclusion and exclusion doesn’t make a lot of sense. As usual, you’re the experts.