Mythicized Bodies & Myth as Body
Interrogating Anti-Black Racism through Critical Design
FORUM / publication
"Troubling Inheritances: Reworking Cultural Mythologies"
CLIENT or HOST
College Art Association Conference
This paper was presented at the 2019 CAA conference on a panel entitled "Troubling Inheritances: Reworking Cultural Mythologies," in NYC, NY, and explores the following:
Myth is a tool of preserving power and, by extension, enabling or hindering social change. This is especially true with respect to anti-Black racism in the U.S., where racialized fictions shape everything from encounters with police to the amount of pain medicine delivered by a doctor. Acknowledging these expressions of racism requires a fissure in a believer’s faith in myth; a questioning of interpersonal or systemic racism’s underpinnings and a willingness to receive a different reality. I offer two projects that unsettle mythologies enabling anti-Black racism in different ways: Mapping Myths disputes legitimizing myths—many tied to fictitious corporeal qualities—employed to justify police killings of Black people in the U.S. The Social Body questions the qualitative foundations of mythologies that govern social change itself. Mapping Myths draws parallels between the fabricated scaffolding of constellations and the fictions undergirding racialized police brutality. Modeled after a planisphere, each star on this map represents a death and each constellation represents a mythical justification for use of lethal force. The Social Body, by contrast, features a collection of media centered on a set of speculative medical instruments that question: What tools might a “caregiver” employ to treat a systemic “malady” ailing the “social body?” By reimagining the intangible, larger-than-life body politic as a human body—a living, dying, restorable, permeable form—its ailments, and the tools required to treat them, this project interrogates myths about the mutability of social systems steeped in racism. Together, both projects visually and materially disrupt oppressive, racialized mythologies.