Oh God The Shame w/ The White Pube @ PEER
17 minute video installation.
Exhibited at Peer Gallery, London, 2017.
Oh God The Shame was a conversation between The White Pube and Ruth Waters at PEER Gallery located in Shoreditch. The gallery is currently showing the above piece of work by local artist Ruth Waters. They invited The White Pube to collaborate on a discussion about internet call out and call in culture.The talk began with a short presentation which outlined the definitions of shame, call outs and call ins. Much of the presentation referred to a book by Jon Ronson called So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed.
Ruth Waters shared stories of extreme cases where people were publically called out online; one of which talked about a man accused online of being racist which caused him to commit suicide. On an online post before his suicide he expressed how he was finding it difficult to align what he knew to be his true self with the self that was being portrayed online. Thoughts on the correct way to call out people for problematic behaviour were then discussed. Although this was such an extreme case it did show how a single person being called out online could have detrimental consequences as the intensity of tens of thousands of people sending them hate hits a single person harder. In comparison; industries or businesses being called out online have little effect as the impact is softer when there are more people sharing an attack.
The most common type of call out culture recently has been POC calling out brands and people for cultural appropriation and racism. In cases where single people are called out for appropriating a culture that is not their own the marginalised community that call out the perpetrators behaviour are often accused of cyberbullying like in the case of Instagram personality Mika Francis who has received comments about her racial ambiguity achieved with fake tan and how she wears her hair in dreadlocks, whose fans have jumped to her rescue and accused POC of cyber bullying. In cases where more famous people and brands are accused of racism or cultural appropriation such as L’Oreal and the Kardashian sisters the internet do not see the call outs as cyberbullying as they have a lot less impact. I think what is important when calling out big business and brands online is that although the call out may not close down the business or impact sales, it does provide an alternative argument. These companies have a huge following so providing information on how the advertisements or posts are problematic can reach the consumers of the content regardless.
Recent CSM graduate, Joe Chidlaw, showed a painting at his degree show which depicted muslim men hanging. This was a painting of a newspaper cutting with a disturbing title. The title shown here on his website was not the title used when shown at the degree show where it was renamed to something like ‘strange hanging fruit’. This was called out by The White Pube but the artist has not been impacted by the feedback. This caused debate between Ruth Waters and The White Pube as to whether the artist should be accountable for the work they make. Is a call out or bad review of a problematic art piece a personal attack or a critique of the work? Can we separate the artist from the work when all work is political. The White Pube believe all artists must be accountable for the work as the makers, even when it has been removed from them and places into the public space.
So far it seems we call out things we deem problematic because we want to either educate, create a discussion or for social justice. Is this an effective way to get results? A lot of the time the comments section on social media can be depressing with casual racism, sexism, ableism, homophobia etc. To call out every problematic comment would be an exhausting way to spend a life. Often call outs can result in arguments that go in circles. An interesting take during this discussion was when Ruth Waters mentioned how the comments section doesn’t branch out at different points and go outwards after The White Pube talked about the difficulty in having a coherent discussion the the comments sections only go downwards. Trying to discuss things in a concise way when lots of people are typing comments at the same time isn’t going to achieve much so the concept of a comments sections being able to move outwards was an interesting take. Calling someone out can also leave you as vulnerable as the person receiving the call out. It takes huge amounts of emotional labour to try and reason with or educate someone on something when they are pushing back. Plus when it is public other people will chime in regardless of how much knowledge they have on the subject. The visibility of the call out can also be a good thing when you think about many voices echoing the same sentiments maybe being more effective in changing someone problematic opinions.