Kara Walker: Postmodern Repetitions Questions

1. In her piece Tang asks, “Can we begin to think of Walker’s art as operating in such a dialectical fashion, as something that produces what it seeks to subvert and undoes what it instantiates (only to reinstantiate it once more)?” (Tang: 153-154). Tang thinks that Kara Walker’s work subverts the traditional narrative of slavery and presents a new perspective on the trauma of Black people. How does Walker’s use of parody and repetition contribute to this subversion, and how does it challenge dominant narratives of slavery?
2. Tang stresses Walker’s “postmodern repetition…function as parody, as historically engaged social interventions” (142-143), which involves reinterpreting past images and ideas to create new meanings. How does this recurrence further postmodernism and challenge art’s authenticity?
3. “In these readings, it is Walker, not the art world, who manipulates, and Walker’s art, cast now as a parodic reworking rather than a traumatic reiteration of racial stereotype, becomes a triumph of artistic self-mastery, an emancipating confrontation with the demons of the past, and an assertion of subjecthood that has the triumphant finality of an “exorcism”” (151-152). Tang shows that Walker’s work challenges viewers to confront their assumptions and biases about race and gender. How does Walker achieve this confrontation through her use of satire and parody, and what are the implications of this confrontation for contemporary discussions of race and representation?
4. Tang suggests that Walker’s work represents a shift from identity politics to a politics of difference “like the circular logic that keeps politicized identity in a holding pattern between the past and the present, the debate over whether Walker’s art does or does not successfully vanquish the past evades altogether the question of the future” (167). How does Walker’s work challenge the idea of a monolithic “Black experience,” and what does this shift towards difference mean for our understanding of race and representation?
5. Looking at an excerpt, “Indeed, it would seem that in contemporary discourses about racialized subjects, “trauma” names the illness and “parody” something like the cure. Framed in this manner, we can see parody in alignment with a host of terms like mastery, control, empowerment, and resistance, while trauma corresponds to ideas of subjection, victimization, passivity, and complicity. In short, parody and trauma seem to be bound up with opposing assumptions about the forms of agency we imagine to be available to the racialized subject in the postmodern moment” (144). The article argues that Walker’s work challenges the viewer to question their own complicity in the historical traumas of slavery and racism. How does Walker achieve this challenge through her use of irony and subversion, and what are the ethical implications of this challenge for contemporary art and culture?

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