Fragilité artistique et défense d’une autonomie illusoire de l’art

Une relecture des réactions des artistes établi.e.s aux manifestations contre SLĀV et Kanata

(White Fragility and the defense of an illusory autonomy of art: a reinterpretation of established artists’ reactions to the protests against SLĀV and Kanata)

By Edith Brunette
Article published in
Arborescences, nº 11,
University of Toronto
(in French)
December 2021

“Debates about cultural appropriation and systemic racism in the arts are often read in terms of ethnocultural relations, between a dominant group and marginalized communities, robbed of their history and identity. We argue that there is an equally important dividing line in understanding these debates, this time between the arts community and the rest of society. According to this perspective, there is an artistic sphere on one side and a political sphere on the other, the former being permanently at risk of an invasion by the latter. This is the perspective at the root of the modern notion of the autonomy of art. In contrast to theories that claim this is a dead concept, we will argue that it is very much alive, and that it carries the defensive discourses of a part of the arts community when faced with discussions of cultural appropriation and the under-representation of ethnocultural groups. We will argue that these discourses operate by masking the real presence of politics within the artistic sphere, following a line of defense that we will call “artistic fragility”—echoing Robin DiAngelo’s white fragility. We will base our analysis on the discourses that unfolded in Quebec in 2018 surrounding the protests against Robert Lepage’s plays SLĀV and Kanata.”