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Quinn O'Gallagher

Break the Fourth Wall

If you’re an African-American artist, then chances are you are no stranger to the practice of co-optation. The unique styles and signifiers that make-up the Black Arts movement have been subject to cultural theft for decades now, stolen in most cases by the prima donnas of pop culture and brought to the center stage of the media. Most react with shock upon learning that Madonna’s “Vogue” (and the infamous dance style that the song is based on) was actually the invention of black drag queens living in Harlem. The dance, conceived by an ethnic minority who were marginalized from the mainstream and therefore liberated from it, was co-opted by Madonna in the early nineties, white-washed as it was configured into nothing more than choreography for a music video. This kind of modern-day minstrelsy is still taking place, with Miley Cyrus’ recent “twerking” escapade at MTV’s Video Music Awards another notorious example. Thought to be inspired by traditional African dances, twerking was once an ecstatic and erotic form of movement indigenous to the hip-hop scene. However, when performed by Cyrus, her pale body scantily clad and quivering under the spotlight, twerking is severed from its original cultural origins- distilled down to no more than an ex-Disney star’s latest promiscuous spectacle. Suffice to say, the mass culture machine has been fueled by the style and spirit of the black community for decades now, manufacturing an idea of blackness that is inherently flawed and yet held up as normal.             It is this very conception of black culture that is apprehended, scrutinized and abolished by the artists who contributed to The 4th Wall. The exhibition, facilitated by the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in commemoration of Black History Month, strives to deconstruct this erroneous image of blackness, one that has been made ubiquitous… Read More