Moremi Akinde

The Kara Walker mural haunts the stairwell at Arnold Hall. The mural enacts stories of the mutilation, degradation and lament that the condition of slavery breeds. In practice and placement, however, I believe the mural also plays an inadvertently disturbing role in constituting a form of racial blindness in The New School environment. The murals placement in the stairwell is somewhat precarious to the extent that its an extremely public location near the entrance, however, those stairs are certainly not nearly as frequented as the elevators. Except for as part of a class activity, I have never seen anyone stop and observe the mural. Instead, I’ve only seen pedestrians, head down clomp up the set of stairs.In this way, the mural functions as a backdrop as we traverse through our “liberal arts education”. The elusive goriness of this type of dynamic exists not only in the surrounding environment but in the painting itself. The irony of the murals positioning is its ability to function as bloody emblem of “our commitment to diversity” without necessarily having to put our bodies and minds in close relation to it.

When I spend time with the mural, I particularly like to spend time underneath the stairs in a little “cubby” that is somewhat reflective of the space a character in the mural occupies. Though actually above ground, in this space, I am able to channel the intentional undergroundness/pushed downness of the characters that are descending in the story.

If I could effect a change with regard to the piece, I would just like to hiddenly record passerbys interaction with the piece and then display that somewhere. To capture the obliviousness or lack of attention to the mural, I think, is a powerful statement in and of itself. For this reason, I’m not sure that pointed questions are the best method for enacting the type of change I would seek in regard to interaction with this piece.

Three Questions:

How many times did you pass by the mural before you really noticed it?

What are the consequences or congruences in the placement of the mural within a stairwell at the bottom floor of an academic institution?

How does the stylistic storying of shadows in Walker’s mural reflect the experiential blackness of academics within white supremacist structures like the New School?