In response to J.M. Cheddie's post "<a href="/cgi-local/query.cgi?action=grab_object&kt=kt0279">ISEA 96 and RHIZOME
E-MAIL</a>" [RHIZOME CONTENTBASE, 10.29.96], Lily Diaz wrote:
I was at ISEA 96 and I agree with you on issues related to the notable
absence of multi-cultural presence within the organization, and within
the conference. What I am also wary about is quick patch-up schemes that
lead to the development of a situation of "tokenism."
By tokenism I mean the condition where the ideological ghetto is
re-built either around the work of the artist, or the artist
himself/herself. In this situation the work then exists either to serve
the function of confirming the ideas that "the mainstream" has about
"the other", or to maintain the existing conditions.
It really is not enough to be included, although that is a beginning.
More important is also to be respected and to be accepted as an equal.
This involves a process of education in which the "mainstream" becomes
aware of its lack of knowledge about the other. It also entails, a
letting down of defenses, a leap of faith by "the other," so to speak.
A point in case: My first experience with ISEA was during the ISEA 94
conference in Helsinki. I had submitted a proposal for a paper on the
topic of "Spaces" and its was supposed to have been included in this
section. When I arrived in Helsinki, I found out that my presentation
had been moved to another panel on the topic of "Hi-Low." In fact it
seemed as if all, if not most, of the presentations that involved themes
dealing with indigenous, or non-western culture had been moved to this
panel, which also happened to be the last session of the conference.
I am not claiming that this was a planned strategy by the people in
Helsinki at all. (When I brought these facts to their attention they
tried to do what was possible to correct the situation.) What I am
trying to say is that perhaps many times people who come from a
mainstream perspective fail to see how multicultural issues can be
linked to mainstream discussions, and how their effective impact depends
on their being presented in front of a larger and wider audience than
the one that would attend something that has already been "edited out."
At the same time, we also do not want to fall into the trap of the
"politically correct." (What is at stake is being able to have a
situation where diverse parties can sit down together at a table and
honestly look at each other's faces. Do we REALLY want to do this?… Or
is this another "groovy idea.")
How do we avoid making the same mistakes from the past? These are things
that have to be thought about carefully…I am really looking forward to
how the discussion on the topic of Revolution in ISEA 98 is going to
About ISEA 97 in Chicago… After New York City, Chicago also happens to
have the second largest population of Puerto Ricans in the mainland. In
addition, if you take a look at the geographical displacement of the
diverse populations in the city, you will notice the situation of
segregation. Perhaps the conference can do something to address this
If you are interested I can email you some addresses of people in the
Latino community who are actively using digital media.