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Apology from Univ. of Iowa Art Professor Over Controversial Sculpture

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“To The Black Community With My Sincere Apologies: On Friday December 5, 2014 I installed a sculpture piece on Pentacrest, Iowa City. The sculpture was in a modified and altered KKK robe form. I screen printed articles from American newspapers (relating) the horror and violence in racist ideology; the newspaper articles start with Tulsa Race Riot and end with Holocaust Museum Shooting which happened in 2010. The hood on the robe is made of transparent vinyl and again there are screen printed images on the surface. The purpose of using a transparent material for the hood is to display the very existence of the racist ideology even under a mask. Furthermore, the mask that the people use in their racist and prejudice ideology only emphasizes their racism, not to hide it. All newspaper articles are printed with tar as screen printing ink. Although my initial plan was installing the sculpture on Monday I had to wait for a few days until I was able to obtain a dress form/mannequin to hold the sculpture’s form. My hope was to display the sculpture as a symbol which its’ current existence has been avoided by many in our society in contemporary times. One of the failures in the installation was not having a dialogue with the Black Community in Iowa City and ask their opinions about it before installing. However, trusting the fluid nature of public space and public art did not work for this installation. Unfortunately without knowing the culture specifics of an environment will triggered the failure of the work. I think that is one substance I and the people with white privilege in Iowa City have learned in a very bitter, very painful way. The pain and fear of the racist ideology in past is still powerful and it must be acknowledged especially by the people with white privilege. During yesterday’s panel it was obvious that many of us are still far from seeing and understanding the pain and suffering of the Black Community. It has been time to face the facts of daily racism that the Black Community face regardless of their social status, regardless of where they are. We all have to accept the existed white privilege and try our best to create diversity in our communities by changing our perception over stereotyped Black identity. As an artist and a universal citizen I always have conceived an environment with a neutral unity and togetherness, but it is wrong not to accept the specifics of Black identity. It is wrong to automatically assume that we can live together without understanding our differences. Diversity comes with acknowledgment, understanding and respect. If we want diversity, a real, long waited diversity we must try harder to help the Black Community especially now in their fight against injustice and daily prejudice. If we do not initiate to bring a real change in our understanding of Black Identity’s prolonged racial issues we will fail again. There has been constant injustice, bigotry and disrespect against Black People for hundreds of years and we have to stop and think about our actions, even our actions without intent which actually contribute their pain even more.  I am extremely sorry to create such pain and agony ignited by racist ideology and I am ready to heal your wounds. I am ready to be an ally, I am ready to understand and help in any way possible in your long fight against racism and prejudice. As an educator, as an artist and activist I am committed to follow the lead of the Black Community with the hope of togetherness with the hope of justice! At this moment Black Community need our help more than ever. Their voices must be heard and directed not only by the people with white privilege but by the justice system, by the government. If we still have humanity, if we still dare to call ourselves as civilized human-beings we cannot accept one more killing of a young Black person just due to their Black identity and stay silent! It is time to be active, it is time to express our anger and it has been time to bring a change if we want any level of acceptance from the Black Community. We all need to be honest and start acknowledging our privileges, accept the fact that we all use them every day against the Black People. Our privilege makes us silent, makes us distant and divide us from the Black Community. It is time to stand up and listen the Black Community and I am ready to take my part. I am hoping that I will be forgiven by the Black People in Iowa City. I am aware that due to my thoughtless action I caused pain and I am ready to listen the Black Community’s voice, move forward and be a strong ally. Please accept my very sincere apologies. I am hoping what happened on Friday and after-effects of the incident will change many people’s perceptions not only in Iowa City, University of Iowa, but nationwide.” Serhat Tanyolacar Asst. Prof in Art. University of Iowa.

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