Monday, March 09, 2009

Black and Italian and Beechcroftian

Brewing around for a couple of months...

Vanessa Beecroft had better prepare for some serious damage control, since director Pietra Brettkelly's documentary on Beecroft, The Art Star and the Sudanese Twins, opens at Sundance tonight. The doc cluster-bombs her faddish fascination with Sudanese orphans and paints Beecroft as a hypocritically self-aware, colossally colonial pomo narcissist. The film is brutally effective because it lets Beecroft hang herself with damaging quotes and appalling behavior.

The documentary explores Beecroft’s experiment in Sudan, in which she attempts to adopt two Sudanese orphans and use them as subjects in her work. Wise to theory, Beecroft says her adoption will be “not just fetishization of the blacks. It will be a beginning of a relationship with that country.” The film documents the significant gap between Beecroft's theory and her actions.

Upon her arrival in the Sudan, Beecroft hurries to set up a photo shoot, hiding the cameras from the orphanage's sisters, calling the babies “these poor creatures.” Which baby should she photograph? “Either one or the other,” she says, “it doesn’t matter.”

Repeatedly, Beecroft claims that she “loves this culture” — but, in the film’s most disturbing scene, sisters from the orphanage try to stop her from stripping the children nude inside their abbey for an elaborate photo shoot. Beecroft refuses, complains, starts shooting again, and eventually loses a physical confrontation with one of the sisters, who takes the children away from her, furious that Beecroft is stripping children naked inside a church. “Christ, these people,” Beecroft moans, as she barricades herself inside, pushing a pew up against the door to keep the sisters out of their own abbey.
Read the report in NY Magazine here and Black Cat Bone here and the WaPo here.

"Many people are enraged," Amnau Eele, head of the Black Artists Association, told Page Six. "She wants to be famous on the backs of poor black children."