Let Them Eat Cake

Makode Linde, a Swedish artist of Afro-Swedish heritage, was commissioned to do an art installation at the Moderna Museet, Stockholm’s MoMA, for the opening of a new FGM exhibit. The video above shows the work: a cake in the form of a Sara Baartman-esque caricature of a Black woman’s body from neck to hips, with Linde’s head in blackface atop the neck. Linde instructed Sweden’s Minister of Culture, Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth, to cut the first slice of cake from the genitals, simulating a clitoridectomy. As she cut, Linde screamed and begged her to stop.

She laughed. Everyone laughed. She fed a piece of the cake to Linde.

They partied/cut more cake/Linde screamed/they laughed/ate cake.

I was immediately reminded of this.

And then I read up a bit on Linde’s work and saw this:

 

In the three days since, outrage has swept the world via social media. Here are some of the reactions I’ve gleaned:

1. This isn’t racist, but it IS offensive to women.

2. This is the most racist shit I’ve ever seen, and they’re all gonna get away with it because the artist is Black.

3. “The minister’s decision to take part in a dubious event with cannibalistic overtones showed her incompetence and lack of judgment.”

4. Art is meant to be provocative! Finally, everyone is talking about racism and thinking about racism. No one can ignore it in this moment.

5. I can’t…I can’t…This is too painful.

6. “They wanted me to cut the cake.” Ultimately, the artist was to blame for any confusion, [Minister of Culture Liljeroth] said, arguing that the situation had been misinterpreted. “He claims that it challenges a romanticised and exoticised view from the west about something that is really about violence and racism,” she said. “Art needs to be provocative.”

Here’s what I said: Yes, Linde thought up a grotesque art installation and presented it to the liberal elite. Yes, Linde invited Liljeroth to cut the cake, starting with the genitals.

She happily agreed/laughed/he screamed/begged her to stop/they laughed/took iPhone videos/cut more/laughed at the screams/ate cake.

Let them eat cake.

**Correction: I state early in this blog that the cake was commissioned for the opening of an FGM exhibit at the Moderna Museet. This cake was actually commissioned for a celebration of the establishment of a Swedish organization for the arts; it is a birthday party of sorts for the arts in Sweden, so Swedish artists were invited to design birthday cakes. To view video Linde’s explanation of why he chose to create a blackface-and-FGM themed cake, click here.

30 Comments

    • This is beyond humane But then again a woman who cannot overstand it can only smile She hss not been there or done that so? Its just fun? Often those women are the same libbers who are seeking black men?

  1. Chuck Lightning

    This is not art.

    This is disturbing.

    Tasteless.

    Too painful to watch.

    I would go further about the things I feel should happen to said artist and all those laughing with iPhones in attendance…but I wont….

  2. right?! i can’t imagine–literally; my imagination stops and fades to black–staying in the room when the cake was wheeled in. i can’t imagine myself staying in the room once linde asks the minister to slice from the clitoris first. i can’t imagine myself participating in a culinary lynching. what strange fruit are these swedes, indeed. let the world see them with their mouths full, going back for seconds.

  3. The Minister of Culture’s refusal to see what’s horribly wrong here and her insistence on throwing Linde under the bus (not that he doesn’t belong there) instead of taking responsibility for her role in it all makes me feel so many types of ways.

    Who thought a f*ckin cake – THIS cake, of all things – to celebrate(?) a FGM exhibit was the move in the first place?

  4. “Part of me thinks what Makode did was absolute genius. The image is not the cake, but that of the mistresses of decadence ignoring the screams for the object. The true art, in my opinion are the thousands of images circulation the media of the ‘mistresses of wealth,’ gleefully gorging themselves on the consummate sweetness of Africa, ignoring the screams of their victim. It, in my opinion, is symbolic of the entire relationship between ‘the West’ and Africa. It’s visceral, shocking, and satirical all at once.” – Great comment from this blog: http://crunkfeministcollective.wordpress.com/2012/04/19/bodies-have-histories-musing-on-makode-linde-and-that-cake/?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter

  5. Chuck Lightning

    Hey Steven

    (the following isn’t directed to you personally…just thoughts about the comment you linked to overall)

    First, I love the crunkfeministcollective. So kudos for linking to that article.

    I do have to note that that particular blog comment came from a black man, not a black woman.

    I’m not an essentialist when it comes to feminism, gender studies, etc, but in this particular case, I’m wondering if (generally speaking, I know which is problematic) women (especially black women) could see Makode’s work as “absolute genius.” Even if it does satirize “the entire relationship between the ‘The West’ and Africa.”

    And like the blog article conveys: isn’t an artist responsible not only for the intent, but also the impact of his work?

    As performance art, it’s definitely shocking, sensational and newsworthy.

    But what is the cost? And who’s paying it?

    I understand the tightropes artists walk on, the intersection between art and commerce, entertainment and education, titillation and revelation…

    and i myself am partial to art that shocks, that EXPLODES, that distorts, scandalizes, pushes limits, that transgresses, that goes hard to the wall in a violent, visceral fashion…

    I’m a fan of Tarantino, Kara Walker, Diane Arbus, etc.

    And I loved Bamboozled. It’s one of my favorite films.

    And I’m a huge fan of the Jim Trueblood character/scene in The Invisible Man. The part where a white trustee is horrified and has a heartattack while Jim talks about his wife hitting him in the head with an axe. Classic. In fact, I could laugh, roll around the room and start drooling right now just thinking about it.

    But on this one…I don’t know…watching a man in blackface scream…while white women laugh and slice and eat the cake of his female genitals…all while whipping out iPhones…I don’t know…

    I think sometimes in the modern era when we don’t know what to call something…we call it ART…

    That said, Hitler was a frustrated artist as well, and in that regard, some cultural scholars see the Holocaust as a big art project… (see the following link)

    http://www.amazon.com/Iron-Fists-Branding-20th-Century-Totalitarian/dp/0714848468

    In closing, I think the cost/benefit analysis on this artistic project is just too far outta the black (pun intended).

    But that’s just my opinion. Others might find it hilarious, or the most moving, most visceral fine art experience they’ve seen in 50 years. And to them, I say please by all means, eat cake.

  6. In no way, shape, or form does this come anywhere near artistic or amusing. The vibe I get from it is shock for shock’s sake. A definite NO.

  7. Nope nope nope! This is horrific…and he is going to get away with this because he’s black. I keep seeing comments that the artist did this to draw attention to female genital mutilation and that’s admirable, but why is it that the overall result is this—a black man in black face using his head for a caricature of a black woman cake while white people cut it and laugh? I’m really trying to see how this as art, but the laughing and the actual eating of the cake (why are they eating the cake???) seems to mock those girls and women who actually suffer through this…

  8. This was hard to watch. But , i do think the artists reasoning for doing this was to in fact make ppl uncomfortable. To show the true ugliness of this worlds past And bring it to the light in one of the most provocative installations ive seen in a long time.also by doin this he was able to document and (capitalize) on the lack of understanding and the absence of human compassion. Watching people laugh and snap photos while hacking (with a knife ) and eating away at the black figures “parts” shows you how far we still have to go as a world! Where racism still pledges us all… Even the artist. (and I simply don’t not have enough time or energy to express my views on the BLACK FACE issue)

  9. THIS IS FUCKING GOOD!
    i don’t know why they call it racist, i think it’s beacuase pepole don’t know the meaning of this work of art, if you read the discribtion you wouldent call it racist!
    it’s about a fight against clitoridectomy which often happens in africa!

  10. Roman GianArthur

    I think that this is Good Art.
    It is both frightening and utterly hilarious!
    And it’s potential for commentary and interpretation is astounding

  11. Disguisting, derogatory video. Blackface is never okay. Never. Like, really? What is the lesson here? What is this teaching other than the artist having no dignity what-so-ever and those gawking taking pictures with their iPhones and laughing. Excuse me???

    He crossed the line.

    Never want to see this video again.

  12. hi hernan,
    i know why they call it racist.
    i know the meaning(s) of this work, as expressed by linde and by various audiences.
    i read the description, and i still call it racist.
    clitoridectomies, and other forms of fgm, happen in some parts of the enormous, culturally diverse continent of africa. it also happens in lots of other parts of the world.

  13. It may seem racist at first, but I think this was a rather clever move. Makonde Linde made representatives of the white establishment take part in his art installation and you can tell from their reactions that they were caught off-guard and did not know how behave. Mr Linde screamed every time someone cut a piece from the cake. The mood in the room became very uneasy. I think most visitors left the museum with a rather bitter taste in their mouth. There was a talk show last night on Swedish television with Mr Linde among the guests. He explained that he himself has suffered from racial discrimination and alienation all his life. His agenda is to use art to provoke people to discuss and think about racism. He also says that he often uses humor when working with heavy subjects like these, as a kind of survival strategy. He admits that it was a grotesque scene and realises that many people were upset. But his aim was to stir a discussion about these matters, and in this he has certainly been successful.

    • Very true, and in that regards, it is very clever. Someone mentioned below how it could relate to genital mutilation – or any horrific act/abuse for that matter. He certainly caused a stir. Wow! If our time here is short ( and it is), everything we do leaves an impression. For better or worse. What will we leave behind for tomorrow?

  14. Whether one feels it was racist or not is one thing. But this event and this cake were supposed to be about Female Genital Mutilation – something that doesn’t happen as a function of racism, but rather grotesque gender discrimination and oppressions at the hands of men (and women) who are the exact same color as the girls who are mutilated. What lesson on that was learned while a black man in black face screamed and white people laughed and ate the body? What was the statement he was trying to make? That it hurts physically? No shit. Clearly, whatever message he was trying to get across was lost because ain’t too many talking about what he was supposed to be there for in the first place.

  15. Chuck,
    I’m actually in agreement with most of what you said. Like 3stacks, I do take the use of the word ‘genius’ with a grain of salt in modern times.

  16. The CACOPHONY of it all made an aspect of modern society, art. The imagery applies as a beautiful, paradox, in a slight way, to so many current events. THE CUTTING AND THE TAKING AWAY..

    The duality of it being offensive, yet, a beautiful form of art, (per opinion) given it surfaces many issues we see today. Just amazing.

  17. This…is disturbing, yes, but I wonder if they truly understand the implications of what’s going on. That isn’t to say that they don’t and aren’t intelligent enough, but I think this kind of thing happens more often than we think.

    In this case, I believe the artist is looked at as the authority figure since the art was designed by him and thus, because he instructed the minister to cut the cake from the genitals, she followed by what he said without particular regard to what is actually happening.

    Consider the Milgram Experiment. It’s all about obedience to authority. I think this is what has happened here, though on a lesser scale. We think that people would have to be insane to cut into the genital area of this cake while the artist wails in agony, but what if he hadn’t told them to do so? Would they have still cut from that area?

    Admittedly, I do think that because it is labeled as art, it lessened the impact of what was really going on. I don’t think these people, while cutting the cake, had any evil thoughts or intentions in mind when they did so. I just don’t believe they truly saw into the picture clearly enough. Laughing and whipping out iphones does’t designate them as terrible people. Good people can do bad things under if the conditions suit the situation.

    • rebeKah

      CivilCricket: many great points. i can’t help wondering if they weren’t told where to begin cutting, that never in a million years would they had begun at the genitals. also, great point about the Milgram Experiment. many of the attendees- even those who pulled out iphones- may have been uncomfortable about the entire spectacle. they probably woke up the next morning mortified that they went along with it. group think.

  18. I respect the artist for creating this and trying to bring light to a very serious problem that is occurring. The cake in itself is not racist or tacky. I believe the black-face was a bit tacky, but not quite “racist”. My supreme problem with this video and incident is the fact that the people in attendance to the party were laughing, baulking and making light of a very serious thing. I also am ashamed at the artist who was contributing to the mockery of the situation. I understand the provocative nature of art and I believe the cake and black-face alone could have created the awe and provocativeness necessary to bring awareness. I however do not agree with the all-out laughing and making light of a very serious situation. The minister was basically simulating the mutilation of a person… what so ever is funny with that? If you were ever to really be in the presence of a woman going through that would you laugh at her screams of pain? The art is not what I have a real problem with here, it’s the audience and the mockery being made that is the true shame.

    • I agree. I find the art is disturbing but i spose its meant to be, but the laughing is way more disturbing.

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