Arts

American plastic artist Jimmie Durham is dead | Today Headlines

American plastic artist Jimmie Durham is dead
| Today Headlines | Usa news

American visual artist, poet and activist, Jimmie Durham wanted his work to define him, rather than the lines of a CV. A certain mystery therefore hangs over his life as a storyteller. The date of his death is known: he died on November 17, in Berlin, at the age of 81. For the rest, there are still some gaps. Celebrated around the world, Durham has a rare track record to its credit: two Documenta de Kassel and five Venice Biennials, which in 2019 was crowned with a Golden Lion.

“His work, which emphatically betrays the limits of Western rationalism, has often focused on denouncing the oppression and misunderstandings perpetrated by the colonial power against the various indigenous populations throughout the world”, specified Ralf Rugoff, director of this Biennale. Diplomatic way of approaching the controversy that marred his last years: while he always claimed to be of Cherokee ancestry and put a lot of ardor in defending the Amerindian cause, Durham was treated, in 2017, as a usurper by the representatives of this nation: he is not one of them!

In American museums, the debate is heated. “Cherokee or whatever, whatever, I don’t feel like I belong to any nation anymore”, retorted the artist. So remains her work: made up of installations of heterogeneous objects, video parables and dazzling words, she feeds on “Back and forth between performance, object and relationship to society, a conversation that I refuse to end”, he told us about fifteen years ago.

Identity and racism

Born July 10, 1940 in Houston (Texas), Jimmie Durham began in 1963 in theater, performance and literature, while participating in the fight for civil rights. In 1969, he moved to Geneva, where he joined the School of Fine Arts. Returning to the United States in 1973, he became an active member of the American Indian Movement until 1980. He then represented the International Council of Indian Treaties at the United Nations.

It was then that he decided to devote himself fully to art. His first American period was strongly marked by questions about identity and racism. Puma skull, turquoise and turkey feathers, his sculptures play with clichés. “But I have never been an artist who sought to sell a form of Indianness”, he defends himself, steeped in the shamanic influence of Joseph Beuys and the biting irony of Robert Filliou.

Jimmie Durham: “I came to Europe for the same reasons Europeans come to the United States: to free myself from history”

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American plastic artist Jimmie Durham is dead
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Remon Buul

Chairman of the board of directors responsible for organizing and developing the general policy of the website and the electronic newspaper, he is interested in public affairs and in monitoring the latest international developments.

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