Written by Taylor: @CrimesOfPathos
I do not intend to date myself with this post, but it is going to happen. As it always seems to when I get on the topic of, yes you probably guessed by the title, TikTok. Conceptually, yeah I get it, but in regards functionality? Ya gurl is lost! Why am talking about TikTok and in context of my age you may ask? The answer is simple: as an artist I view it is an amazing platform and one that I would love to figure out how to use affectively. More importantly, as a global citizen I find it inspiring to see the wealth of community abundant there. Most notably for me is the recent movement of black TikTok users protesting. being that TikTok is primarily focused on showcasing dance (though clearly not limited to this) I began wonder what are the ways in which a visual artist like myself can protest. In particular I was interested in how visual artist make protest a part of their regular practice. So having no idea how to work TikTok I took to Instagram, my millennial comfort zone, for research.
What I found as I browsed various hashtags such as #blackanime or #afrodisney was truly inspiring. Black artist of ALL walks of life were taking the characters they know and love and fearlessly portraying them or redrawing them in a style that both honors the original character and highlights their personal relationship to the character. For me this is paramount, not that black cosplayers or bounders are obligated to turn their favorite character into an ethnic one, but that they proudly show off characters that have resonated with them in a world when there is so little representation. Do not get me wrong, I see more representation than ever for todays children. I am simply remarking on how little there was for my generation. It is this absence of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of color) characters that I feel has inspired creators of a similar age group to seek representation in unconventional characters. One such example that comes to mind is Jack the Pumpkin king from the Nightmare before Christmas. I cannot tell you how many of my BIPOC friends related to Jack as an outsider seeking their own place within society. I think that this feeling of being the other within society is something that touches us all in one way or another. An even now that we are seeing the rise of characters such as Tiana, our first black Disney princess, and Marvel’s Black panther the visual arts community continues to pay homage to the “other” characters like our friend Jack.
I began this journey wondering how it is that visual artist from illustrators like myself to bounders protest. While I have enjoyed exploring this question, my inquiry should only serve as inspiration for your own. I found that protest is not always militant or aggressive. Choosing to portray black or “other-ed” characters in our art practices as BIOPC peoples is just as much a form of protest as any other. For me these portrayals are a tool for better understanding marginalized communities, as well as, the individual behind the imagery. When I see a black cosplayer dressed as Naruto from the Japanese manga, I now see protest in the form of holding space and creating representation. Yes, you could easily argue that I’m reading too much into things, or even that the cosplayer simply enjoys Naruto. However, I want to challenge you so consider representation as protest. So to conclude my musing on art and protest, I ask all the creators out there: why should TikTok have all the fun?