MASTER is an animation loop of a row of the same White Anglo-Saxon Protestant man six times whose head has been replaced by the letters that spell the title of this work: M-A-S-T-E-R. This master has no face. He uses the whips he holds to thrash a cartoon character who is strongly reminiscent of Little Black Sambo, the hero in an eponymous children’s book written and illustrated by Helen Bannerman that was first published in 1899, and which also spawned a few animation shorts in the 1930s.
The original book has a chequered history – from being included in lists of recommended stories for children for several decades, to coming under increasing fire from 1932 after the word ‘sambo’ was deemed a racist slur. Yet this didn’t deter Ub Iwerk, Walt Disney’s close friend and fellow creator of Mickey Mouse, from producing an animated version of it as part of his Comicolor series in 1935*. Rising tides of anti-racist bile saw to it that the book was removed from all school libraries in the US by the end of the 1960s. Ub Iwerk’s animation is now banned from public display in the United States too, but it has been ‘preserved’ on Youtube**.
Hoogerbrugge was prompted to make these pieces after watching a documentary about the murder of three African American civil rights workers by the Ku Klux Klan in 1964 and the subsequent colluding by officials, local and otherwise, to first conceal the crime and then ensure that those who were finally charged received the lightest possible sentences. Now, 50 years later, we’re seeing more of the same in the land of the free and the home of the brave (two unarmed African Americans killed by US police every week in 2014/2015)***. When pressed further on his reasons, Hoogerbrugge responded with: ‘Imagine what it would be like to watch this video alongside a black person, preferably someone you don’t know.’ I hadn’t thought of that. And when I did, I cringed. Which is exactly the feeling Hoogerbrugge intends to evoke.
At the 2015 Art Rotterdam event (5–8 February, Base Alpha Gallery), Hoogerbrugge’s projected animation was accompanied by three ‘racist’ Felt-tip Drawings.
Edition: 5 + 1 AP
Materials (for exhibition): monitor, beamer
Exhibited: 2015 Art Rotterdam, Base Alpha Gallery, Rotterdam, the Netherlands
* While researching this, I came across this video, which many claim is even more offensive, Scrub Me Mama With A Boogie Beat (1941)
** Ub Iwerk’s 1935 animation Little Black Sambo
*** This book by Radley Balko is a very well-timed warning of what all our police forces will look like in a few years: Rise of the Warrior Cop (New York: PublicAffairs, 2014).
Master / 2015