Nate Hill, a 36-year-old artist, is the winner of this week’s prize for art we just don’t get. His project, dubbed “Trophy Scarves,” is a series in which Hill, who is half-African-American, wears scantily clad white women as scarves and documents himself in this fanciful garb. In his photos, posted for his 15,000 plus followers on Instagram, models, usually with their faces obscured, are slung over Hill’s shoulders as he, in a tuxedo and stylish glasses, stares at the camera.
On his website Trophy Scarves, Hill’s one-sentence mission statement reads: “I wear white women for status and power.” One of the models who appears as Hill’s “scarf” told Mic that his intention is to make “(white) women look submissive, objectified, hunted at the will of a tuxedo-clad (black) man.” It is meant to be a piece of satire about the representation of white women in the media, of white women as status objects, the stereotypical relationship between black men and white women.
Certainly, those pictures are arresting. But Hill’s project is one in which the thin veil of irony doesn’t do the work he thinks it does. If you grow ironic muttonchops, you are left with muttonchops. His satire piece about the objectification of women in the media is actually just objectifying women. It doesn’t engage with the concept, it just recreates it. It is bad behavior in the guise of performance art. He isn’t doing anything to critique the paradigm here; he’s just enforcing the same old tired tropes of women as less than human.
Too often good taste used as an excuse to dismiss sexism. It’s as if there’s a belief that the high-mindedness of the art will cancel out the terribly pedestrian notions of discrimination. But it’s not so. If the price of these pieces is someone’s integrity as a human being, it is too high.
(Photo via Instagram)