Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Why so scared, white girl?

This is a model of Jean Nouvel’s design for the National Museum of Qatar. Its forms – inspired by sand roses - and colors integrate into the desert and reflect its lightness and shifting. In Nocolai Ouroussoff’s review in the Times Monday, he notes that the design aims to bring attention to the “fading world of the Bedouins from which modern Qatar sprang, while also embracing the realities of a rapidly urbanizing society.”

The design seems truly beautiful to me, but what interests me too is how a European architect has addressed and drawn on a culture that is not his own. I was in college at the height of political correctness and it is still ingrained in my head that one is not supposed to take in another culture and develop it in one’s own way. That would be disrespectful and worse, colonizing. I know we had post-modernism, but I seemed to have missed that.

Of course you have to know what you’re borrowing. That’s a given. But it still feels scary to me. Literally. Am I being exploitative? These days the designs of traditional African fabrics are making their way into my drawings. And I’m going with it. But am I allowed?

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