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Subverting "Civilized" Values

***The staff of the Jim Crow Museum receives dozens of letters and emails. Some of these communiques offer insight into race relations -- historically and in the present. While some are hateful, we have decided to share some of these letters and emails with our Internet visitors.***

My name is Michael Eden. I am a post grad student studying art at Wimbledon School of art in London. I'll get right to the point: I have used many of the images gathered on your web site as a reference for my work, and I have found the site extremely useful.

I came to this subject via my interest in the workings of paranoia, fear and hate. How these emotions affect forms of representation. I have attempted to look at the nostalgia of the Colonial period [still extremely romanticized in England despite the obvious race and gender issues] and attack that nostalgia by haunting idealized white figures with the grotesque black figures -- many from your web site. The white figures themselves haunt the landscape. The idea that I can use two forms of representation both created by white males to subvert a traditional value of the so called "civilized" has been the driving force behind my work. I am also working on a set of drawings that reverse this basic rule having idealized black figures, slaves, servants surrounded by grotesque white aristae's.

Of course there is more to my drawings than this. I have tried to make them as rich and interesting as I can, but I don't want to bore you with it all now.

What I would really like is to send you some copies of my work and get your opinion. I have come under fire for using this kind of imagery (why is a white guy making work about this?), and a more serious criticism questioning weather I have any authentic claim to this debate at all. I maintain that my work is about whiteness and the black characters are there as representatives of hate fear and desire [white that is], although I have many supporters both black and white who seem to get it -- I don't want to ignore this criticism, and I feel your informed opinion whatever it is would help me to define my practice and improve my work.

If this is something you would consider I would be extremely grateful.....I am not a liberal nut who wants to cozy up to black folks; rather, I am just a guy who is interested in the dark side of my own culture and mind. I guess in some way taking control of propaganda and turning it against its creators gives me satisfaction.

Yours Hopefully,

Michael Hugh Eden
-- July 9, 2005