Ann Liv Young's racial violence

This was written by a neourdiverse artist with dyslexia, please bare that in mind.

A few weeks back I was part of the ‘Save Your Soul’ festival programmed and presented by Sophiensaele, Berlin. A festival with a curatorial focus on therapeutic forms of play in performance.

The programme also included artist, Ann Liv Young. I was unaware of  Ann Liv Young before the festival but since then, hearing from others and trusting google I understand Ann to be a well-known performance artist who has been admired and celebrated on numerous platforms. 

This statement is to call out Ann Liv Young’s racial violence both during her performance at Sophiensaele and after her performance (via instagram) and a call to the performance art community made up of festivals, programmers, producers, artists, academics, audiences and venues to stand in solidarity with those affected by her racial violence by not programming, working with, attending or promoting Ann Liv Young’s work in the future.

Clarity of the racial violence that occured: 

Young's show consisted of performing as a self-created character, ‘Sherry’ a character that she herself has said “is always improvised” and “has a very loose structure” so unknown to the curator of the festival, Joy Kristin Kalu,  ‘Sherry’ (Young) while singing said the n-word. 

She was singing along to a song that has the n-word but as a white woman she had/has no authority in saying/singing/performing that word. Character or not, performance art does not give her permission to dismiss her power and privilege and violence as a white woman. It does not exonerate her of her racist actions. Period. 

Performance art shields white supremacist violence every day in the name of ‘free speech’ ‘critique’ and in Young’s own words “asking difficult questions”What actual questions were proposed by Young that night, that was actually difficult or contribute any helpful action to anti-racism? If Young thinks that by ‘playing’ the dumb racist White woman claiming violence cannot occur because it is just a song is a reflection of our social climate she is not wrong, but how is that helpful or productive or difficult. It looks quite easy from my position; a white woman says n-word claims authority because of societal ill, Simple. To imply difficulty is to claim a degree of complexity and interrogation by Young as an artist, but perpetrating and reproducing violence on black people to reflect society is not difficult. it is easy, it is easy, digestible and read as ‘radical’ and ‘controversial' art that many white artists indulge in every day, case in point, Brett Bailey or  Dana Schutz. 

 Ann’s post-performance Instagram rant on why she will not apologise because “I didn't do anything wrong” cements the violence and twists the screw of trauma for the black audiences that were present and for black people trying to engage her in a conversation online. She became and is a racist troll. No exceptions, even stating her mixed children as a currency of legitimacy is sickening. 

Ann has stated ‘sherry’ the character was “a catalyst that night for a much larger issue” in her words:

“Why were there only 6 or so ppl of color n the audience? Why were there not more performance artists of color??? I ADDRESS THESE THINGS CONSTANTLY n my shows.”

To that I would say, I am glad that not more black folx were in the audience, knowing that pain and trauma could have affected more is worrying and I'm baffled at Young’s lack of empathy. Stating in capitals that she addresses these ‘things’ constantly is a true staple of white feminism; to shout about lazy non-direct action that will do nothing to dismantle any racism in the industry. Would Young like a round of applause for doing the bare minimum? How about paying black performance artists to be in your work? hand over the mic, the light and attention to those artists you say you talk about in your shows. That is difficult, difficulty that Young is not attuned to, to ask herself to let go of power. 

If Young will not take meaningful action then power should be stripped from her. This is a call to the art community to show real allyship and call out this violence by not programming, working with or promoting Ann Liv Young’s work. I would ask this statement be shared as the bare minimum of labour from white allies.  I’m asking white allies and non-black POC within the industry to contribute meaningful action. I am especially calling upon those in positions of power and status to stand in solidarity.  

I would like to signpost to the artist, Fannie Sosa whose online labour and actions of calling out Young alerted me and others to this violence. 

This statement includes only the artist, Demi Nandhra’s sentiments and opinions and all quotes have been hyperlinked from original sources.