Art, Diversity and the Human Race, Nancy Burson on Huffington Post

April 6, 2016

Nancy Burson's timely new work, What If He Were: Black-Asian-Hispanic-Middle Eastern-Indian, is gaining national attention.  Huffington Post writer Christine Buckley wrote on the topic of diversity, Nancy's research and work, and how most of us are more similar than we are different.


“Another of Burson’s projects is the provocative Human Race Machine, which she created as a public art project commissioned by the London Millennium Dome in 2000. Burson’s Human Race Machines continue to tour the country at colleges and universities and allow people to view themselves as another race. It is her hope that the project will challenge people to change perspectives on how they view human race. As recently reported by Popular Science, current research shows that the experience of oneself as another race can create cross-racial empathy within the mirror neutrons of the brain. This is important, really, because the concept of race is not genetic, it is social. In 2005 scientists discovered just one gene controls skin color. Put another way, that is just one tiny letter of DNA code out of the 3.1 billion letters in the human genome. Yes folks, we are all 99.99% alike.
In her recent and timely work utilizing the Human Race Machine, What if He were: Black-Asian-Hispanic-Middle Eastern-Indian, Burson created images of Donald Trump as each of these races. Originally commissioned by a prominent magazine, which ultimately decided not to publish it, Burson said she was spurred to produce the work. “The question in my mind was whether Donald Trump’s brain would be affected with an empathetic response upon viewing the work,” explained Burson.

While art and politics don’t always mix, Burson’s project is one that goes beyond politics and delves deep into the psychology of a person’s sense of self. One has to wonder if Trump sat with the image of himself as Middle Eastern, would he at all feel empathy and reconsider his position of banning Muslims from entering the United States? Or if he visually experienced himself as Hispanic, would he still fiercely advocate building a wall with Mexico? Would he at all feel compassion for others, if even on a subconscious level?”

— C. Buckley

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