Humanity Is Not A Spectator Sport: Reading #1 (November 8-14)

Paired with Caron Tabb’s current exhibition, “Humanity Is Not a Spectator Sport“, a selected series of readings (one per week) seek to align messages and ideas formed in Tabb’s show with concepts and works of others in the real world.

In “Humanity is Not a Spectator Sport”, Tabb unflinchingly invites the viewer to both experience her own struggles with race, racism, and white privilege while also providing tools for others to take a similar look into their own lives. While never seeking to preach, Tabb instead extends an invitation to engage. She allows the viewer glimpses of the innate goodness we all have inside of ourselves through portraits of courageous women and her own introspection. She endeavors to reveal our common bonds while breaking down the artificial barriers we create so easily. 

Through a list of readings, Tabb hopes to expand the topics of these difficult conversations being formed in the gallery and exhibition and explore them within our own lives and introspective worlds. As such, the first reading serves as a preliminary guide to finding willingness, ability, and meaning in having such ‘difficult conversations’.


About the selected reading:

Robert Livingston, “The Conversation” (2021)

Branded as “an essential tool for individuals, organizations, and communities of all sizes to jump-start dialogue on racism and bias and to transform well-intentioned statements on diversity into concrete actions…”, “The Conversation” is written by Harvard University professor and leading expert in the field of social psychology, Robert Livingston.

A difficult conversation, or as Harvard’s Robert Livingston calls it, The Conversation, can happen when one looks beyond norms and obvious answers to seriously explore and choose a new path. By challenging fundamental assumptions these difficult conversations are courageous because of the inherent discomfort they bring. They often force introspection as one must reconsider both oneself and others. If one is willing, these conversations can alter fundamental beliefs and understandings and lead to a new perspective, and sense of accountability, or commitment.

Seeking to function primarily as a guide for the general public in their personal journeys toward becoming actively anti-racist, Livingston tackles three main points in his work: what racism really is, why we all should be concerned with the reality of racism, and what we can do in our part of getting rid of it. In his book, Livingston provides an overarching background and understanding of how the dark history of racism continues on to this day. Livingston explains how these truths of our current society are often difficult to accept because of the fact that we like to think of our lives and existence as fair, equal, and just. However, by shedding light on the multitude of ways in which racism as understood at a historical level prevails to this day in the forms of systemic inequalities, social bias, and more.

About the artwork:

Caron Tabb, Fabric of Humanity – Repairing My World, 140″ x 110″

Fabric of Humanity – Repairing My World” is a piece constructed by Tabb using numerous swatches (1,460 of them, to be exact) of various types of cloth she had requested from those willing to send them and share their intimate stories. Each swatch is a piece of something meaningful to those who previously owned it. “I was humbled and touched by the thought and care people gave to my request. People from as far away as South Africa, England, Germany, Israel, and across the USA sent me cherished pieces of garments and heirlooms they had held onto for decades: a one-hundred-year-old nightcap from the old country, a sixty-year-old baby bonnet, a swatch from a wedding dress worn over thirty years ago,” Caron shares. “Stories varied from triumphal to tragic. A friend donated her first scrubs from a medical residency completed more than twenty years ago. A mother who had lost her child in a car accident donated a sock reading, “The World is a Dick”…”. Caron Tabb also added some of her own, personal swatches to the piece, including pieces from her now adult children’s baby blankets. 

Tabb’s hope in creating this ever-growing, asymmetrical quilt composed of personal cloths from so many different lives and times, some uplifting and others heartbreaking, is both to express a deep message of loss and paid homage to those who have lost their lives in recent years and events, as well as bring forth a physical symbol of connectedness and interwoven lives and stories. Tabb explains how the idea to bring forth this work initially came about, as well as how the process impacted her experientially: “As the Covid-19 pandemic settled in, it became apparent that the entire human race had been, in one way or another, connected together by an invisible enemy; an unseen thread ran across the planet, connecting us in a way one never might have imagined…In my studio, it felt as though I was actively repairing some of the deep divisions in our world. I was able to repair the world, a core Jewish tenet I was stitching through the pain, hurt, and separations that have plagued the United States over the past few decades. I made families whole, connecting family members with their now deceased loved ones. I had the power to stitch back together a world that may feel dark and broken on the outside but remains vibrant and alive on the inside,”. 

Caron Tabb, Fabric of Humanity – Repairing My World (close-up)

Both Livingston’s book and Tabb’s art seek to unveil the connections we have with one another in our society. In recognizing and facing our shared vulnerabilities – joys and pains, alike – we are able to see the ways in which we are linked in our common community and the same in so many important aspects. Difficult conversations have the power to both alienate and connect people, just as the stories behind these swatches of cloth comprising Tabb’s piece “Fabric of Humanity – Repairing My World” have done around the world and at different points in time. By asking ourselves why we need to have difficult conversations at a more basic level attuned to our existence in this world among others, we may be able to find the starting point at which a more meaningful life is possible. We, along with Tabb, invite you to join us in our difficult conversation.

Why is it important to have difficult conversations?

What is lost by avoiding difficult conversations?

What role do difficult conversations play in forming and/or losing relationships?

What difficult conversations have you had (or not had) recently, and how have they affected you?

What makes a conversation “difficult”?


Robert Livingston’s book is available for purchase online or at your local bookstore. We thank you for taking the time to engage with us and the show. “Humanity Is Not A Spectator Sport” is now on view at Beacon Gallery through mid-January 2022.

For more information or to contact the gallery directly, please direct all inquiries to contact@beacongallery.com

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