This site accompanies the exhibition Position and Imposition: MCAD Faculty Responds to Politics at the Minneapolis College of Art & Design. It is a forum for MCAD's Liberal Arts faculty to recommend books, films, and other cultural artifacts that contribute to the dialogue surrounding the exhibition. We invite you to comment on the books, the work in the exhibition, and address how they are part of a larger conversation about art, politics, and society.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Phil Anderson

My Draft Card, 1973
This is not a ‘cultural artifact’ in the usual sense. It’s a government document. The “4-W” classification shows that I spent 2 years working as a Conscientious Objector to military service.

What I did – work as a hospital clerk for two years – wasn’t heroic, like the battle service of other men my age. But I didn’t begrudge the two years of “imposition;” I was drafted like any of the soldiers.

Then, and today, my “position” is to honor some kind of a draft as an acceptable common obligation – but for ALL young Americans, and applied to MANY kinds of social or cultural service. We have a good country, we do owe it something, and 18 months or 2 years out of a young man or woman’s life should be an acceptable “imposition”. Why only kill when you can also serve?

My Great-Grandfather's Naturalization Document
The only thing artful about this is John Burt’s handwriting – he was a mere harness-maker, but look at that calligraphy!

The document shows that this Canadian immigrant, born to parents themselves emigrated from England, has chosen to renounce allegiance to Queen Victoria. This still seems dramatic to me, since it gets to the heart of a “position” all Americans implicitly enjoy, which is one of personal freedom.

John Burt moved to Duluth most likely for economic reasons, and his daughter – my grandmother – left school at 15. But his later descendants became college graduates. His own mute declaration of the position of freedom should remind us what many other, more recent, immigrants also seek and sacrifice, whether they admit it overtly or not. Like him and them, do we still choose to be here?

[[ Professor Phil Anderson has taught steadily at MCAD since 1979; since 1999 he has been full-time faculty. From 1978-99 he was a freelance writer and critic, appearing in City Pages weekly and multiple regional and national publications, including The Boston Globe and USA Today Weekend magazine. In 1993, he was a Fulbright Lecture/Research Fellow in Norway, and for the past two years has delivered papers at the Society for Animation Studies conferences in Portland, Oregon and Bournemouth, England. This fall he is teaching a course on American history of the 20th Century. ]]

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