Pushaw, Bart. “Blackness at the Edge of the World. Making Race in the Colonial Arctic: Blackness at the Edge of the World. Making Race in the Colonial Arctic.” Periskop – Forum for kunsthistorisk debat, no. 25, 25, Aug. 2021, pp. 60–75.
John Savio’s print Hoppla, We’re Alive! is an uncomfortable image . In a lush black-and-white tropical landscape of palm trees and rolling hills, jubilant figures dance, jump, kiss, and flail their arms. Their sharp black profiles evoke silhouettes. Closer inspection reveals insidious forms that are all too familiar. Drawing our attention is the figure on the bottom right corner of the image, the only human given any facial detail. Savio carefully carved the negative space in order to accentuate two features: the lips and the whites of the figure’s eyes. By making visible these two specific details, Savio recalls the pictorial modes of exaggeration specific to blackface imagery: the juxtaposition of bright eyes and teeth with inflated lips and dark skin. Contorting their bodies into jagged, angular poses, these tropical dancers are racist caricatures of Black performance.