Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Art and Exploitation

We're preparing to leave on a big ole jet airliner for Arizona later today.

I am hope finishing up some packing--of clothes, snacks, iPod, coloring books. Lynda is wrapping up some loose ends at work and probably should be home soon.

But . . . before we depart, I wanted to pass along some thoughts on an article I just read over on Slate.com.

The story, as you can see, is about a photographic artist that is presenting some pictures of young children in the midst of a tantrum. The artist justifies this with some reflections on how these images made her think about the horrible things that our government is doing and how it will put our kids in a world of hurt ("Their pain is a precursor of what is to come.")

I agree with the author's assertion that this "artistic" assertion is a whole lot of yada, yada, yada. It seems a bit too overblown.

But the controversy is about how these photos were taken. Apparently, in order to achieve the tantrum, the photographer teased, denied, mistreated? the kids to achieve the blow up. That, predictably, has others crying CHILD ABUSE and more overstatements.

First . . . does this rise to the level of child abuse? I don't think so. Is it a crass and contemptible way to achieve photos that have a pretty tenuous basis for artistic credibility? Seems that way. But everyone seems so ready to jump to the worst conclusions about the photographer.

Second . . . what also bothers me is the notion in the second half of the article that seems to indicate that any methods is acceptable if great art is the result. The specific quotes here are: "As Faulkner once said, 'If a writer has to rob his mother, he will not hesitate; the 'Ode on a Grecian Urn' is worth any number of old ladies.' . . . [B]ad art neither deserves nor receives the kind of moral pass that Faulkner was endorsing. An asshole who makes great art is an asshole who makes great art; but an asshole who makes lousy art is just an asshole."

So, you can condemn the artist, but you have to acknowledge the art, even if it was achieved through disturbing means? Where does the art separate from the artist? How much time has to pass? Is this like baseball player Ty Cobb, whom everyone acknowledges was a world-class jerk and racist, but just happened to be a great baseball player too?

Thirdly . . . am I exploiting people by blogging about them and displaying their photographic image without their consent?

Discuss amongst yourselves . . .

1 comment:

Sven Golly said...

I like a good ethical dilemma as much as the next person, so at the risk of overreacting to someone's overreaction to someone else's trangression... Any artist takes a risk of doing harm to someone's sensibilities when they put pen to paper, brush to canvas, foot on stage, or "shoots" her crying kids. It's also a common romantic myth that the artiste (and his friends) must suffer for his Art. To make your private experience public in whatever medium can be as raw or as tame as the artist chooses. Yet it can be done tastefully (Faulkner?) or tastelessly (Jill Greenberg, the LA photographer in question), and then others can either let it go as poorly done, or they can aid and abet the transgressor's bid for exposure by drawing attention to her BOLD, SHOCKING work. It's also bogus to excuse exploitation for Great Art while condemning it for bad, middling, or merely good art. For every Ty Cobb there's a hundred mean sumbitches with less talent who are no more and no less guilty of personal shortcomings. I'll stop now.