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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

LEGISLATING THE ART WORLD





Conservative Tastes
Legislating the Art World
By James Bowman
from the November 2010 issue

In art news this month, a Brazilian artist named Gil Vicente has rocketed to international fame by exhibiting, as part of the Sao Paulo Art Biennial, a series of drawings depicting himself in the act of assassinating various world leaders and ex-world leaders, including the pope, Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain, and (inevitably, I suppose) former president George W. Bush. According to the London Daily Telegraph, "The series, called Inimigos (Enemies), is meant to highlight alleged crimes for which the leaders have been directly or indirectly responsible by imagining that they are being made to pay the price." Or, as Mr. Vicente himself puts it, "Because they kill so many other people, it would be a favor to kill them, understand? Why don't people in power and in the elite die?" The answer, if we pretend for a moment that he really wants an answer, is of course that Mr. Vicente is not an actual assassin but only an artist, which is to say (these days) a fantasist whose job it is to produce the sort of fantasy which will resonate sufficiently with the world's media culture to win him fame and fortune. With the carefully calculated shock of his assassination drawings he has clearly found such a fantasy -- though Nicholson Baker beat him to it by six years in the case of President Bush, with his novel Checkpoint.

Ho hum. There is a manufactured quality to the "outrage" of such essentially conceptual art -- increasingly the only art we have. Like Martin Kippenberger's crucified frog in Zuerst die Fuesse (Feet First) or Jesus receiving oral sex in "Misadventures of the Romantic Cannibals" by Enrique Chagoya (no relation to Francisco Goya) which, together with similar rubbish, I keep up with through the regular bulletins of Bill Donohue's Catholic League -- an organization almost Christ-like in its willingness to take upon itself a perpetual state of outrage on our behalf -- this is so obviously created only to provoke that you've got to wonder at the gullibility (if that's what it is) of those who continue to enrich both the provokers and the media's messengers of their provocation by insisting on being provoked by it. It's almost enough to make you sympathize with the Muslims whose violent ways -- for all the tragic harm they cause to the innocent and artists like Molly Norris, the cartoonist for the Seattle Weekly whose bright idea for an "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day" has ended with her disappearance (she has "gone ghost") for security reasons -- at least must prevent a great many talentless and pipsqueak "artists" from making a living out of becoming professional blasphemers.

Read full article here.

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