Thursday, March 12, 2009

And where'd the line go? When does it go to far?

I found myself leaving class this Tuesday a little irked after the discussion following the lecture. One of the guests attending made a point that you don't need to go see a man get shot at an art gallery as a piece of art when you can go to the quote, "ghetto" of Hartford and see it every and any day you would like. I found myself a bit furious with the comment. Yes, we can see a senseless act of violence performed by another person for any number of reasons, but what does this do? People will say, oh thats horrible, or they will even pretend as though they didn't see anything because it wasn't their problem. Whats effective about Chris Verdon's (sp?) piece of willingly being shot by his friend is that it forces the audience to really watch and really react. They don't really have the opportunity to turn the other cheek and pretend they didn't see it. It forces them to look at that act and wonder why would someone go to such an extent to make a statement. I wouldn't call that act self indulgent. I highly doubt he enjoyed being shot, but the importance of the mission of the piece went above and beyond his personal qualms or level of pain. I can't see how that is self indulgent. It wasn't a cheap scare tactic that we see on candid camera. It's an attempt to reach out to people through a medium that we try to constantly educate ourselves on. If it were just paint on a canvas would it have as much of an effect?
I just can't see how this is self indulgent in any way shape or form. It isn't some sort of twisted S&M moment where he seeks the pain of the bullet in front of an audience to get off. He isn't doing it for a few laughs either. That comment just keeps resonating in my head and I can't but feel as though its completely wrong.
People are so apt to say that we have seen it all and felt it all but the truth we don't. It seems so silly and somewhat prejudicial to say that you can just go to the ghetto to witness a shooting. So violence is strictly in the realm of the poor, or the racial minority? What is the point with that statement. What this piece did was take the minority and the social stigma out of a shooting. Had it been a man of another race who was shot I am sure the reaction would have been different.
All the artists presented each sought a different medium in order to present their ideas and their experiences. They didn't rely upon the traditional mediums because they felt as though they were inadequate to the experience. I agree with this entirely. Paint, pencil, charcoal etc can only do so much.
I think the problem with this type of artistic expression is the fact that it goes against the idea that the body is a temple. It shouldn't be altered, have self inflicted wounds etc that would take away its sanctity. These artists push this idea because it makes people react. This is what should happen. They want their to feel and interact with their piece. These type of pieces are also an invasion and debasement of the safety of social circles and social standing. It forces the affluent and often the sheltered to see things they normally would have.
In the 70's with the Vietnam War the shooting piece made people actually see what they were having their sons drafted into. I think what bothers people about this type of artwork is that it often gets to the core of the issue in a much more raw and gut wrenching manner than people are used to. Again, it forces people to observe, react, and reflect upon what they saw.
It's not surprising that this type of artwork is more widely accepted in my generation rather than earlier generations. We have grown up with the constant back drop of war, gore, injustice, fear, the list goes on. We have violent video games, almost pornographic horror films from Rob Zombie, and we have singers like Marilyn Manson. In a way pain has become a medium of expression of our generation. We are more apt to accept a shooting as a means of art rather than a traditional canvas. We are what we live. I am not saying we are violent, but I am saying we have a much different understanding of pain from the previous generations and what we consider to be an acceptable image. A line exists for us as well, and yes we too shall one day say someone has gone too far
I personally loved Sue Williams artwork. I found it to be profoundly beautiful and horrific at the same time. I find myself enraptured in her work. She has found an interesting outlet for the pains she has experienced and she has been able to make the public more aware of the wrongs committed. Yet, she does this by allowing her paintings to speak for her. She is ashamed yet she is compelled to present her experience to the world. I honestly wish that I could have that kind of courage and talent.