What should happen to “offensive” artwork?

Knowledge Questions: What are the ethical limitations of artwork? To what extent are artists responsible for the reactions their work receives? What is the role of the audience in deciding the meaning of artwork? To what extent do the intentions of the artist matter in the interpretation of their work? What are the responsibilities of institutions in deciding what work is appropriate for display?

This is a topic that will never quite leave us. There are countless cases of “offensive” artwork and the reactions it gets. All of these provide great opportunities for TOK.

A Los Angeles School Planned to Whitewash a Mural That Offended Korean Activists—Until Shepard Fairey Stepped in to Defend It

(Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)

 

Stanton’s work depicts the late actress Ava Gardner on a backdrop of blue and orange sun rays. It was targeted by Korean-American activists who complained that the sun-ray pattern is similar to that of the Japanese Imperial flag, which has become a symbol of the atrocities Japan committed before and during World War II, particularly in China and Korea. In response, the school district announced plans to cover it up. 

https://news.artnet.com/art-world/shepard-fairey-defends-beau-stanton-mural-1423192

Should Art That Infuriates Be Removed?

“Is the censorship, much less the destruction of art, abhorrent? Yes. Should people offended or outraged by an artwork or an exhibition mount protests? Absolutely. And might a museum have the foresight to frame a possibly controversial work of art through labels or programming? Yes, that, too. “

White Artist’s Painting of Emmett Till at Whitney Biennial Draws Protests

White free speech and white creative freedom have been founded on the constraint of others, and are not natural rights. The painting must go.” She added that “contemporary art is a fundamentally white supremacist institution despite all our nice friends.”

 

Met Defends Suggestive Painting of Girl After Petition Calls for Its Removal

“The Metropolitan Museum of Art will not remove a controversial painting by the French painter known as Balthus from public display.”

 

  • How do we determine whether art is “appropriate”?
  • How does context affect the meaning of art? Notice how the quote below makes mention of the “current climate.” Should the “current climate” affect what is allowed to be displayed in a museum?

“Given the current climate around sexual assault and allegations that become more public each day, in showcasing this work for the masses, The Met is romanticizing voyeurism and the objectification of children,” it reads.

160803093028-australian-artist-clinton-mural-super-169Is censorship of artwork ever appropriate? If so, under what circumstances?

“A controversial mural of Hillary Clinton will be allowed to remain after the artist modified it from depicting the politician in a revealing swimsuit to one where she is wearing a burqa instead.”

http://edition.cnn.com/2016/08/02/asia/australia-clinton-mural-artist-burqa/

Photograph that has attracted controversy for more than two decades attracts protests outside New York exhibition

http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2012/sep/28/andres-serrano-piss-christ-new-york

A 124-year-old statue reviled by Native Americans – and how it came down

3121.jpg

Art is in the eye of the community
So if the statue doesn’t provide an accurate idea of history, is it valid as a piece of public art? Jeff Hou, a professor of landscape architecture at the University of Washington, says no. He says the public realm is accountable to one audience – the public.

“In the public realm, works of arts and design are subject to the public process. In other words, the public can have a say in what’s appropriate in a public space in a democracy,” he told me.

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/sep/24/early-days-statue-removed-san-francisco-native-americans

Met Defends Suggestive Painting of Girl After Petition Calls for Its Removal

“The Metropolitan Museum of Art will not remove a controversial painting by the French painter known as Balthus from public display.”

  • How do we determine whether art is “appropriate”?
  • How does context affect the meaning of art? Notice how the quote below makes mention of the “current climate.” Should the “current climate” affect what is allowed to be displayed in a museum?

“Given the current climate around sexual assault and allegations that become more public each day, in showcasing this work for the masses, The Met is romanticizing voyeurism and the objectification of children,” it reads.

Should Art That Infuriates Be Removed?

“Is the censorship, much less the destruction of art, abhorrent? Yes. Should people offended or outraged by an artwork or an exhibition mount protests? Absolutely. And might a museum have the foresight to frame a possibly controversial work of art through labels or programming? Yes, that, too. “

White Artist’s Painting of Emmett Till at Whitney Biennial Draws Protests

White free speech and white creative freedom have been founded on the constraint of others, and are not natural rights. The painting must go.” She added that “contemporary art is a fundamentally white supremacist institution despite all our nice friends.”

 

Melbourne graffiti artist sprays burqa over provocative Hillary Clinton mural

160803093028-australian-artist-clinton-mural-super-169Is censorship of artwork ever appropriate? If so, under what circumstances?

“A controversial mural of Hillary Clinton will be allowed to remain after the artist modified it from depicting the politician in a revealing swimsuit to one where she is wearing a burqa instead.”

http://edition.cnn.com/2016/08/02/asia/australia-clinton-mural-artist-burqa/

A Startling New Lesson in the Power of Imagery

Article about the controversial cartoons published in a Danish magazine whose goal was to insult or mock Muhammad. The cartoons were met with threats of violence and protest.

Do artists have a responsibility not to offend people? Can it be their goal to offend? What are the ethical limitations on what artists should be able to do to create art? How do we define art?

MSNBC’s Maddow Shows ‘Piss Christ’ But Not Latest ‘Charlie Hebdo’

“On April 18, 2011 Maddow and her network had no difficulty showing and discussing the “Piss Christ” photo by Andres Serrano after it was destroyed in a museum in France by protestors upset with the image of a crucifix submerged in urine.”

http://cnsnews.com/blog/eric-scheiner/msnbcs-maddow-shows-piss-christ-not-latest-charlie-hebdo