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On Art and Offense

February 20, 2013

I personally define Art as the subjective expression of our objective experiences within the world. Ok, that’s pretty simplistic to be honest, but it gives me a base line to work with considering how the grand scheme of Art is near undefinable. Art covers everything from chicken scratch on a napkin, to the masterwork of DaVinci, to the jamming styles of Santana, to the obviously weed inspiring ramblings of Mel Brooks, to the entertaining psychosis of Dr. Seuss. Art is how we view the world, how we critique the world, ow we express our emotions, our thoughts, our dreams, our perversions and the mundane banality of our very existence.

Like everyone else, there is some Art that I adore and some Art that I don’t care for. I can review Art in many ways; its technical components, composition, form, complexity, its emotional content, how I feel about it, the views it’s attempting to express, etc. Even then, I can’t explain some of it; because either I don’t know what to make of something, or the description is of personal note and quite useless to everyone else. Another way of looking at it would be how the different generations view music of their time; some of it is music, and some of it is noise.

Art is amazing in two ways; it is unique and it evolves. Take the ‘Mona Lisa’ for example. This piece is one of if not the most well-known piece of artwork in today’s world. But how many people have actually seen the original piece? I’d wager not many of you. Take a moment to look at it as it is now, and as it was then…


…quite the difference isn’t it? A once colorful and cheerful piece through time has turned into the more somber and reflective piece we know today. And that’s not considering the many variations we have to appreciate today…




Etc, etc, etc.

…seemingly it has taken on a life of its own (I for one welcome our new overlords). There are many Mona Lisa’s, but there will only ever be one ‘Mona Lisa’. And everyone else’s isn’t DaVinci’s.

One of Arts major joys, and the source of its greatest problem, lies within its interpretation. You go to any book club today and you’ll get a dozen different interpretations of the same book. You watch a movie and people express different takes on it; just take a look at the debate regarding ‘Cabin in the Woods’. You look at a picture and everyone will see something a little different.

Sometimes Art is pretty straight forward, sometimes it’s a representation, sometimes it’s a parody, sometimes it’s a critique. The only one who knows the intent of the piece for sure is the one who created it. And even then, as an Artists myself, I don’t understand half the stuff I do; I just do it. I find it quite questionable when someone claims to understand a piece better than someone else.

And that’s what leads into the danger zone of the Art world; people imposing their subjective interpretations onto the Artist and the Art world. This opens up the world of politics to Art, where people feel it entirely prudent to control the realm of Art to serve only themselves and their ideologies. Not like that’s going to do much though, Artists tend to be rather rebellious to authoritarianism…

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Everybody_Draw_Mohammed_Day

…now I’m not against politics or government using Art for their own means. That would be rather hypocritical of me considering Art is the tool of expression. So I can’t say that one form of expression is any better than the other. But I will say that I am against the regulation or destruction of Art based on individual ideologies. Because at that point you aren’t expressing yourself Artistically, you’re preventing other people from doing so.

Say someone made a poster to express a point and you were offended by it. What’s the correct course of action? Well, if you want to have any credibility, you’ll make your own poster and place it next to the one you find offensive to express yourself in a constructive way. That’s really the only right way; constructive expression.

But there are plenty of terrible ways to respond…

Tearing it down. Not only are you destroying Artwork at that point, you’re censoring it’s existence merely because you don’t like it. Censorship isn’t expression, it’s the exact opposite.

Vandalism. You may think you’re being artistic by co-opting the message the Artwork is attempting to convey, but in actuality you’re imposing your personal interpretations onto the Artist and the community. You’ve become the authoritarian who seeks to control the realm of Art to serve only your own purposes.

Yet plenty of people claim to be defending the idea of freedom of expression through the destruction and vandalism of other’s work..

http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/09/10/mens-rights-posters-vancouver_n_1871526.html
http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2012/10/18/elderly-woman-arrested-for-tearing-down-posters-showing-president-obama-with-hitler-like-mustache/
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Tearing-Down-Socialist-Alternative-Posters/168086213279204
http://www.peoplesjustice.org/site/index.php/Latest/NYPD-Officers-destroy-Know-Your-Rights-Billboard-Posters.html
http://dearblankpleaseblank.com/permalink.php?viewid=931609

Destruction is not Artistic expression and it never was. Art is expression through creation. You’re not artistic by destroying or defacing someone else’s work; you’re just being petty.

You have every right to hold an opinion of a piece of work. You have any right to dislike and even hate various Art. You have every right to critique Art, complain about Art, make your own versions of Art and express your thoughts and feelings about Art with even more Art. But NONE of that gives you the right to censor or deface Art merely because you don’t like it.

You can try all you like to justify it and casually ignore the hypocrisy behind your efforts, but you’ll find controlling Art to be about as simple as performing open heart surgery on a Jellyfish.

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From → Art, Offense

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