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Archive for December 2009

I found it interesting that art, particularly of the avante garde, has been described as an aggressive dialogue with another force, a reaction against something. Personally, I’m left wondering whether art is able to exist in this form in a society where art and ideas can be censored if the government is opposed to them – I think that this undoubtedly will have an effect on the role of art in social change of norms and values, as things against the mainstream are doctored to create something less challenging.

“Entartete Kunst”, translated to “Degenerate Art”, was an exhibition in 1937, Nazi Germany, displaying chaotically hung Modernist works with derisive labels accompanying the pieces. The exhibition included work by artists such as Picasso, van Gogh, and Matisse, all of which are now artists that have been accepted as traditional and mainstream in regard to our modern culture, but at the  time their work was seized to be displayed as means of enraging the general public and creating a sense of revulsion and fear towards modernism, and therefore any subversion. Much of the work from such exhibitions was destroyed as a means of creating social cohesion, with pieces by Picasso, Dali and Ernst, among others, being burned on Bonfire Night in Paris, 1942. I imagine that this would be met with horror in modern society, that works by such admired artists was destroyed in the past and so can therefore never be seen, completely annihilating the knowledge from these pieces. In our society, art is still censored, particularly modern media such as film or photography, making that knowledge inaccessible as our government is adverse to what would be conveyed by the pieces. I think that this sort of censorship is actually worse than the exhibitions in Nazi Germany, seeing as at least it was possible to view the pieces that were being condemned – people had some ability to make their own decisions on the art because they could see it for themselves, even if they were being told what to think about it, rather than the case of our government completely ridding us of certain images, films, themes, depictions. This dictates to us how we should feel about such things in a much more subtle, but still very real way – if we are not allowed to view them because they are ‘obscene’, then anyone who wishes to expose themselves to such material must be obscene also. People are not even allowed to work out their own opinions in regard to specific pieces as instead of viewing the images and being told that they are disgusting, we are told that they are too disgusting for us to see without being corrupted. Perhaps this is the difference between our society and that of Nazi Germany – it was very obvious who the Nazis were intending to smear with their degenerate art, whereas our government is less specific, anyone could be a degenerate, or turned into a degenerate by exposure to certain images.

I was also told that there was a British exhibition, displaying works of art that had been censored, or considered controversial in the past, which made me wonder whether an exhibition like this could contain modern works, works that still could be considered contentious, despite the fact that in a number of years they will probably not be at all shocking because society will have developed to accomodate it, and there will be different things that will be considered inappropriate to show in a gallery.

image by Jackson Pollock

Going back to issues of propaganda, it was mentioned in my lecture that Pollock’s work was used by the CIA to promote the “American Dream”, citing abstract expressionism as a symptom of the “free world”, where Western artists can “do what they want”. I thought that this was an interesting comparison to work by Communist artists that was used as propaganda, as this was described as the artists being “forced to produce art to promote the philosophy”.

Pollock’s work was used by the American state during the Cold War to promote its ideology, despite Pollock’s style at first being controversial, rebellious, against mainstream convention. In Pollock being a free artist, this meant him rebelling against social norms and values, but now such rebellious artists have become a symbol of our society, their art is the official art of our time. Western society seems to encourage free-thinking, but only to certain ends or through implementing boundaries – this art is used to represent the character of the “free world”, but it is not truly free. Perhaps this sort of rebel art is absorbed by the state to neutralise its ideas, stopping the work from being challenging, because it becomes mainstream, normal, conventional, with the government perhaps changing how it is viewed by using it for its own messages, or by emphasising its visual aesthetics rather than its messages – corporations can own subversive art, auction houses sell it, causing it to be viewed as shallow, trivial consumerist commodity rather than a form of subversion or rebellion. Because of this, how can an artist remain in opposition to society, or the government, asking questions about things that potentially can’t be viewed or discussed, when their views are neutralised or changed to express different sentiments?

International Perspectives on Art – Lecture V

image by Piet Mondrian

Mondrian was part of the De Stijl movement, which stripped art to its basics, focusing on line and colour, and making a point of not relying on other media. This was intended to create a pure visual experience, resisting the mass media and ‘kitsch’ mass produced media as these were viewed as false and having no value. These sorts of media were seen as being a form of shallow, trivial entertainment and a means of distraction, perhaps because De Stijl was born from World War II and art tends to react to times of social change or unrest, particularly as a voice to oppose the government, and create social awareness of the issues which otherwise may be ignored.

My only other knowledge of Mondrian’s work comes from reading Lauren Kipnis’s “Bound & Gagged” –

‘Mondrian’s aesthetic choices emerged from his unconscious conflicts; as he translated these choices into his painting, wielding his ruler and applying his brush, these conflicts guided his hand. He found sensuality so frightening that it was his dread of desire, rather than desires themselves, that ultimately shaped his abstract designs. No sentiment, no curves, no touching – that is how he lived and that is what his paintings proclaim…’

I found this interpretation of his work interesting as it suggests that the aesthetics of his work was largely dictated by subconscious conflicts, and I felt that this opened the possibility of artists perhaps not knowing all of the influences that were acting upon them – that it’s possible that they could be painting a certain way that others interpret as an expression of part of their psyche, but that the artist may not be aware of it or agree with that interpretation.

image by El Lissitzky

Modernism can be seen as being very involved in politics, with this often branching into radical or extreme views because of the idea that art can be an integral part of revolution and social change for a ‘better’ future. According to my lecture, this image is pro-communist, depicting the victory of communism in Russia through abstraction. I found it interesting that all of the communist work that was shown in my lecture was described as ‘propaganda’, and that it was suggested that all of the artists involved in the creation of this work were forced to paint in a certain way to convey very definite political philosophy. Obviously this is a very Western view – surely if Communist art is to be seen as propaganda, advertising in our culture should be seen as propaganda promoting Capitalist society. The problem lies in the fact that there isnt this equality, as the West influences and colonises other cultures – we don’t seem to have the sort of critical thinking for our own culture that we do for others, instead condemning difference but not looking at possible faults in our own social structure. It’s easier to see faults in other cultures and attempt to correct them, creating a state of false consciousness and alienation. I think this is accurately shown in the fact that Communism was presented so negatively in my lecture – it wasn’t presented as an alternative social structure, but instead as an evil opposing force, an enemy to our own social norms and values, I’m sure partly with some element of irony, but I think the views go so deep that it’s difficult to isolate Communism from its negative connotations. For example, in my lecture, art from Communist countries was grouped with work from Nazi Germany, surely something that expresses colonialism and an inability to accept or understand alternative social structures without demonising them – countries that adopt Communism often have social problems, but I’m unsure in my personal view as to whether that can really be attributed to Communism, as it is only misuse of Communism that can be linked to this. Also, Capitalist societies have social problems also, but because these cultures are so like our own, we find it difficult to see as many faults in them as it is what we know – it’s easier to see problems in the things that we aren’t involved in or don’t understand.

Perspectives on International Art – Lecture V – 7/12/2009

  • Modernism as a reaction to changes in society. Breaking inheritance from past was important to reflect society.
  • Art began to express the emotions of the artist, giving their own subjective world view – rather than just showing the world, it began to give cues as to feelings about it, tainting the image with emotions and subjectivity, rather than striving for objectivity.
  • Modernism tried to take forward things that were relevant to modern society. Problematic, because this cultural relevance is constantly changing.

image by Bougereau

Images like the one above can be seen as idealising the female form, much in the same way as the ongoing debates over current media showing idealised, unrealistic images of women. In interpreting the image for myself, I tend to ignore the other figures, focusing on the central figure, perhaps suggesting the importance on feminine beauty. Because of focusing less on the other aspects of the painting, I find it hard to read into them. The image makes me wonder what aspects of the painting make it acceptable – if it was an expressive or not aesthetically pleasing, would it be acceptable? If the central figure was shown in a photograph, would it be seen as fine art or pornography? Can the image be seen as ‘infantilising women’ because the main figure has been painted as having no pubic hair, as was suggested in regard to a modern photograph that I chose to analyse? Does the female figure express sexuality – can a naked woman be seen as non-sexual, ever? If this image was modern, or in the form of a photograph, would it be seen as unacceptable, pornographic, or even illegal, for showing both naked children and adults? While in this image, it is not interpreted as sexual, would this be different if it were created in a modern context where cultural norms and values dictate that certain forms of sexuality are abhorrent?

image by Courbet

The work of Courbet was scandalous in its time, but when looked at with modern norms and values it’s conventional – it doesn’t provoke the same sort of controversy that it did in its own time. The reason for Courbet’s controversy was that his paintings showed ‘real’ women, reflecting the ‘natural’ female form rather than the idealised form shown in the work of artists such as Bougereau. Perhaps the reason for its controversy was that it potentially shows women in a more sexualised way than when in an idealised form such as in Bougereau’s paintings, because they are natural bodies that can be found sexually attractive, rather than the bodies of women that are presented as unattainable, god-like, beautiful in their purity.

image by Gauguin

Similarly, Gauguin was controversial in his time, both for presenting an image of women that was unusual in its time, but also for his paintings being against the usual style, not conforming to standard ideas of what art should be. Gauguin was not a trained artist, and it was seen that his lifestyle was outside social norms also, with him having mistresses, but also him living with Van Gogh for a time. Gauguin’s work shows the changing of what is considered ‘normal’, as in the past his work may have been considered distasteful or obscene, whereas now it is reproduced, made into prints, posters, postcards, because it has been absorbed into mainstream culture and is therefore no longer able to shock.

image by Picasso

Arguably, Picasso went further than Gauguin in his distortion of the female form, obviously causing controversy in the time it was made, but now Picasso is considered an admired and hugely influential artist. To me, art work like the ones mentioned previously show that censorship is a degrading, demoralising force that suppresses knowledge and progress. Much in the same way that religion suppressed the enlightenment, I believe that this is still happening to an extent in modern society – works of art, literature, film, are censored according to conservative sensibilities, meaning that certain forms of knowledge, depiction or interpretation are discouraged, even criminalised, to prevent progress and social change. There’s very little that is truly shocking in modern media, because it is so filtered – even the things that are controversial have probably been cut in such a way to take out anything truly ‘obscene’; we are only allowed to be shocked acceptable ways, but even that is a victory considering our hugely restrictive censorship codes. Because of this, to me, it seems unlikely that we will have truly successful, lasting, influential artists because instead of artists being allowed to express flaws in their society, they are expected to work within the guidelines, work with the institutions to create something that is dumbed down and neutralised.

I have a lot of notes to consolidate, and an inability to concentrate, which has caused me to give up on working all together. Quite a problem, considering that my assessment is looming and I still have so many things that I want to do, and nothing’s getting done.

I guess I’ll just pick a place in my notebook and start, see where it goes from from there. If I’m going to just write what I’m thinking, which I think is what I usually do, but I’m not sure because I don’t really remember, then I’d have to write about mitigating factors in my lack of work… being at home stops my work completely for various reasons, but then the newfound popularity of my blog is inhibiting my work because of my worries about how it is being interpreted. I’ll just try to get those things out of the way. At home, I can’t work because my parents would not only hate my work, but they would hate my working… When I’m at home, they require my full attention, if I don’t want to be walking on eggshells for the entirity of my stay. Generally I don’t know if I’ve done anything wrong until an explosion, usually at the end of my visit. This time it didn’t last that long, with my father telling me in no uncertain terms that I’m selfish, narrow-minded and he wishes I was more like “Lizzie from the pub”. I’m writing this because it’s still affecting me, even though I don’t particularly want it to. These things are always somewhere in my mind, all the various guilts and obligations to make sure everyone’s happy all the time. But obviously I’ve failed – I close myself off to things, I don’t disregard my own feelings to make others feel better. I haven’t asked enough questions about my father’s cancer – I didn’t even know that non-hodgekin’s lymphoma doesn’t require an operation; I’m a terrible daughter and a terrible person. Relationships with my family are an important part of who I am, as I’m sure is the case with anyone who has a family. Or anyone who doesn’t have a family really. I like to think that I can be autonomous, to not be affected by my father in the cliched way that girls always are – “daddy didn’t love me enough” – but it’s not possible. I may as well just accept that it’s going to shape who I am, and in admitting that, it will probably shape how I’m viewed by others, how people read me, what my thoughts, feelings or behaviours are attributed to.

So there’s all of that, and I think that I need to look at it further to understand how it’s affecting me and any working processes at the moment.

 

I thought I’d include all of these photographs in this, even though I suppose they could be a post in themselves. I took these just under a year ago when I went to visit my parents, because I felt that they’d be important to look back on, and it’s easier to detach myself from what’s actually happening by depicting it. I was in the kitchen the first night I was back, and basically had to try to interpret what I’d missed while living away from my family through fridge magnets, greetings cards and reminders written on the calendar because no one ever tells me anything. I have a very heightened sense of worry and paranoia from growing up in an environment where nothing is talked about, but everything can explode at any time – there’s always some sort of tension, always something wrong, but no one can ever really be sure what it is. I’m used to guessing the worst thing that could be happening, and working from there, which meant when seeing the cards and calendar, I knew that my dad was ill, but didn’t know what exactly was wrong – I guessed at cancer because that tends to be everyone’s first worst-case scenario that they go to. I’m not usually right in my paranoia, but this time I was. Going back to my parents’ house makes me revert back to being how I was when I was a teenager – constantly on edge, and also probably quite dramatic in depicting everything that’s wrong. When saying that I found out about my father’s cancer from reading it on a calendar, that sounds like the sort of thing that would be emphasised, it would hold importance… In some ways, I make it have that sort of importance, but I don’t want to over-emphasise it, becoming the sort of artist who is always looking at past wrongs that have been enacted on them. I suppose I’d just like to look at identity formed through experience, and thinking, feeling, behaving differently because of how one is shaped by past experience. It would also be interesting to see how differently I’ve interpreted things to how my parents interpret things – I’m sure my account of my childhood would be drastically different to how they see it. I’d even go so far as to say that my account would be seen as exaggerating, or lying, when really it’s just an alternative viewpoint on something subjective, and I’ve had different influences on me than they have.

I’ve tried to gain a bit of distance from all the things that have been happening, to try to get a bit of clarity on it and work out how to interpret and move on from the recent reception of my work. So, I haven’t blogged in the last few weeks, because it was at a point where blogging or researching all the things I was working on was upsetting me, and so none of it was at all productive because I was in such a negative state of mind. I’ve still been writing down notes on things that I’ve found interesting, because I can’t ever isolate myself from my work or thinking that much. It’s made me think of why I’ve been using a blog, because it’s not really about getting my point across to other people – that is an exciting prospect, but recently I’ve found myself not wanting people to view my blog because it seems like the message I’ve been given is that it’s ok to say whatever I want, so long as no one else sees – the problem only arises when other people have access to my work. Anyway, I think it’s just that I like to be able to consolidate my work…. When writing in a notebook, I only write in jumbled sentences – it’s disorganised (in a charming way, of course), and so I find it hard to work with if I don’t do something else with it. This is probably  why i’m bothering to write all this – i don’t think anyone else will be interested to read it… it’s only about why i use a blog, and how i’ve reacted to everything over the last few weeks… mainly it’s just a reinitiation into blogging after my absence. it helps me… i know i’m not writing this particularly well – with that being especially highlighted by the fact that i’ve given up using caps because the key isn’t working and i don’t want to bother hammering at it every time i start a sentence or use an ‘i’. i attribute this to too much online gaming. while not working, i had to be doing something…. but i’ve reached a point where i’m starting to get nervous about my lack of work, but also that i’m missing thinking even if it makes me sad. i’ve had a lot of ideas that i havent been able to express, because of not blogging and not creating any art, so i think it’s time to start looking at them.

When I got home, I made a video to document how I was feeling about all of this, but unfortunately can’t upload it to my blog as of yet, because I’m not brave enough to put it on YouTube first. I don’t usually work in video because I don’t think I really have the skills for it, but I do think that this one worked surprisingly well, probably because it was so honest. It’s confusing really, because when watching it back I seem like I’m playing a character, but at the time it felt genuine, but obviously I was acting slightly differently because of the camera. It’s made me consider looking more into video, potentially with performance art. I’m also considering the idea of turning the contents of this blog into a video as I think it would be more accessible than all the writing, and some times I feel like I could express myself better or more sincerely through talking than writing. I have ambitious ideas for these videos, which will probably never work out, but I want to look at what can acceptably be shown through video, and what should be conveyed through audio to save the sensibilities of the viewer.

So, an even more depressing and intimidating tutorial. The story has changed since yesterday – if the university has any evidence to believe that I’m doing anything illegal, they must report me to the police. They’re also still trying to persuade me that my ideas are worth continuing with, but that it must be in a certain way – “erring on the side of caution”. Fantastic that I even predicted their exact words in my blog posts last night. Basically, that means no images that may be considered illegal. So, that would mean no pornography, no self-shot images, no Richard Prince, no Melanie Pullen – basically no images of children, and no images of women in staged violence.

Once again, I repeat “I don’t want to be an artist any more”. If I’m going to reflect honestly, there’s probably absolutely no fucking point in me having gone into higher education. I fucked up college, so this is just an even more expensive opportunity to fuck up, and probably have a police investigation in the process. Why not quit while I’m ahead? Of course they’ve addressed this point through making me feel like my ideas are shit and I’m sensationalist and not understanding the material I’m working with, but saying that the blocks on my work should inspire me – they’re a blessing, not a curse! So if I stop working on this now, I’ll be seen as a whiny little girl who didn’t get her way and so is going to stop playing. Apparently wanting to express my viewpoint in the way I am is akin to one of the tutors “wanting to make a building made out of gold”.

And of course I can’t actually talk to any of them about what I’ve actually done now, because if I say anything that edges over into even possible illegality, they tell the police. So how am I supposed to possibly know what I’m doing? I have my first assessment next month, and so not only is there the general nerves of assessment, of having to present your work in 15 minutes and make sure you cover everything, there’s also the added threat of “if there’s evidence of anything illegal, we have to tell the police.” Well, at least they’re setting up a meeting with a lawyer for me in advance. Not quite in the serious way it sounds, but they think it would be good to discuss something with the university lawyer. But what is illegal? I kept trying to explain that I haven’t chosen any images that I know are illegal – I haven’t even chosen the images I’m using because I think they’re illegal (I don’t think that they’re illegal – I don’t know whether they’re illegal), I’ve chosen them because they make my point best. But there seems like there’s an inability or unwillingness to understand this – I keep being told I’m missing the point. Then tell me what the point is. To other people, the point seems to be censorship and ambiguity in images, which is exactly what I’m looking at. Unfortunately the people discussing my work don’t seem to have ever actually seen my work, and nor can they any more, considering that if they deem any of it inappropriate, they must tell the police. They even said that if I want to continue on this, then maybe I could use images from topshelf magazines, that way I know they’re legal. That way I also know that they’re completely acceptable and therefore don’t really have that much of a part in my project. I’ve looked at mainstream stuff like this, but the whole point is to compare it to less acceptable images to see what exactly the difference is.

Again, there was the suggestion that maybe I could describe the images instead (although the government has proposals to make all writing on the themes of extreme pornography illegal). Then I’m no better than the media putting so much hype on the images. Why can’t people actually look at things to form their opinions? I’ve been considering doing something on not seeing the images, but I would have absolutely no basis or knowledge or understanding of this subject if I had not seen images of staged violence etc. at all during this project. I find it very interesting to look at how the people campaigning for this censorship law haven’t ever viewed an image like this, that the figurehead of this campaign doesn’t even watch television soap operas because they’re too violent. I also wanted to play on the idea that the university is basically saying that I can do whatever work I want (except of course that has now changed), so long as it’s safe inside the studio and no one from the outside world sees it.



  • fred whitacre jr: they don,t have any sex invaled why are we so againce children being nude in pictures because of alll the sick fucking rapetist out there children
  • fred whitacre jr: she only 12 but it is not porn at all it is nude only only a sick person would want to fuck her not me but i will tell you the true she is a very hot
  • fred whitacre jr: i see noghting wrong just a nude girl no porn that would be wrong with a child but not worng with a grown up only nude pics of children is ok if no se