Rocío Boliver, a performance artist, “devotee of transgression” and author of “porno-erotic texts,” struggles with middle age.
There is of course a long and tedious tradition of self-harm in performance art. It’s hardly less common than nudity or faeces. Or anti-capitalist pablum. Though to be fair, some have embraced self-mutilation in a slightly less time-wasting and roundabout manner. In 1971 an artist named Chris Burden had a friend load a rifle and then shoot him in the arm. Mr Burden felt this would lead to him being “taken seriously as an artist.” Though it seems this colossal seriousness had to be reaffirmed three years later, when Burden felt it artistically necessary to have both of his hands nailed to the roof of a VW Beetle.
The exquisite mealtime sorrows of the Guardianista male.
The bearer of these sorrows, David Dennis, has apparently spent an awful lot of time fretting about his wife putting food on his plate. I mean literally putting food on his plate, as when serving a typical meal. Given Mr Dennis’s rather pronounced Guardianista tendencies, it’s scarcely surprising that he’s also been fretting that other people, possibly people much like himself, may subsequently judge him for this patriarchal trespass, as if he and his wife were dreadful throwbacks to a darker, more primitive age.
Icess Fernandez Rojas isn’t being sufficiently affirmed by strangers, software and disposable paper cups. Something must be done.
It’s all very tragic. Our Guardian columnist just wants to “celebrate [her] uniqueness” in an “inclusive society” and her spellchecking software, the subtleties of which apparently elude her, is dashing those hopes. She isn’t being “validated” by Microsoft Word. It’s how utopias die.
For a long while I’ve been trying to interest my friends in the art world to get behind freedom of speech in a bigger way, to recognise that the very health of the marketplace of ideas depends on its openness to entry and its freedom of transaction... This usually doesn’t persuade anyone who isn’t already liberty-minded to begin with. So next I resort to self-interest. We creative types rely on that openness to function. If we don’t stand in defence of hate speech — not the content, just the right to express it — any mechanisms for cutting it off will eventually be used against us. If injured feelings take on the seriousness of injured bodies, we will become a society that pulls art off of walls, cancels performances, and strikes essays from public view. Sadly, this usually doesn’t work either, because the targets of accusations of hate speech typically lean right, and the art community leans left.
Franklin also links to this Pew survey of social media use, which suggests that self-described progressives are statistically much more likely to ban or block people with whom they disagree. A finding that may not be entirely shocking to regular readers.
And somewhat related, Greg Collins on the unremarked privileges of the self-appointed privilege police:
The paramount privilege at universities is not race, class, or gender, but intellectual soft despotism… A student whose worldview clings to that of university administrators and professors has the advantage of accessing university resources, money, and time to drive his cause. These instruments are far more powerful in granting benefits to politically preferred groups in higher education than subconscious biases in favour of particular races or classes. It is a privilege when your views conform with those of more than 90 percent of your professors. It is a privilege when your worldviews are blessed by a proliferation of like-minded commencement speakers and guest lecturers. And it is a privilege when you have university resources, money, and time within fingertips’ reach to wield to advance your political cause.
As an illustration of this leverage, Collins mentions one of many sabotaged speaking events - a talk by the conservative writer Don Feder at the University of Massachusetts in March 2009, the subject of which was, or would have been, free speech. Within 20 seconds of opening his mouth, Feder had been interrupted, shouted down and called a racist, before being screamed at repeatedly and assailed with epithets about his daughter. Despite his pleas for civility, Feder was unable to speak for more than three minutes without further, often deafening interruption by members of the International Socialist Organisation and Radical Student Union. Footage of the disruption can be seen here. Despite the students’ prolonged attempts to intimidate Feder and prevent the intended discussion taking place – a goal they accomplished - campus officials later claimed that Feder “chose to discontinue his speech.” An interesting, and revealing, choice of words.
It saddens all that I believe is truly good so deeply to see such ignorant and violently senseless comments made out of selfishness and an inability to think beyond an immediate and primitive reaction... But how do you address a flood of ignorance, a torrent of hatred and insecurity? How do you speak to the angry voices with pitchforks and torches? You are the witch hunters and you project your own inadequacies onto others without any self-critical thought or capacity for ideas outside of your own selfishness. Good art causes us to ask questions of ourselves and the reason you hate this art is because you refuse to ask yourself any meaningful questions... Your soul will remain undeveloped and your life without meaning if you allow your ignorance to control you. In art, as in life, you must ask yourself the most important question: why? And ask it honestly. Give yourself some time. And for most of you, a lot of time.
Three items, thematically related. First, the world of the arts, where some things just won’t be tolerated by those who know what’s best for us. Like artist and writer Bill Drummond:
It not only offended me morally and aesthetically, it also went against everything that I feel political discourse should be about. Thus there was nothing for it.
And so vandalism ensued. Followed, obviously, by self-congratulation in the pages of the Guardian, where Mr Drummond conjures the obligatory post hoc ambiguity. Is it “a mere publicity stunt?” he asks, as if that were in doubt. “By doing this have I added to the political discourse in the country in any sort of positive way?” Apparently Mr Drummond is making us think, an activity impossible without his intervention, while saving us from the things we mustn’t be looking at. It’s a pattern we’ve seen before.
Lauren Steele, the Cambridge Student Union Women’s Officer who organised the protest, rejected these calls [for discussion]… A statement issued by the pro-choice protesters, derived from the text of the leaflets handed out to passers-by, argued that “Debate is a conversation of power, where the objective is to win: to overpower the other side. This is violence. It is not ‘discussion’.”
Because being contradicted is distressing for a narcissist. Imagine the indignity. Therefore words must be redefined, and redefined again, until talking equals violence and debate becomes impossible. And then, well, the rest of us must comply or risk being denounced as violent haters. Why, oh why, don’t you people CARE™ about the feelings of narcissists?
Evidently, when walking past a loon holding a placard about the post-mortem comeuppance of “masturbators, drunkards, fornicators and homosexuals,” the obvious thing to do is to suddenly assault the man, repeatedly, while braying like a donkey. And then screech with inexpressible outrage when further assaults are interrupted. Readers may wish to imagine how our somewhat inarticulate Social Justice Warrior might have behaved if a similar placard were being held by a bearded adherent of another religion.
When skimming through the Guardian and Observer in search of something notable after a bank holiday break, some days you’re really spoilt for choice. I mean, would you rather hear about how conventional grammar (and an aversion to “most tastiest”) is obviously “right-wing,” according to Harry Ritchie, or would you be more tempted by Nick Baines’ account of eating his wife’s placenta? Both as a garlic taco and liquidised as a smoothie, albeit one that’s grey and with a grim metallic taste. Because apparently eating afterbirth is “a modern obsession.”
Perhaps you’d be compelled by Tracy McVeigh’s conviction that “rewards don’t make anyone happy,” and that two-year-olds, the universal yardstick of human selflessness, are being rendered grasping and unfeeling by “post-industrial capitalism.”
And then there’s the causal conundrum facing both the Observer’s Daniel Boffey and the Guardian’s Owen Hatherley, a man whose deep socialist wisdom has previously enthralled us. Mr Hatherley takes a break from telling us that alternative pop music is impossible without an Arts Council grant and urging us to share a toilet and kitchen with people we may not like, and turns his mental cutting beam to even more pressing matters: “Can places turn you into a Tory?” asks he.
A question supposedly answered by left-leaning researchers who claim, in Mr Hatherley’s words, that, “Moving to some Stepford-like place in the home counties, where you will regularly encounter a close-knit network of conformist locals, has the effect of dragging you rightwards.” We also learn that, “richer people tend to vote for their own interests.” Assumptions somehow not extended to nobler beings like Mr Hatherley and his peers, or to those utterly non-conformist leftwing students who, being so altruistic, wish to extract as much money as possible from strangers who vaguely resemble their parents.
Or maybe you’d rather hear about the 51-year-old performance artist arrested in Paris for gyrating around the Eiffel Tower with a cockerel tied to his penis? See? Something for every appetite.
Attorney General [Eric] Holder’s threats of legal action against schools where minority students are disciplined more often than he wants are a sweeping and damaging blow to the education of poor and minority students across the country. Among the biggest obstacles to educating children in many ghetto schools are disruptive students whose antics, threats and violence can make education virtually impossible... The idea that Eric Holder, or anybody else, can sit in Washington and determine how many disciplinary actions against individual students are warranted or unwarranted in schools across the length and breadth of this country would be laughable if it were not so tragic.
Via Ted, a white male student named Tal Fortgang does as instructed and checks his privilege:
I actually went and checked the origins of my privileged existence, to empathise with those whose underdog stories I can’t possibly comprehend. I have unearthed some examples of the privilege with which my family was blessed, and now I think I better understand those who assure me that skin colour allowed my family to flourish today.
Perhaps it’s the privilege my grandfather and his brother had to flee their home as teenagers when the Nazis invaded Poland, leaving their mother and five younger siblings behind, running and running until they reached a Displaced Persons camp in Siberia, where they would do years of hard labour in the bitter cold until World War II ended. Maybe it was the privilege my grandfather had of taking on the local Rabbi’s work in that DP camp, telling him that the spiritual leader shouldn’t do hard work, but should save his energy to pass Jewish tradition along to those who might survive. Perhaps it was the privilege my great-grandmother and those five great-aunts and uncles I never knew had of being shot into an open grave outside their hometown. Maybe that’s my privilege.
Naturally, Mr Fortgang is immediately berated by his betters, those more pure than he, and denounced as a “privileged piece of shit.”
Grants and bursaries from this detestable and destructive body in effect pay producers, painters, writers and such in advance. This is a straight invitation to them to sod the public, whose ticket money they are no longer obliged to attract, and to seek the more immediate approval of their colleagues and friends instead… Thus an organisation created to foster art and bring it to the public turns out to be damaging to art and cutting it off from the public.
As noted previously, many times, there’s an air of grandiose entitlement, an urge to circumvent indefinitely the preferences of the public, who are nonetheless expected to serve as patrons, albeit patrons with no say in how or on whom their earnings are spent. And no right to ask for a refund should things go badly wrong. And so despite the obligatory egalitarian blather, what comes to mind is a caste system, in which the lumpen taxpayer is forced to bankroll self-anointed Brahmins, our cultural superiors, who profess their modish leftism while extolling the virtues of a non-reciprocal and parasitic relationship.
In the comments Sam points us to the latest from Polly Toynbee, in which she ostensibly counsels against the disdain shown by her peers for the new culture minister. Yes, he’s a Tory, and from a working class background. Oh, the indignity. But needs must. And note that Polly’s objection to the casual snobbery of her fellow Guardianistas is merely tactical:
The arts world didn’t react well to the appointment of the former banker Sajid Javid. Several writers led the great rumble of artistic disdain toward the new culture secretary… This seems to me a mistake, more likely to have Javid reaching for his revolver than falling for the charms of culture. Worse, the public might think it smacks of a familiar elitism that suggests the mysteries of the arts are not for the uninitiated.
So perhaps Mr Javid can yet be saved by his betters, despite the heathen’s lack of an “artistic hinterland,” as determined by Ms Toynbee. Readers may be entertained by Polly’s trademark fumbling with numbers and reliance on the fanciful, often baffling claims of Arts Council literature. Though if you’re pushed for time, commenter Charlie Suet points out that the Guardian’s foremost columnist is essentially “asserting that because The King’s Speech made money, we should subsidise mime artists in Brighton.”
Via Kate and lifted from the comments here, some more “public” art, chosen by our betters to make us better people:
“The question of beauty has been brought up a lot in this debate, which is a really provocative and sometimes problematic conversation,” she said. “I don’t think all work that is made in a public setting should necessarily be made with the mandate of making a space more beautiful.”
The artist in question, Keeley Haftner, describes her work as “emerging through notions of tradition, satire, gender, archive, labour, and transience.” Readers will be thrilled to discover that Ms Haftner’s previous efforts are no less colossal in their scope and profundity. Behold, for instance, this. If further evidence of greatness is required, there’s also the following 2012 performance piece, happily captured on video. The explanatory text reads,
In the video Waste Warrior Eats Apple, the protagonist (a ‘waste warrior’) attempts to consume an apple grown from petroleum products, having evolved out of a waste-induced Saskatchewan apocalypse. Eating an apple has long stood for female inadequacy – Eve’s original sin, the golden apple of coveted perpetual youth, the envy-inspired poisoning of young Snow White. But this warrior projects forward with an act of forced evolution, attempting to sustain herself on the very source of both female and human destruction.
Ponder that while you watch. And no skipping to the end.