Sunday, June 4, 2017

Art Means Never Having To Say Should

If art is good for anything at all it's that it renders the word 'should' irrelevant. 'Should' is redolent of ideology and obligation, which stand in opposition to creativity. And so it was with a raised eyebrow and a moderately heavy heart that read about how the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis (one of the country's top art institutions) agreed to meet the demands of local Dakota Native American activists to take down and destroy a sculpture by the artist Sam Durant, which he had intended as an exploration and condemnation of unjust executions in the U.S., including the execution of 38 Dakota men in 1862. Just as problemmatic (in my view) was the fact that the artist apologized for his "thoughtlessness" in including the Dakota 38 in the piece, and agreed with the activists that he should not have allowed the work to be shown without checking with them first. He is no doubt sincere, and as a well meaning person is alarmed that he was involved in perpetuating injustice as perceived by the Dakota. Ironically his intent had been to bring attention to injustices perpetrated by white supremacist culture and politics. It's his call of course, and it's not for me to say what he and the Walker should or should not do. Interestingly, when a Dana Schutz painting at the Whitney in NYC triggered a similar controversy, neither she nor the museum apologized or agreed to remove the painting. The museum will be holding a dialogue series on issues relating to the controversy, which seems a creative and conscientious response.

UPDATE: 6-5-17
Case in point. Critics said Hendrix should not have performed the national anthem as he did because it was disrespectful and unpatriotic. The aural equivalent of flag burning. That, of course, is an oversimplification of what Hendrix was up to.

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