DON´T GO BREAKING MY ART
pleads Norman Warwick
The Underwater Museum (shown on our front cover and above this article), much lauded at its opening a few years by its commissioners and drawing praise for its sculptures and their creator, who we have mentioned several times on these pages for his great artistry, seems to have recently been the scene of a burglarty.
A candidate for Mayor of Yaiza, Emilio Machín (left), has expressed his regret for the attempt to destroy “one of the most important tourist values of Playa Blanca” and has affirmed that “we are saddened that after the biggest social and health crisis economy of this century, a fortune has been spent to pay for a ship destined for the extraction of several statues “.
In the same way, Machín stresses that he hopes that the Mayor of Yaiza will also ask the President of the Cabildo for explanations for attacking what Mr. Machin calls ´one of the few tourist attractions in which the Cabildo has invested in the southern municipality´.
It takes only the two sentences quoted to confuse the issue. Is Mr. Machin attacking the government for attacking Art of for not spending enough money in the South of the island. Art stands, innocent and mystified, ath the mercy of those with hidden agendi.
When actor Kevin Spacey (right) was accused of attempted sexual assault of a teenage boy, (an accusation now in some doubt, by the way) his role in the Ridley Scott film, All the Money in the World, was erased and re-shot with Christopher Plummer. When the celebrated Torres Strait Island painter Dennis Nona went to jail for a sex crime, Australian art galleries responded by taking his works off their walls and putting them into storage.
R Kelly’s concerts were cancelled and his RCA contract was not renewed because of similar offences..
The history of art is full of artists who were cruel, exploitative, prejudiced or predatory. Picasso allegedly mistreated women, the Renaissance painter Caravaggio was a murderer. Wagner was an anti-Semite, Alfred Hitchcock (left) allegedly tried to ruin Tippi Hedren’s career as an actress because she refused his advances.
The #MeToo movement has thrown a spotlight on contemporary cases of artists and producers harassing and bullying those in their power.
Those who harass or abuse should be exposed and punished. The license to break moral rules that genius is sometimes thought to bestow on artists has to be revoked. But should the character of an artist affect how we judge their works?
Should the works or performances of wrong-doing artists be censored, shunned, or locked away? Should good behaviour be a criterion for exhibiting an artist’s works? “Once we start removing paintings from walls, where do we stop?” asks arts editor and art historian Ashleigh Wilson.
Shunning art because of the behaviour of the artist offends against traditional assumptions about the value of art and the relationship between artists and their works.
We are supposed to value artistic expression and oppose attempts to suppress artistic works even when people are deeply offended by their content. If it is wrong to censure art or refuse to display it because of its content, how can it be right to shun it because of the behaviour of the artist? What’s the difference?
The view that we shouldn’t judge art because of the behaviour of the artist is backed up by common ideas about how we should appreciate art. A work of art or a performance is supposed to have value and meaning in its own right. It’s supposed to be judged for what it is and not its relation to extraneous factors. This view allows that the biography of the artist can be used to provide an insight into the work, but the life of the artist is not supposed to affect our judgement of the aesthetic value of his or her works.
Artists themselves warn against taking their works as a reflection of who they are. When asked whether his films helped him work through his life dilemmas, Woody Allen denied any relation between his life and his works. “Movies are fiction. The plots of my movies don’t have any relationship to my life.” If works of art belong to a realm separated off from the life of the artist they can’t be polluted by the bad things artists do.
The separation of life and character from art is far from complete. In his new book On Artists, Ashley Wilson finds a scene in Allen’s Annie Hall that suggests the wrong kind of attitude to children’s sexuality. This scene is especially disturbing because of Allen’s daughter Dylan’s accusation that he sexually assaulted her as a child, which Allen denies. Wilson also cites dialogue in Hitchcock’s Marnie that seems to reveal his perverse obsession with Hedren.
Some of R Kelly’s lyrics can be interpreted as condoning sexual harassment and it is not difficult to find anti-Semitic or pro-nationalist elements in Wagner’s operas.
But does this matter? Works of art now regarded as classics frequently contain assumptions about race or the roles of women that we now reject. Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice makes anti-Semitic assumptions about Jews and Taming of the Shrew has its misogynous moments. But they do not significantly detract from the value we find in these works.
We should be willing to accept that artists are not free from the prejudices of their culture, from blindness to its prejudices or from faults of character. We should make allowances for that when we evaluate their art and not let ourselves be distracted from appreciating its values. When Spotify took R Kelly off its playlist it faced the objections of fans who value his music.
Many believe that the brilliance of the music created by Michael Jackson (right) transcends accusations of paedophilia levelled against him. Many people, including Wilson, believe that Wagner’s works deserve veneration despite their dubious elements.
I´m not sure the art transcends it´s artists anti-social stupidity or criminality, but art should certainly be allowed to stand apart from it
The distinction between art and the artist breaks down when the intention of the artist is to support a racist or sexist ideology. Leni Riefenstahl used her talents as a filmmaker to celebrate Hitler’s regime. D.W. Griffith defended the prejudices of white Southerners in Birth of a Nation.
It also breaks down when the artist is a celebrity and a role model. One museum director defended her refusal to exhibit Nona’s art because showing it would endorse his status as a role model in his Indigenous community. Football players are suspended for acting badly. Why not penalise artists by taking their art out of circulation?
If a work of art vilifies a group or incites violence then there are legal as well as moral reasons for banning or censoring it. If showing an artist’s work impacts on his community and causes serious distress to his victims, then these people should have a say about what should be done with it.
But a ban on a work of art is only justifiable so long as the danger or harm exists. Nona has apologised for his deeds and has tried to rehabilitate himself. There is no good reason why his works should not reappear on gallery walls.
The #MeToo movement provides the most plausible reason for shunning or boycotting the works of artists who rape, assault or bully others. This movement arose from women’s complaints about their treatment by powerful men as actors and producers – men whose position and fame gave them the power, the women allege, to wreck careers and get away with sexual assault and harassment.
Punishing these men through the courts is a difficult course of action. The charges are often hard to prove and cultural acceptance of bad behaviour by artists sometimes makes it difficult for judges, juries and witnesses to regard their acts as serious wrongs.
What is needed, most #MeToo advocates agree, is a cultural change. An effective way of changing the culture of artists is to prevent them from exhibiting their works or performing their roles. Kevin Spacey’s removal from All the Money in the World (despite the fact that he has pleaded not guilty to the charge that he assaulted an 18-year-old busboy in a Nantucket bar) sent the message that sexual assault would no longer be overlooked or tolerated. It was both a punishment and an expression of moral distaste. It vindicated the status of the victims and it warned others to avoid offending.
But this strategy for achieving cultural change has obvious dangers. Wilson is right to worry about where we are going when we start removing pictures from gallery walls or preventing actors from performing. If the character of the artist becomes a criterion for judging art then the door is open to the exclusion of artists because they belong to a despised group or because they have said or done something that many people do not like.
Removing or censoring art works can also be an unfair way of achieving a moral goal, especially when wrong doing by artists has been encouraged by the complicity of others.
In an interview after Hitchcock’s death, Tippi Hedren (left) refused to allow the wrong he did to override her judgement about his talent and contribution as a film director. “I still admire the man for what he was.”
The distinction she insists on making is worth preserving. We should expose the wrongdoing of artists and but we should not be prevented from admiring their works.´
“This government (referring to the Cabildo de Dolores Corujo) does not provide a solution to the Los Hervideros sinkhole, they have us without public transport in our towns and they are destroying everything that could be an economic benefit for the municipality of Yaiza. Of course, they are focusing all their forces and resources on ending CC. It is known that the proximity of the elections makes them very nervous,” he says.
This feels like a scatter-gun approach that altogether misses its first identified target,….ie the misappropriation of art.
It must be remembered that the Museo Atlántico on the Lanzarote coastline opened to the public in March 2016 and that since the closure of official visits and the headquarters in the marina (2020) it has been the private diving schools that have organized the tour on their own. so that those interested can enjoy a true show under the waters of Lanzarote.
For now, the mayor of Yaiza maintains a “prudent silence” until he has more information about the real intentions of the Cabildo regarding that action on Saturday night to extract two figures from the Underwater Museum , one of the most relevant tourist attractions in White beach.
In fact, the only one who has officially spoken out about that corporation is Ángel Domínguez who, in statements to Lancelot Digital, has assured that he believes it was a mistake by the Cabildo. “I was assured from the Tourist Centers that the ship was only going to do maintenance work, I was never told that any figure was going to be extracted from the bottom of the sea,” concluded the Yaiza Tourism councilor.
Although the initial official version that the Tourist Centers gave to Yaiza was that simple maintenance operations were going to be carried out, in the end Benjamin Perdomo, CEO of the Tourist Centers, has had no choice but to take out a statement to justify the extractions of figures from the Underwater Museum and respond to the criticism of some groups and analysts for what they consider a step further in the dismantling of this artistic work that was erected in the time of CC.
Benjamín Perdomo has had to face for the moment for the president of the Cabildo de Lanzarote, Dolores Corujo, ultimately responsible for what happened. The CEO of the Tourist Centers has had no choice but to justify this operation by recognizing that a crane-ship was hired to extract two figures, specifically those that were sculpted by the British artist in his day, among hundreds of models and that, according to the exmilitant of Citizens, today in the PSOE, this is Ignacio Calatayud, the “friend of Pedro San Ginés”.
For Perdomo “the image of Lanzarote and the Centers can not be linked to a friend of San Ginés denounced for appropriation of public funds”.
The head of the Centers said that these extractions were intended to be carried out with absolute discretion for health and democratic hygiene. “We cannot be accomplices of this monument to political corruption or stand idly by before two figures of someone denounced for having enriched themselves at the expense of INALSA. We can not give a letter of nature to a shameful behavior for the island and for the Tourist Centers, “explained the CEO of the Entity, Benjamin Perdomo.
“These figures,” Perdomo insisted, “are a tribute from Pedro San Ginés to his close friend that we all pay for; a mockery of the society they boasted about and bragged about in their conversations.”
In that sense, the councillor recalled that the media have recently published an extract of a WhatsApp conversation intervened by the Civil Guard in which Calatayud boasted to Pedro San Ginés that his statues would always remain.
Perdomo did not want to advance the economic cost that this operation has had as required by CC and believes that this is not the important thing “but how much they have cost the society of Lanzarote. A public space,” he concluded, “cannot and should not be occupied by someone denounced for having appropriated public funds.”
Benjamin Perdomo, following the argument set by the advisors of the Presidency of the Cabildo, is surprised by the response of the Tourism Federation to the removal of these two sculptures “from a set with more than three hundred (300)”. He was surprised that the federation that defended the interests of its members, such as diving schools and diving clubs, had harshly criticized the operation of mutilation of an artistic work. For Perdomo, with those two figures outside, “we understand that the installation has not lost any value, on the contrary” he has won.
The councielor wanted to clarify that the Atlantic Museum “has never been dismantled. Only the entrance fee has been stopped, a circumstance that benefits the clubs in the sector. And there is no entrance fee,” he recalled, “because there were so few visitors that it was more expensive to pay the staff to charge than what was collected.”
Be still, my beaten art