Dissertation Notes August 22nd 2011
Images of violence precipitating art (precipitate is not the right word)
1. Abu Ghraib
Death by a 1000 cuts
I am critical of Botero’s project of painting and drawing of the Abu Ghraib spectacle. The effect of illustrating
It is seductive, the work reads like a pornography of violence // Botero’s voluptuous curvy figurative painting style sits ill with the severity of the subject matter. On opening the book I am (as intended) repulsed by the images’ content, yet I am attracted to the orgy of sensuality that is Botero’s style. This problematizes the work.
[ previously I also thought that beauty may attract an audience to a subject that otherwise they may shut their eyes to.]
It is more beautiful and attractive than it ought to be, given it’s intention to be sided with anti-torture and Pro-human rights positions. What the work offers instead is diluted and trivialized. This work is rather imaginable on the walls of an abuse-fetishist, a radically xenophobic, pro-westerner for whom these drawings and paintings could fill the gap that the Abu Ghraib photographs left void: they were trophy photographs but not objects of beauty. I see Botero’s work naively falling into a field of promoting Abu Ghraib and its wider implications, not as intended condemning it.
This standpoint creates problems for myself. My own work, too falls into the ‘trap’ of being just a little too beautiful which dilutes it’s strengths of expression. I thought; until the moment of opening Botero’s book; that it was a good thing to work with images that emerge from Abu Ghraib and other abusive and violent events. I have in the past used newspaper photographs and created charcoal drawings, I thought this was really good work. The moment I opened Botero’s book changed all that, I don’t know how we can today use those images without falling prey to those interpretations that will see this as a glorification of the events. How can work respond, be memorial but not be promotional tool? How not to feed the propaganda we oppose? Botero’s succulent depictions of abuse, humiliation and torture are shocking but remain in the field of voyeurism.
Copying an image in the artist’s own signature style does not criticize the image, even if that is the intention. [the intention has to be clear not just intended] Without a foreword, which expresses a firm stance against the abuses at Abu Ghraib I could just as easily assume this work is in favour. What is assumed by the artist is my (the viewer’s) moral / ethical standpoint, but this is influenced by culture, accessibility to neutral and varied knowledge and propaganda. If I was to take the position that those ‘detainees’; who are not prisoners and therefore not enough to fall under the Geneva convention; they are indeed deserving of everything they get, are less human, more bestial and worthy of my loathing THEN I could see Botero’s work as a victory affirming my position. Showing violence alone does not criticize it sufficiently.
Now I have a problem. Up until the moment I considered Botero’s work I did think that showing violence was criticising violence. However this us assuming shared moral values. However if for some the images of violence are as the sights of the chopped of heads of the crussades and religious inquisitions were to those righteously claiming that they were indeed acting in the interest of ‘god’ THEN there is a problem. Those were almost unarguable actions, argue against them and your head was next. For the crussaders these heads were the confirmation of triumph.
Chapman Project Zygotic:
I have a passionate dislike and loathing for the Chapman brothers but admit an admiration for their tenacity, however I wish they would apply themselves to something less gory and sensational. I include thoughts I first had when I first saw this work in 1997 or -98 and loathed it intensely. I would like to revisit that sense of anger and see if I can add to my previous essay.
Dins says in a youtube video:” ..if you enter the train of making art, the presupposition is that a work of art however nasty it is that ultimately it must serve some morally profound ambition. It still must be attached to the notion of progress, enlightenment, goodness and all nice things. What happens if you make a work of art where you might say ‘no’ it’s only nasty.”
[HUNT FOR THAT ESSAY!]