cSeparating a work of art from its creator? A question that soon intrigued some of our greatest philosophers was the engagement of the Channel 4 studio audience, which would be presented with works by artists such as Hitler, Eric Gill Rolf Harris. (Decisions will be mediated by Jimmy Carr via a hammer.)
Before we get to the show, which generated a lot of outrage, I want to give a theory. My answer to this question is that you can easily separate art from its creator – as long as the art is bad. Hitler’s postcard watercolors are completely safe for consumption as there are none of them. It was probably created by any number of passionate painters who failed (twice) to get into art school. When art is good, the artist has transferred some of his soul to it. They can’t help but reveal themselves. Jill things are very serious.
This is the case with any number of great but corrupt artists. Paul Gauguin He was a pedophile who took underage Tahitian girls as his sex slaves; His paintings invite the viewer to join him in staring lustfully at these teens, naked and in sexual positions. Caravaggio, a genius and a killerWe have produced art that makes violence beautiful. His bright flushes of blood and his obvious charm to the expression on a dying face give you a taste of what it might be like to want to kill someone. He turns his audience, to say the least, into a deadly knocker. Salvador Dali’s narcissism and cruelty to animals and people deeply influenced his art. His famous short film On Shin Andalo, written with Luis Buñuel, shows a close-up of a woman’s eye opening with a razor blade and inviting us to enjoy the spectacle. It is an act of persuasion.
This is inevitable. What distinguishes good art from bad is that good artists say what they really mean. When we talk about genius, we don’t describe technical skill or work in construction, block by block. We mean something akin to inspiration: a shred of instinct straight from the soul to the painting. The darkest impulses of a great artist are sure to resonate in his art. And the self-justifications of the criminal or pervert – that everyone secretly shares their inclinations – will be channeled through their actions. Great art is wonderful because it has the power to corrupt, if that is the artist’s desire. It is dangerous.
On the other hand, bad art is very safe. It completely obscures the artist’s soul – absolutely nothing is revealed. There is a thick layer of tacky plexiglass between the artist’s soul and the viewer so that no darkness can creep through. In fact, this detachment is such an integral part of the genre that it is often put up with a practical purpose: Fascists tend to promote and surround themselves with bad art, which is now known as “totalitarian art,” because it helps hide them from themselves. There are tales of brutal dictators crying over emotional films after a hard day of genocide.
This raises some problems for contemporary ethicists, not to mention curators of art galleries. Current sensitivities demand that our artistic protagonists also be good people: they seem to endorse “problematic” issues, even by discussing them, seemingly risky modern. This explains some of the angry reactions to the Channel 4 show Jimmy Carr destroys art – which may have delighted audiences in the ’80s and ’90s.
But we were also brought up with the idea that all great arts should be revered. (This explains the other half of the anger in the show.) Watch the protest after two protesters over climate change Throw soup on the protective glass surrounding Van Gogh’s painting last week. The image was not damaged, but the sarcastic and justified negative reaction said more about the ridiculous and self-important stunt than anything else.
So how an act Are we dealing with great art by bad guys? The solution we have sought in recent years is that art is essentially “harmless”. We can be consumed by the actions of the corrupt and they will not touch us. Accompanying this is a similar modern drive to see all great art and literature as “improving”. The judges took to making reading lists of criminals, as if they were all books, from lolita to me Dorian Gray’s photowritten for the express purpose of transforming us into law-abiding citizens.
But this is detrimental to art. To treat art as innocuous is to not take it seriously and turn it into mere decoration. If we want to argue that some works of art can be good for us, we need to consider that some of them can be bad for us as well. How do we deal with immoral art? This question is still worth wrestling with.