Wednesday, February 9, 2011

That's not art

This morning expletive-laden flyers appeared in the Telecommunications (and possibly other) building on IU's campus. The fake-blood spattered documents have created a bit of local Twitter storm with discussions about art and free speech. The police were called because of the threatening nature of the 'manifesto', although the current thinking is that these are part of an art movement called Cinema of Transgression.

If you click through and read the manifesto posted at IU (strewn with a lot of profanity) and the original manifesto (not strewn with profanity), there are some similarities, but they are not the same. I can see the link between the two, but they are very, very different. And the circumstances surrounding each is different.

Besides the lack of profanity, the original Cinema of Transgression manifesto is relatively non-violent (other than one reference to blowing up film schools). It is well-written and eloquent. This new manifesto is nearly unreadable in places. In my opinion, a need to use so much profanity shows a lack of creativity. It is easy to swear; getting your point across without profanity is much harder. Spattering a page with fake blood (when it concludes with the statement that 'there will be blood') can be construed as threatening, especially in these times.

We live in a different world now than we did in 1985. I don't blame someone for getting the police involved. Too much scary stuff happens. There have been too many shootings at schools, including colleges and universities, for anything that comes across as threatening to be taken lightly. Virginia Tech (2007) comes immediately to mind, and Northern Illinois University (2008). There is an implied threat in the manifesto. I don't think I'm the only one to see it that way.

Some have posited that this is a free speech issue. And it may well be. But there are points where freedom of speech ends. Click through to that link for some really good info, but a few places where freedom of speech is limited include 'clear and present danger'; fighting words; slander and libel; obscenity; time, place and manner. I think it is more than possible to consider that this doesn't necessarily fall under free speech. Even if it does, it is not the best way to get the point across.

So is this 'manifesto' art? I don't find it particularly artistic. It's not even original. It's a rehashing of a piece from 25 years ago. Does anyone else see the irony of complaining that current movies and art are not creative, 'manufacturing the antithesis to all things forward', while at the same time ripping off something probably created before the perpetrator was born? Sorry, but that's not art. By the definition of art in the manifesto (not soft, not passive, not mute, not apathetic, hard, active, transgressive), this isn't art either. Yes, it got a reaction, but that doesn't make it art. People react just as strongly to a lot of things that are not art (especially when they feel slightly threatened.)

If you have a complaint about the quality of work coming out of the school, and you think it is worthless, then go find another school or find your own way. If the 'establishment' sickens you so much, why are you part of it?  If you want to be original, go be original. And don't just post anonymous flyers insulting people. No, this isn't art; this is a a whiny diatribe. And who wants to listen to whiners? If you want to change things, then create what you consider real art. And don't support Hollywood movies with your money if they offend you so much. (They aren't all bad. And a lot of independent films are seeing the light of day. The bar to entry has been lowered by new technology.)

On a personal note, when I started seeing the tweets, I was a little scared. I wondered if some disturbed person with a grudge might be ready to go on a rampage to get their point across. I worried about Chris and all the other people I know who spend a great deal of time in the Telecom building. I called Chris to see if he was there, worried that if someone were really angry about current technology he might be at risk. He's on the cutting edge, specializing in 3D.

I don't ever want to get that phone call. Yes, images flashed through my mind, picturing the worst. A chill ran down my spine until Chris answered his phone and let me know he was not in danger. I obsessively checked Twitter for updates, feeling some reassurance that this appears to be an 'artistic' stunt. But there's that little piece of me that doesn't feel safe. There's a small bit of innocence that has been bruised. The fear is subsiding, but it will take time to completely go away.

No comments:

Post a Comment