Thursday, May 25, 2006

Hugging a Porcupine: Transgression and Timing

When I think about the role of transgression in artmaking, I usually find myself harkening back to the prodding of the bourgeoisie that began in earnest in the late 19th Century in Paris. What a courageous gang of heroes they were, no? Calling society on its excesses, championing free will and progressive ideals, telling the Academy where to stick its musty traditions. Bold young rebel rousers...whose works today just happen to sell for enough money to feed millions of starving children, or buy needed AIDS drugs, or build a dozen schools, but...nevermind the money...it's all about the in-your-face daring of the singular artist willing to challenge the establishment and speak the Truth! What it generally takes me a few moments to realize when daydreaming about these romantic martyrs is that although we love them today (and pay fortunes to own their works), they were truly despised in their time, and have no one to blame for that but themselves.

The thing is, transgressive art, by design, pisses people off. The conventional wisdom, at least in the art world, is that it only pisses off the people who need to rethink their position, but even so, transgressive art intentionally pushes buttons, if not the envelope, and tells the viewer, every viewer, in fact: THINK MY WAY. Which in some ways is what all art does, but non-transgressive art does it more subtely.

What bothers me about the tradition of transgressive art, though, is how it has evolved to where too many transgressive artist expect, rather than to be despised in their time, to instead be appreciated, if not loved. This seems unrealistic, cowardly, and unaltruistic...essentially, the opposite of everything we celebrate transgressive artists in the the past for being.

The New York Times Magazine focused on the state of architecture last Sunday, offering a tone-setting
commetary by Deyan Sudjic on why architecture remains perhaps the only form of expression that still has the power to really piss people off. How the commentary began, however, solidified my thinking about transgression in Fine Art a bit:

Painting and sculpture still have the power to make people intemperately angry, as former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani's outrage over Chris Ofili's distinctive ways with elephant dung and canvas vividly demonstrated not so long ago. But after a century or more of twisting the bourgeoisie by the tail, the cultural shock tactics of visual artists are subject to the inevitability of diminishing returns.
There's a lot in there. First is the idea that when the culture at large expects artists to be shocking, the artists have to be extra-super-duper shocking to be actually transgressive. Second is the idea that there are diminishing returns on being trangressive, which I interpret as meaning a) artists should be prepared for a backlash; and b) artists won't actually affect change through transgression as the public becomes immune to its power. Finally, there's also the questionable assertion that artists are not bourgeoisie themselves...that there's a built-in dichotomy/antagonism that strikes me as more and more anachronistic.

But let me back up. Traditionally, the transgressive artist was subject to a timeline that goes something like this: Once there was an artist who recognized an ingrained social injustice or hypocrisy. He/She made art that shocked the public out of its complacency about the issue. The public responded with outrage, a double-edge sword in that it can result in opening people's minds or it can result in the artist be attacked....often both. It's important to remember that the angry people were seriously angry and felt true animosity toward the artist. The artist is called names, shunned, taunted or worse. Eventually, though, a debate was initiated, in part because of the artwork, and attitudes changed. A few generations later, the artist was recongized as a element of change for good, and got absorbed into the list of lovable favorites.


Today, however, I see a desire for a short-cut through this. In other words, I see otherwise realistic aritsts who find transgression the best means of expressing an idea expecting that he/she will become beloved in his/her lifetime for telling the Truth in such an in-your-face way. This is somewhat understandable in that they do get incredible support from the art machine (dealers, curators, collectors), many of whom tend to assume that a societal critique doesn't apply to them personally, so they create an environment in which an artist gets lulled into a false sense of acceptance by "society" for their transgression. It's further complicated by the politically correct stance adopted by the vast majority of the art world as well (of course, the critique doesn't apply to me...I'm enlightened).

But what this implies in the end is that transgression has become merely a means toward acceptance, which is a paradox of Biblical proportions, IMO, not to mention a tactic that demands a new word for cynicism. And, yet, that tactic is not particularly new. What's new, I feel, is the idea that transgression and the artist should be embraced immediately. (Images of hugging a porcupine spring to mind.) Freedom of expression has somehow morphed into an implied freedom to be transgressive, which neuters the whole concept quite effectively. If you're free to say anything (i.e, there are no boundaries), there's no such thing as transgression and the tactic loses its effectiveness.

I'll admit my thinking on this is in its infancy. I look forward to any input.

37 Comments:

Anonymous pc said...

I always thought "transgression" applied to art that transgressed boundaries regarding the body, morality, and sexuality in particular, while "avant-garde" is the more general term for what you are talking about. But what do I know? I had to look up Foucault to be able to spell it.

5/25/2006 11:40:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

hmmm...that might be a valid distinction PC...I might be conflating the two.

5/25/2006 11:42:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think most people could care less about how "transgressive" an artist can be. For the last 20 years political correctness has been drilled into everyone's head. Are we not supposed to accept and understand all points of view, the fact that no one is really ever wrong, they just have a different life style, or view point or opinion.

We also live in a culture that is so super-saturated with images of real death, violence, and just plain weirdness that I think reality pretty much trumps what any artist can do.

I guess what I am saying is there is not a lot of shock value left for people. It reminds me of something I think Stalin said about one death being a tragedy, a million a statistic. When transgressive art was rarer and in a much simpler world it could really have an impact. Today it pretty much is a big yawn.

5/25/2006 12:01:00 PM  
Anonymous james leonard said...

First is the idea that when the culture at large expects artists to be shocking, the artists have to be extra-super-duper shocking to be actually transgressive. Second is the idea that there are diminishing returns on being trangressive, which I interpret as meaning a) artists should be prepared for a backlash; and b) artists won't actually affect change through transgression as the public becomes immune to its power.

Fine distinctions aside (Transgressive vs. Avante Garde vs. Activist vs. Political Art, etc.), the above lines really summarize my experience of this years W. biennial.

I walked away deeply saddened, feeling like we, as a people, a nation and a culture, are back in the 1950's. But today, our culture has a resistance--if not outright immunity--to the stuff the beatniks employed to rock the boat and upset the applecart. Maybe that course of action isn’t appropriate or possible at this exact moment in history, but the problems and challenges of the new century are piling up on our doorsteps. Somethings gotta give lest we settle into a post-post-modern dark age... :(

***

I've enjoyed taking the time to read through these recent threads today. There is a general theme regarding art's relevance to the larger culture, which is a timely topic for me. I've been away from the art-blogosphere for a while now. I've been grappling with the NY artworld's irrelevance to our larger culture and have lately found most online discussion to be irritatingly self-reflexive. I'm just finishing my second year living here in NYC. The cultural fragmentation and over-specialization in this city with each field broken into it's own little "world" (fashion, publishing, etc.) is leaving me hungry for earnest engagement. I want to make art for my neighbors again. Back in Chicago, every exhibition--unless you were comfortable with an opening attended by nothing but a gaggle of Art Institute kids--required a degree of outreach. I sincerely miss the diversity of intermingled classes and professions. Sure, as I knew it, it was an artworld without money, but I now see it had other advantages.

Kudos to Ed and the regulars here for these posts. It's refreshing to see that I'm not the only one struggling with some of these dilemmas.

5/25/2006 12:26:00 PM  
Anonymous David said...

But what this implies in the end is that transgression has become merely a means toward acceptance...

Transgression used to be something one did in response to a perceived injustice or untruth. Now it's taught in schools, and is expected of any serious art student.

5/25/2006 12:29:00 PM  
Blogger bsch said...

Back when I was in Art school. Shock was the "soup of the day". It was relativly easy (sex, mutilation, blasphemy and more sex) and it got the best (loudest) response. There still seems to be a lot of that going around today but its not getting the same response. Been there, seen that. For some artists profanity and obscenity are decorative elements. (Won't name names but checkout paintersnyc) In a world where even 9/11 can be described as a "work of Art" I think that transgression has reached the end of the road. There will always be people who will be scandalized but what's the point. The people who respond most negatively are those whose moral conscience is most important to them. A culture that just tries to offend these people only radicalizes them further.
Provoking anger is fairly easy, any angry person can do it. Provoking a desire for enlightenment would be much harder don't you think. The artist would have had to acchieve it themselves first. I think that thoughtfulness may be the best we can hope for although I don't mind delight, surprize or confusion myself.

5/25/2006 12:39:00 PM  
Anonymous pc said...

I agree with Anon and Edward, basically, but think bitching about transgression being boring is shooting fish in a barrel. I think art that is self-consciously transgressive is trying show that we live in a cage with strict rules by demonstrating what it takes to be punished. This is kind of juvenile (the Matrix?). There are always societal norms and one of the easiest ways to get publicity is to cross them in an artwork (Alex McQuilkin, maybe?), whatever merits the piece might otherwise have. I agree with anonymous that transgression has become a boring tactic. And I don't think it's news that there are there are unseen societal rules that sometimes need to be broken, etc. But it's a good marketing ploy. I know for a fact that I will always at least take a look at art with sex in it, just out of free-floating horniness.

So it's easy to pooh-pooh transgression. And it's easy for a retrograde like John Currin to sneak in under the cover of our discontent. But there will always be something new happening, something revolutionary and truly interesting--not just shocking. I think artists are an earnest, hardworking, intelligent bunch, bent on nothing less than finding something entirely new and overthrowing the past. So I'd like to throw out the idea of transgression, maybe, which is just a strategy in late, late moderism and renew my vows to avant-gardism. So what if artists are almost certainly part of the bourgoisie! Everyone's sophisticated now! Everyone's hipped into irony! We're in heaven!

5/25/2006 12:51:00 PM  
Anonymous pc said...

Edward,

I'm wondering if you are coming at this topic as a believer in transgression who is beginning to doubt. I'm wondering because, to me, it's just another way of doing things, a strategy--nothing I hold near and dear. The post I just wrote was kind of against transgression. But now that I think about it, there's definitely a glamour to it, a coolness, that I admire, even while I'm teasing it (McQuilkin). So I'm curious to know if yours is a recent disillusionment.

pc

5/25/2006 02:05:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

PC,

I think transgression is simply another means of expressing oneself, and only loaded in that artists should be prepared to have people angry at them if they use it. I don't place a value judgment on artists who employ it, unless of course they want to be able to use and yet still be beloved while doing so. If you're gonna be that in-your-face to the public, be prepared to suffer the consequences...that's all.

5/25/2006 02:10:00 PM  
Blogger Chris Rywalt said...

This seems related to what Tom Wolfe called the Boho Dance. Someone else mentioned it recently. Here? On another blog? I'll repeat it: The perfect example of the Boho Dance is Jackson Pollock pissing in Peggy Guggenheim's fireplace during a party -- and then coming back for the next party. Artists who want to break boundaries and make people angry, and then hit them up for money. Wolfe describes this as relatively new behavior, and maybe it is.

I think the main problem with transgression, the avant garde, coolness in general, rebellion, and all that stuff is simply the amazing propensity of our capitalist system to absorb anything, digest it, and spit it back to us as product. A hundred years ago the capitalist system hadn't been refined to that point; today, Dali would be selling Coca-Cola. And probably proud of it. Hell, he wrote a screenplay for the Marx Brothers, why wouldn't he sell Coke?

But take heart. Howard Stern is still pissing people off.

5/25/2006 02:29:00 PM  
Blogger Jesse said...

I'm not sure that transgressive art tells the viewer to: "THINK MY WAY". It's more that it says: "DONT THINK THIS WAY. This taboo I am transgressing is a limiting convention that needs to be questioned and ultimately overturned (or other broader societal values associated with it need to be over turned). THINK ANY OTHER WAY BUT THIS WAY". Transgression seems to me to be a strategy for taking aim at a set of values and deliberately contradicting them in the most shocking way possible. It doesn't give a blueprint for correct behavior, but tries to open up new alternatives by countering stated or unstated prescribed rules of behavior. The recipient/viewer is left thinking: "Now what?" The problem with transgressive artwork is that it tends to be situated in such a way that it is preaching to the choir (ie. mostly concerned with the mostly liberal artworld) and it often lacks real depth and is used as just another artworld strategy for shocking or titllating for the sake of generating market appeal.

5/25/2006 02:38:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think youve hit the nail on the head- art cant be "transgressive" anymore, but radio personailties like Howard Stern can- and quite easily.

5/25/2006 02:48:00 PM  
Anonymous David said...

Howard Stern is still pissing people off.

Only if they bother listening to him. Isn't Dylan DJ'ing on the other satellite radio station? Seems like if you're going to pay a monthly subscription fee, you might as well get the real thing.

5/25/2006 02:50:00 PM  
Anonymous danonymous said...

I may be off the mark on your subject so this is coming from the gut. The undercurrent in this writing, as well as some previous posts reminds me that we explore, and look for rules and then expect of artists to abide by these well thought out rules so that we are all on the same page. So art blazes some trail and then becomes co-opted in a never ending cycle of breaking rules, creating rules, abiding by the rules, breaking rules again.
Since you quoted Einstein, he came back to me with 'The problems we create cannot be solved with the same level of thinking that created them in the first place." Something like that. Even the transgressive art quickly becomes co-opted so that transgression becomes part of the mainstream thinking...ho-hum period follows.
In a sense, each person has an opportunity to "transgress " their own personal boundaries to see where that goes.

5/25/2006 03:06:00 PM  
Blogger Jordan said...

If you bowl me over with an idea I will brush myself off, get up, and probably ponder it for a day or two..

If you convey the same point with inteligence and subtlety your idea may lurk in my mind for months

5/25/2006 03:10:00 PM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

transgression has become merely a means toward acceptance

This is more of a fashion issue than an art issue, and it's better to keep them apart. The whole Marxist idea of opposing the bourgeoisie didn't get the Marxists all that far in making the world a better place, and anything getting bought by anyone is flattering someone's tastes enough for them to trade capital for it. To the extent that transgression is mistaken for innovation in the art world, it has become one of its entrances, but you'd be a sucker to fall for it as inherently legitimizing.

Self-consciously insulting commonly held tastes, like Serrano, seems pathetic and pointless, but putting yourself on the record and insulting commonly held tastes as a by-product, like Mapplethorpe, is well worth doing. (I never like seeing them lumped together.) Whatever will make the work better ought to be done. Whatever won't might as well get skipped.

5/25/2006 04:24:00 PM  
Anonymous ml said...

Since the bourgeoisie has been subject to two hundred years of unrelenting shock (painting, music, film, tv, web), why do we expect shock to feel fresh and interesting? It seems to me that shock art is the current equivalent to 19th century history painting - the expected role of the artist. And I put conceptual art into this "expected" category as well.

When I go out to galleries or museums and see work which reaches out to me intellectually and emotionally, which delights my eye, I feel such a sense of euphoria. Unfortunately this seldom happens. The truth is that I am bored with most current art. It feels tired, self absorbed, and market driven, clever. Maybe optimism, generosity and playfulness are the new transgression.

LA is definitely better for artviewing these days.

5/25/2006 05:13:00 PM  
Anonymous David said...

Maybe optimism, generosity and playfulness are the new transgression.

Those things really piss some people off. :)

5/25/2006 05:34:00 PM  
Blogger serena said...

Now it's taught in schools, and is expected of any serious art student.

Yes, yes, yes; it is taught even before, or instead of, teaching students what the rules are that they're supposed to be transgressing.

Provoking a desire for enlightenment would be much harder don't you think.

This is precisely the mammoth tast I have undertaken for myself and my own work; it is complicated by the fact that the vast majority of the art world can't even understand what the heck I think I'm doing, or has the vocabulary to discuss it.

In a sense, each person has an opportunity to "transgress " their own personal boundaries to see where that goes.

This makes a lot of sense as a working process; the boundaries of any particular artist may have nothing to do with society at large, and may seem ridiculously conservative to others.

putting yourself on the record and insulting commonly held tastes as a by-product, like Mapplethorpe, is well worth doing.

Cool. This is exactly my own feeling about Mapplethorpe vs. Serrano. When one operates from a position of deep personal integrity, one can't help offending people with radically different sensibilities, particularly the ones who measure themselves by rigid, fragile ego-rules. But when one makes a habit of simply targeting people's buttons for the sake of making a fuss, one puts oneself on precisely the same level as the hypocrisy one is attacking in the first place.

The only problem with these threads is that I want to have an in-depth conversation with each one of you, and after 10 posts or so it becomes overwhelming.

5/25/2006 05:50:00 PM  
Anonymous David said...

The only problem with these threads is that I want to have an in-depth conversation with each one of you, and after 10 posts or so it becomes overwhelming.

You should all come out to LA (just to visit). With 8 we'll have enough for volleyball.

5/25/2006 06:05:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Serena,
As I read your comments, I feel I am being watched by you, in bed, and naked. Maybe I'm misreading the little thumbnail photo, but it's still distracting.

5/25/2006 06:10:00 PM  
Anonymous ml said...

Yeah, Serena!

If the function of transgression is simply to piss people off, then artists have no choice but to increase the voltage on shock. If the function of transgression is to provoke a different way of thinking, then like Edward I vote for provoking enlightenment - it seems that end game capitalism has little time for anything but money at any cost. Generosity these days is note worthy and somewhat shocking. What is adult playfulness anyway?

5/25/2006 07:06:00 PM  
Blogger serena said...

Perhaps adult playfulness is creating an icon, in a whimsical moment, that people find subtly, and maybe even passive-aggressively, distracting.

:-)

5/25/2006 08:13:00 PM  
Blogger Chris Rywalt said...

All of my art is play, in that I enjoy doing it. All of my art is generous, in that I give it to you, expecting nothing in return.

5/25/2006 10:06:00 PM  
Anonymous Bob said...

Its interesting, but I think alot of people in the artworld are transgression addicts. And that seems to be why alot of art now services this need. The circus sideshow effect of alot of todays art both mirrors the need and mocks it at the same time. Like we're artjunkies waiting for a new fix. Its a particularly prickly moment to be making art I think. Everyone seems hell bent on proving theyre not transgression addicts and are above the game.

5/26/2006 06:14:00 AM  
Anonymous William said...

Wow, Ed, I guess I am not surprised by your take on transgressive art, but I'm not sure what transgressive art really even looks like these days. By the cultural standards of the right in this country much of the art in New York could be considered transgressive. By the standards of the intellectual left or the art world, there really isn't much except institutional critique that can rightly shock people morally or socially.

What I'd like to think about transgressive art is that perhaps the outcome, to have a particular viewpoint accepted by the majority, isn't a negative thing. I think it relates to transgressive thought in general. I don't think scientists appreciated being branded heritics by the Church, but do we think they pursued their lines of inquiry for acceptance? They definitely wanted their science accepted. I think there is usually something attached, a radical thought, a philosophy, a way of life, a desire, an aesthetic, to the transgressive act that isn't accepted by established social order.

That said, no amount of assimilation of pluralist ideas can mask that there are definite social and cultural borders that are extremely difficult to cross in our patriarchal, class-based society. I'm often filled with self-loathing for what I lack, and there is something distinctly empowering about stepping out of turn, simply just to step sometimes. Not to change the world, or perhaps efforts like this blog, which didn't exist a few years ago are transgressive by traditional standards. Thus the lengthy debate last week about the effect of blogs in art media.

Ed, where's your inner punk rocker? This country is making me seriously consider studying the counter-culture of the 60's as an effective alternative to supporting the war machine trampling civil rights for anyone on this soil. I've just got this feeling that if you are right, I'd rather be wrong. Really wrong. Terrible even.

5/26/2006 10:45:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

hmmm...I haven't actually taken a moral stand on transgression, per se, William. I'm merely pointing out that it's disrespectful to the tradition to expect that one can be transgressive and yet not suffer the consequences for pissing people off. The bold pioneers of transgression knew they were asking for trouble but risked it anyway. Today I see artists being transgressive and then acting surprised and/or hurt that they aren't universally beloved for it.

If you're gonna knowingly play with fire, don't play the victim if you get burnt. Suck it up and accept that that was the risk. Otherwise don't play with fire.

5/26/2006 11:46:00 AM  
Anonymous danonymous said...

Tradition????? I think we may be losing sight of the two headedness of this particular monster. On the one hand we are dealing with something that is merely in transition as EVERYTHING is. And on the other hand, we are trying to reach conclusions that nail the coffin shut onthe idea.
I think there is a balance missing that looks like...open the coffin, shut the coffin, open the coffin, shut the coffin.
I am gratified when I remember that this discussion is meaningless....and still affords a step up in the discussion anyway. Boy...art...conundrums galore....
What's funny to me is that so much of this disappears when we are actively working....only to appear when we get stuck

5/26/2006 12:14:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

ok, fair enough...talking about the tradition of transgression is a bit of wanting to have it both ways...

and I'm glad you point out that all such issues we've discussed this week, elitism, art about art, transgression disappear, and rightly so, in the studio...but like classical training, such exercises can free one up to simply make the work when the time comes to do so, no?

5/26/2006 01:06:00 PM  
Anonymous danonymous said...

but like classical training, such exercises can free one up to simply make the work when the time comes to do so, no?

As soon as you said the above, what popped into mind was the linear logic which I think runs counter to the thread of this discussion...transgression. Again, trying to tame the beast and neutralize it into understanding.
Classical training provides the tools and perhaps the inspirational performances and interpretations of other artists.
Understanding does not mean ownership. Artists still apply themselves in real time in order to apply the "practice" and learn something new, or push the old envelop a little further, but mostly push themselves.
ON the other hand, you (i.e. the intellectual pursuer, the curator, etc.)have a similar opportunity as the artist to stay in unchartered territory and explore. I think the "art" we are talking about is not the perfectly valid, classical contemporary art of some current practitioners. We are talking about the art that we don't really know how to talk about yet.
Weren't there a couple of writer/thinkers in the early 20th century that provided the words that bridged the gap between artists and their work and then the work and the public...the names are lost on me.

5/26/2006 01:34:00 PM  
Blogger Jesse said...

Ed. Who are some recent artists that you think have been burned by being too transgressive with their art? Are we talking the "Sensation" show? When I try to think of artists that I consider transgressive I mostly conjure up artists from the 80's with a little spill over into the 90s. (Mapplethorpe, Serrano, Karen Finley, Orlan, Stelarc) Even though now we seem to be in another very politically polarized time (like the 80s) it's pretty hard for me to label an artist as transgressive. I tend to want to talk more about shock or spectacle not transgression even though these efforts do feel kind of toothless. This could have something to do with the how the media and popular culture is so saturated with images of sex and violence. Maybe we have been desensitized by pop culture as much as we have been jaded by the strategies of artists.

I agree with William that whether something is considered transgressive does have a lot to do with what your perspective is. There certainly is a big divide between inside and outside the artworld and how you define it changes as you go across the political spectrum. Could a right wing view point be considered transgressive to someone on the left? Or does it just become frightening?

The Fresh Air interview with Michael Farris, president of the first university in America for Christian home-schooled children and his views got me thinking about that. And it was scary.

http://www.npr.org/templates/rundowns/rundown.php?prgId=13&prgDate=24-May-06

5/26/2006 02:07:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric Caspesyan said...

BIZARRE QUICK ART REQUEST:


Hello,

I write here cos they are many art fans.


If someone is able to visit the Whitney Biennial tomorrow or sunday (it lasts sunday), I'd pay them the ticket (and a little hand money) so that they can provide some information for me (I lost some notes).


Inquire at:

Cedric Caspesyan
centiment@hotmail.com

5/26/2006 03:27:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello
I have been at work all week and have barely had a chance to read these interesting posts, let alone comment.
But I would like to suggest that it would be incredibly helpful when discussing these loaded issues if people (and especially Edward, when he is introducing something for discussion) could give concrete examples of actual artists and artwork that exemplify the points they are trying to make. It would probably be useful to assume that everyone here is coming from a different point of view and when asked, might actually be picturing an entirely different artist's work from everyone else.
Otherwise, abstract ideas like "transgressive art" just become sweeping generalizations which could be interpreted any which-way.--thanks!!

5/26/2006 04:26:00 PM  
Anonymous David said...

Could a right wing view point be considered transgressive to someone on the left?

Jesse, I think that's a good point, actually. A lot of what poses in the artworld as transgression is actually just pandering to a perceived audience/market. That scary far-right stuff would be the real transgression if seen by our generally left-leaning art world.

5/26/2006 06:37:00 PM  
Blogger Joshua Johnson said...

While it seems obvious to me, growing up in the midwest, that art may still provoke through transgression, that provocation is generally limited to forcing people to ignore one's critique. Art institutions have long since assumed an aura of transgressiveness. Now, people who don't want their paradigms shifted are going to steer far clear of these places, or brace themselves against their influence. I suppose it's like how a fundamentalist Christian is unlikely to walk into the local smut store.

That's not to say that they wouldn't protest if one was built in their town. However, the art world has largely managed to build bulwarks around its bastions, and thus arrive in a hermetically sealed environment. Let's just say that Podunk, Midwest isn't likely to care how many pictures of Jesus you dunk into piss, as long as its happening in New York, and not next door.

Artists now days seem to understand these boundaries, and keep their "transgressive" work where it belongs-- in the institutions-- and that is anything but transgressive.

5/26/2006 10:25:00 PM  
Anonymous danynonamous said...

Edward.....comsider perhaps a practical application for this transgressive art investigation, to take it a step further.

Graffiti.
And perhaps just in New York. Over the last 30-40 years since the Suway paintings to tagging to today's ..i.e. neck Face, Swoon

5/26/2006 11:30:00 PM  
Blogger serena said...

That scary far-right stuff would be the real transgression if seen by our generally left-leaning art world.

Isn't that the truth. Try suggesting, at a dinner party thrown by 'tolerant,' liberal, cosmopolitan folk, that voting laws should be changed to reflect 'one vote per household,' i.e. that women shouldn't vote. Just as a thought experiment. Watch how fast you get thrown out and never invited back.

I find it tragic and frustrating that in our so-called 'liberal, progressive' enclave, it becomes increasingly difficult to have a real conversation that probes issues that concern us, deeply and personally. We are so concerned with not pressing anyone's 'racism,' 'sexism,' or 'homophobia' buttons that we end up sitting around grinning and nodding our heads.

This is particularly difficult when discussing issues regarding spirituality. People equate 'spirituality' with 'religion,' almost instantly, and wherever they're at with that--fundamentalist, atheist, or transpersonal--they start parroting their dogma, and conversation stops abruptly and shifts to the weather.

5/27/2006 12:15:00 PM  

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