has conceptual art gone too far?

this was one of the headlines in last month’s YEN magazine. being a bit of a conceptual art wanna be, i got all excited that the term was making an appearance again in more ‘mainstream’ media – well, yen’s not exactly exclusive art/wank territory.

however the article, written by their new york editor, was such a pile of fucking shite that it put me in a bad mood. fortunately, or unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find a copy online to link to but i’m still looking…

the premise for the article was to discuss art that pushes the boundaries of what audiences (and the mainstream media) can handle – citing two works which people were ‘up in arms’ about, both of which turned out to be unsubstantiated claims. the first, a work by a student at [some American University], in which she proposed to have artificially inseminated herself on a monthly basis, aborted/miscarried 9 foetuses, preserved them in flatwrap plastic bags, which were going to be displayed hanging from the ceiling. oh so damien hirst, but human foetus instead of dead lifestock and school gallery, not white cube.

the second absolutely shocking contemporary work she sited was the starving dog works, in which an emaciated dog was tied up in the gallery, with the words [something] spelled in dog biscuits on the wall. no gallery visitor chose to feed and/or try to release the dog, but made sure they complained to Animals America, especially after the dog ‘disappeared’ – apparently dying from malnutrition. They caused a big publicity hoo hah about it and then found out that the dog had actually been fed each day of the show, and taken back to its home.

for good measure, our trusty art journalist cited the animal rights ‘sensation’ caused by both Maurizio Cattelan Novecento – the ‘hanging horse’, and Mike Parr‘s video of a chicken being decapitated recently seen in the Sydney Biennale – her source, no doubt the same one i found through google – the trusty SMH, where the above pic is snaffled from, wrongly attributed to Attila Csorgo. And both works which have been in the public domain for, ooh, 10 years. Shocking.

and in terms of ‘going too far’, why didn’t our indignant editor get up in arms about the intense and quite violent videos of Parr’s, in which he stitches his own face up with thread and piercing needles? or his work in which he is dressed in the suit of guantanemo bay detainees and is willingly electrocuted by the audience? isn’t that controversial? what about his pain and suffering? and the discomfort of the willing viewer? surely April O’Neill our reporter needs to stand up for the rights of the viewer! it’s an outrage I tell you….

having made wild, eratic, finger-point gestures at some of the worlds most established artists, of course, our lovely editor mentions the whole debacle with Bill Henson (who isn’t a conceptual artist at all – he’s a fucking photographer) as some kind of evidence of conceptual art taking such extreme liberties with the innocence of unsuspecting gallery goers and paparazzi alike the public. will somebody please think of the children??

shocking. all of it.

and i don’t mean the work cited. in fact, all the works that our investigative journalist-cum-fashionista used as proof that conceptual art is evil, were all works that were developed into a controversy by the media.

wow. who would have thought.

the foetus/dog works’ complaints were false, the horse/chicken works are just proof that australia is 10 years behind the rest of the world – given that both works were made 10 years ago and for the most part, the controversy has passed. And the Henson? Well, like i said, he’s a fucking photographer, not a conceptual artist. and if you’re going to talk about the role of pornography/sexuality in art, etc, etc, talk about it. But probably not in a fashion mag that has 14-year olds with their tits out in a vice mag pose..

*i realise that this is the second time i’ve taken someone else’s published article to task on this blog of late, but you’ll just have to deal with it. sorry.

thanks for subscribing to she sees red by lauren brown. xx

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