Friday, September 16, 2005

Fear Art

NEWSgrist has posted a collection of articles around the controversial exhibition A Knock at the Door exhibit in New York.

From the show's website:
Anchored with works and artists already targeted by the Secret Service, the show expands to show how, with no accountability required of the federal government, any cultural activity could come under investigation. A Knock at the Door challenges the assumption that there is a clear line defining so-called "threatening" or "Un-American" art and activity, and that all art is an expression of the most basic foundation of a democratic society - the free expression and exchange of ideas.
Caryn James writes in the NYT :
As it turns out, the show is a thoughtful, legitimate exploration of one way in which American artists' lives have changed because of 9/11; it raises questions about artistic freedom that ought to be asked near ground zero. And the anger directed against the show reveals some chilling cultural trends: the devaluing of art as a proper response to 9/11, and the persistent, wrongheaded idea that to question the government is to dishonor the memory of those who died.
Hers is not necessarily the dominant opinion. From the New York Daily News:

The bottom line is that a show like this, staged as it will be in lower Manhattan during the heartwrenching memorials surrounding 9/11, is simply inappropriate, as should be clear to anyone from lower Manhattan with cultural aspirations. It is also insulting to victims and survivors and the country that was attacked.

And finally, 9/11 and "Inappropriate Art" from the Gotham Gazette (via NEWSgrist) which not only comments on this exhibit but on the politics surrounding the creation of the memorial.

I haven't seen the show, and I'm not sure I'll get up to NY before it closes, but questions that spring to my mind from reading these articles are : When is art inappropriate? Can art be inappropriate? If so, what makes a piece inappropriate? When, then, is art appropriate to a situation?

An attempt to answer the last question is made by Arthur Danto's show at apexart, The Art of 9/11. Danto writes:
[After 9/11] I thought the last thing on anyone’s mind was art. But by day’s end the city was transformed into a ritual precinct, dense with improvised sites of mourning. I thought at the time that artists, had they tried to do something in response to 9/11, could not have done better than the anonymous shrine-makers who found ways of expressing the common mood and feeling of those days, in ways that everyone instantly understood.
A Knock at the Door runs through October 1st and The Art of 9/11 until October 15.


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