February 5, 2014 by musehick
Artists and their work – interesting questions arise about how you treat one and how that affects the treatment of the other. There are probably regrettable acts on the part of every one who ever lived, that if you viewed their world through that distorting astigmatism could be cast as someone you should have nothing to do with. The scale of the crime obviously affects how you should act in terms of the level of hatred you should turn on them.
I don’t mean to make light of it, but the Chinese Whispering that snowballs around a signal lack of evidence is scary. Is it uncomfortable having to look at the possibility your favourite artist did something reprehensible? Surely it is. Some people seem more angry about the fact it is no longer OK to like their works of art than the act they were accused of committing.
I am not sure where I sit in relation to the art works. The acts themselves I feel very black and white about – when there is incontrovertible evidence; when there isn’t I withhold judgement. After evidence is truly there? I would openly condemn the artist … I am not sure I would be quite so ready to denounce the work. That’s what seems to be expected though.
Hate Eric Gill’s art because he was a pervert. Screw Philip Larkin’s poetry because he was a racist. Question the worth of anyone and everyone from Jim Morrison to Heath Ledger, to Philip Seymour Hoffman because of the way in which they died. Some times I find the work and discover the biography later – the reaction to each is equally visceral. Being stuck between the pull of the greatness of the work versus the hatefulness or degradation of the artist puts you on that uncomfortable fence. It seems akin to that whole “support the troops, hate the war” dynamic. Is there an equation by which you can balance both urges? Is there? If so I don’t know if I have found it. Does liking the work of a bastard mean some of the stink rubs off on you? I hope not, but it could quite easily work in the same way that receiving stolen goods makes you as guilty as the thief.
I feel as dirty as if I had been reading a tabloid. I don’t feel that way when I experience the art of some of these people. I am torn. I hope to never put my readers in that position – how best to do that? By living a good life. I am not perfect, but some of these things are things I know I would never do. But anyway … tomorrow, something about the work I am doing and the world I am invested in.