September 28, 2017

"Out of concern for the safety of its staff, visitors, and participating artists, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum has decided against showing the art works Dogs That Cannot Touch Each Other (2003)..."

"... Theater of the World (1993), and A Case Study of Transference (1994) in its upcoming exhibition Art and China after 1989: Theater of the World. Although these works have been exhibited in museums in Asia, Europe, and the United States, the Guggenheim regrets that explicit and repeated threats of violence have made our decision necessary."

Fast Company reports.

We were talking about this controversy a week ago in "The most fatuous art-talk I've ever heard." I said: "[The Guggenheim] should not be showing a video of the animal cruelty and palming off fatuous rhetoric calling us into debasement and numbness as if it were an elevated accomplishment."

Now, the museum is doing what I wanted, but not for the reason I wanted. I guess there really were some threats of violence, and I hate that, but I wish the Guggenheim showed some consideration toward those of us who made ethical arguments in an entirely peaceful way. It clearly insists that without the threats, the show would have gone on:
As an arts institution committed to presenting a multiplicity of voices, we are dismayed that we must withhold works of art. Freedom of expression has always been and will remain a paramount value of the Guggenheim.
That last sentence is, of course, a lie. I'm virtually certain that the expression of racist, sexist, and homophobic ideas is subordinated to higher values. Does anyone believe that if an artist tormented real human children in the equivalent of Dogs That Cannot Touch Each Other that the rejection of child abuse would not find a position above freedom of expression.

Now, the Guggenheim does say "a paramount value." But how many "paramount" values can you have? I think pairing "a" with "paramount" is like pairing "very" with "unique."

31 comments:

tim in vermont said...

One of those dogs had a lot of facial scars.

Ralph L said...

The terrorists win.

Very unique drives me crazy.

Gahrie said...

Ethics is situational.

We can't display art that uses animals in a way that some find offensive, but doesn't actually hurt them in any way, but ripping babies out of wombs is fine and dandy.

tcrosse said...

These are some of our paramount values. If you don't like them, we have others.

mockturtle said...

Well written, Ann. It is unfortunate that threats accomplish what common decency cannot.

gspencer said...

I'm pretty sure that a super (above all others) paramount value of ever-so-principled-we-support-all-free-speech-no-matter-what bien pensant will always bow to Islam and Muslim sensibilities.

When will they display the Muslim cartoons of 2005?

They're dhimmis already and don't even know it.

JAORE said...

"without the threats, the show would have gone on"

A sad lesson learned*. Applicable to so many topics.



* People on the right are slow to embrace the lesson, but the walls are cracking. There will be shocked faces galore if it ever gets fully absorbed.

dda6ga dda6ga said...

Liberals for dog fighting...

Limited blogger said...

or 'we' do something 'together'

Owen said...

Prof. A: very well said and the fact that violence or its threat is now the clincher argument is, IMHO, a sign that the culture has collapsed. Art is where the culture plays: explores and questions and reconciles and goes off in tangents. And nobody is physically threatened or coerced to agree or disagree. Deeper/slower layers of the culture take note of/interact with the art layer, and core values evolve. All healthy and intensely interesting.

Now? With the Stasi in charge of these "aesthetic" decisions? All that vital debate is foreclosed. The explicit message you sent by your critique, the implicit message I would send by not paying to attend this evil crapfest, are both silenced by this coup.

Sad.

David in Cal said...

"If liberals didn't have double standards, they wouldn't have any standards at all."

Burt Prelutsky

Nonapod said...

reportedly included footage of pit bulls on treadmills.

Well, without actually seeing it, on it's surface it seems relatively mild. I mean regular people put their dogs on treadmills all the time ostensibly for exercise. Cesar Millan does it (although I know people have problems with his training methodologies). I wouldn't do it, it doesn't seem right, but I don't know if that sort of thing can be categorized as "cruelty". It doesn't seem like "art" though.

Anything involving making animals or children (beings that can be considered innocent) even a little uncomfortable makes me very uncomfortable. It's why hate those Jimmy Kimmel videos where parents do things like pretend that they ate all their kids halloween candy.

Etienne said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ann Althouse said...

"We can't display art that uses animals in a way that some find offensive, but doesn't actually hurt them in any way, but ripping babies out of wombs is fine and dandy."

I'll bet the Guggenheim would refuse to show an artistic video of ripping babies out of wombs.

mockturtle said...

I'll bet the Guggenheim would refuse to show an artistic video of ripping babies out of wombs.


Don't bet on it.

Jim said...

I'm pretty sure they would exhibit Piss Christ; Piss Mohammed (PBUH), not so much. Their paramount commitment to Freedom of Expression is pragmatic.

Jim said...

On a lighter note, when I read this post the first time, I thought it said the most "famous" art-talk I've ever heard.

Gahrie said...

I'll bet the Guggenheim would refuse to show an artistic video of ripping babies out of wombs.

I'll take that bet.

TWW said...

RBG, Madeline Alright, HRC and others born without a 'Y' chromosome make it clear to me that there is special place in Hell for men who do not vote for men. I also dislike shorts, I mean pants suits, on women. And so I shall.

Anthony said...

Maybe they think "paramount" means a pair of mounts?

Have they thought about the incentives they're creating? I'm sure it's possible to stir up a crowd to violently protest anti-American or anti-Christian art at the Guggenheim.

Jupiter said...

I watched a couple minutes of it. Pretty dull. "Arf-arf", seems to be the takeaway. If they didn't have the treadmills, it would just be some dogs on leashes barking at each other, something one sees fairly often. Most don't look like fighting dogs, either. They may just want to sniff each other's assholes.

Jupiter said...

I suppose there is something to be said for "performance art". Theater is performance art. But it doesn't make a lot of sense to stage performances in museums for static art. I suppose it is an indication of how debased the visual arts have become. The "quality" of performance art is largely a function of its ability to astonish. Artists lacking in imagination will always be tempted to substitute the ability to shock. And this is true in the graphic arts as well. What is depicted becomes more important than how it is depicted. The museum as circus.

Anyone know of a play with actual dogs in it? Plenty of movies, of course.

Owen said...

I get more wisdom from walking a dog for 30 minutes on a Saturday afternoon than these buffoons can lecture or pose for me in a lifetime.

Tempest, teapot.

SDaly said...

When museums start to remove pieces en masse because they are offensive, do you think they will sell them (to get something back) or simply burn them as too horrible to exist anywhere?

Khesanh 0802 said...

First Harvard withdraws its offer to treasonous Manning , now the Guggenheim withdraws from a stupid position. Who says Trump isn't getting stuff done?

n.n said...

Pro-Choice, yesterday, today, and progressive.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

Ann Althouse said...I'll bet the Guggenheim would refuse to show an artistic video of ripping babies out of wombs.

No bet: the Media's been suppressing footage from within Planned Parenthood etc. for as long as there's been video.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

Having your desired free expression prevented due to a potentially-violent heckler's veto?

Welcome to the party, pal!

MadisonMan said...

I hope I'm not the only one who figures the violence threat came from PETA.

DavidD said...

But Piss Christ and Cow Dung Santa Maria are a-OK!

Right.

vanderleun said...

" I guess there really were some threats of violence, and I hate that,"

Well now missy you'd best be gettin' more used to it. As we learn from Patrick Swayze in Next of Kin: "You ain't seen bad yet, but it's comin'."