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Art Pussies
Ben Hoyle writes in the Times/UK of British artists and their willingness to shock -- except when the subject is anything beyond what would offend Granny:

Britain’s contemporary artists are fêted around the world for their willingness to shock but fear is preventing them from tackling Islamic fundamentalism. Grayson Perry, the cross-dressing potter, Turner Prize winner and former Times columnist, said that he had consciously avoided commenting on radical Islam in his otherwise highly provocative body of work because of the threat of reprisals.

Perry also believes that many of his fellow visual artists have also ducked the issue, and one leading British gallery director told The Times that few major venues would be prepared to show potentially inflammatory works.

“I’ve censored myself,” Perry said at a discussion on art and politics organised by the Art Fund. “The reason I haven’t gone all out attacking Islamism in my art is because I feel real fear that someone will slit my throat.”

Perry’s highly decorated pots can sell for more than £50,000 and often feature sex, violence and childhood motifs. One work depicted a teddy bear being born from a penis as the Virgin Mary. “I’m interested in religion and I’ve made a lot of pieces about it,” he said. “With other targets you’ve got a better idea of who they are but Islamism is very amorphous. You don’t know what the threshold is. Even what seems an innocuous image might trigger off a really violent reaction so I just play safe all the time.”

Got it. So, the rest of us will speak out against terrorism, and you can speak out gallery opening wine?

Posted by aalkon at November 21, 2007 10:59 AM


**...I feel real fear that someone will slit my throat.”**

This sounds like a guy who could use a gun for self defense.

This reminds me of the quote from an earlier post:

"In Britain, the good people are afraid of the bad people, and the bad people are afraid of no one."

But, I'm not sure these "artists" qualify as good people.

Posted by: doombuggy at November 21, 2007 5:11 AM

"In Britain, the good people are afraid of the bad people, and the bad people are afraid of no one."

I think that's in more places than just Britain, doombuggy. o_O

Posted by: Flynne at November 21, 2007 5:50 AM

Yeah, these people are real brave when it comes to sex, violence and kiddie porn. But they cower when it comes to pissing off the Islamists. Sort of puts the lie to the old line that we have as much to fear from Christian fundamentalists as we do from Muslim ones.

Posted by: cpabroker at November 21, 2007 6:06 AM

Oh, man, I hate cheap gallery opening wine.

Posted by: Paul Hrissikopoulos at November 21, 2007 7:57 AM

"Oh, man, I hate cheap gallery opening wine."

Hence the "corked street" nickname of the snooty London gallery district, Cork Street!

Posted by: Jody Tresidder at November 21, 2007 8:58 AM

“I’ve censored myself,” Perry said at a discussion on art and politics organised by the Art Fund. “The reason I haven’t gone all out attacking Islamism in my art is because I feel real fear that someone will slit my throat.”

Wuss. It's all fine to make Piss Christ but no Mohammaturd or whatever. Which is too bad - someone is missing a great opportunity to get some free press.

Posted by: justin case at November 21, 2007 9:24 AM

“I’ve censored myself,” Perry said at a discussion on art and politics organised by the Art Fund. “The reason I haven’t gone all out attacking Islamism in my art is because I feel real fear that someone will slit my throat.”

Then they've won, haven't they? How very sad. o_o

Posted by: Flynne at November 21, 2007 9:27 AM

I will be the first to admit that I am not brave enough to drive around with a Muhammed bobblehead in my car. But you'd think there'd be some "artiste" willing to do the equivalent of Serrano's "Piss Christ" only slamming Islam.

I wonder if the post-9/11 climate of fear has changed the context for goofball concept artists who used to take their little digs at what they called "the establishment" and then basked in praise for their (snort) bravery. Maybe taunting the Rottweiler chained up in the neighbor's yard doesn't have the same schoolboy allure when there is a Timber Wolf lurking in the woods behind the school.

But I don't think these "artistes" are holding back on Islam out of real fear so much as because of professional courtesy. Islam is currently doing such a fine job of attacking Western Civilization that they don't have to.

Posted by: martin at November 21, 2007 9:33 AM

That's exactly what they're doing, taunting the chained up dog. Except I believe it's a Yorkshire terrier.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at November 21, 2007 9:38 AM

"One work depicted a teddy bear being born from a penis as the Virgin Mary..."

(Oh, God, it's too late to wrap my miserable blonde brain around that one. So I will take the easy way out and ape the Geico Caveman ~ "WHAT?")

Even as a starving artist myself, I'm glad I didn't come up with that one first. I would have had to really WORK at it.

Posted by: tree hugging sister at November 21, 2007 8:47 PM

When the President of the British Political Cartoonists Society was asked why there were no derogatory cartoons about Muslims, he replied, "Because they (the cartoonists) would suffer death".

He went on to say, "Jews don't issue fatwas."

Posted by: Gerry at November 21, 2007 9:09 PM

It's not just artists either. It's comedians, playwrights, novelists (with few exceptions). They're all terrified so they take cheap shots at Christianity or at Bush.

Posted by: Stephen at November 21, 2007 9:25 PM

Message: Terrorism works.

Posted by: TallDave at November 21, 2007 9:37 PM

"People who bite the hand that feeds them usually lick the boot that kicks them."
Eric Hoffer

Posted by: Scott at November 21, 2007 9:45 PM

I'll admit that I'm a practicing artist who is very wary of exhibiting TO OTHER ARTISTS any of the understanding or forebearance that I feel for the pickle the US has been thrust in in foreign affairs generally, where all choices are usually bad ones but where some choice or other must be made. Naturally I'd be loathe to admit any enthusiasm for what the US has accomplished in Iraq.

I'd simply be ostracized by the angry herd, endangering what little living I've been able to eke out with brush and canvas.

"Artists", no less the high-minded conceptual variety, are on the whole unbelievably ill-informed - about literature, history, philosophy, political science, culture generally, even about art. At the art world's upper eschelons one must become expert at striking an attitude. Even there little else is required.

The world of contemporary art is a hollowed out sham, people clinging desperately for any scrap of seeming relevancy and surviving, intellectually, by virtue of inchoate clouds of "multiple meanings", all while struggling to preserve their all-important careers. It is often a refuge for unscrupulous, even unimaginative types; subsequently such are the modes that become acceptable to all.

What used to be referred to as the "aesthetic experience" is rejected, or at least dismissed as so much exploitative history. And this is a useful guilt, making available to anyone with a perceived beef the generic celebration of the latest conventions of "informed" whinging. Meanwhile today's best and "important" artists playfully hone their perverse, self-aggrandizing surrenders to the ever-victimized "Other" (never mind that the Other is often an intolerant fascist) while telling the rest of us that OUR thinking and doing is the problem.

My hope is that more people will become more outwardly critical of the utter valuelessness of so much of the art-making in our time. Exposing academics and Hollywood types is good practice, but don't stop there, as is customary. Why is the art world so often given a pass?

Posted by: Opo at November 21, 2007 10:31 PM

The problems are with those who called these spineless creeps artists and paid more than £50,000 for junks that they called art.

Posted by: ic at November 21, 2007 11:55 PM

There is a mural on my campus that celebrates all races, except whites. It has Che, Mao....and Martin Luther King. I am sure the artist filled volumes with it's meaning, and it is a worthless piece of garbage.

The Islamic extremists get away with murder, literally, and the brave muralist at my campus has nothing good to say about Abraham Lincoln, George Washington or Mother Teresa, because they are the wrong color.
At an art exhibit on campus the Mexican artist painted President Bush as Hitler, proving to the world he knows nothing about either man. Not a single painting to show the suffering brought onto Spain by 800 years of Islamic domination. Does he understand that without the Muslim invasion and 800 years of war Spain would have been a much different country? Most artists are wimps, and many of them lie.

Posted by: tyree at November 22, 2007 12:00 AM

> Why is the art world so
> often given a pass?

Well, it's at least possible that they're given a pass because nobody cares. I'm not sure I've ever purchased a piece of "art", museum-tourist trinkets notwithstanding. These people may not lead a whole lot of thinking. Sure, they should be ridiculed, but...

Posted by: Crid at November 22, 2007 12:10 AM

Where's the fucking outrage in Britain over this?

Stone Age savages show up in your country and announce that from now on if you offend them they'll kill you, and you meekly swallow it? You don't even protest? You say "Yes, sir, whatever you say, sir," and let them have their way with you, like you're a swooning, hopeless sex slave in a Thai bordello?

"Pussies" doesn't even begin to cover it.

Eunuchs. Geldings. Limp-wristed bitches not worth saving.

All the best Brits live in the United States.

Posted by: Tom W. at November 22, 2007 1:05 AM

Tom W, well said, so I'll quibble. Of course the best Brits live in the United States: some of your better Brits founded the United States.

You're so right to let "pussies" off the hook here. "Pussies" are good things. These ain't.

But I think you may be unfair to Thai sex slaves.

Posted by: comatus at November 22, 2007 3:39 AM

Risky endeavers usually hold the most reward.

Posted by: papertiger at November 22, 2007 4:00 AM

"This sounds like a guy who could use a gun for self defense."

Teddy bears, penises and the Virgin Mary? No he doesn't need a gun, he needs a bullet.

Posted by: Arty at November 22, 2007 4:51 AM

Frustrated Islamists: We lock up our women and children in order to breed all aggression and hatred out of them. We kill them if they don't comply.

Frustrated Liberals: We're all friends, so where is all that aggression coming from? We avoid using aggressive words and descriptions that could incite. We ban "tag" from playgrounds, the genesis of our aggression. We don't resort to violence to deal with violence. We're all friends.

“The reason I haven’t gone all out attacking Islamism in my art is because I feel real fear that someone will slit my throat.”

The Realization: Who do you call?

Posted by: Bacchus at November 22, 2007 5:44 AM

Frightened little whores. Who can blame them. Why would anyone care what they say, what they do? Their cowardice is historically appropriate. Look at what happened to courageous artist in the past. Prison, deprivation, torture (the real sort) and death. These are piss artist, producing piss art. Alexander Solzhenitsyn is an example of what artists should aspire to. If they don't stand up now they will be the first victims of Sharia. Who will mourn their fate? The world will be better off without them and their sheep art. Justice has a sense of humour as well as irony.

Posted by: Johnny Dunn at November 22, 2007 8:01 AM

I don't do things that would offend Islamists or invite their rage either, so I can't really criticize these artists for not taking on the bad guys in their art. OTOH, I don't do things to offend the Catholics, the Jews, the Mormons, the Pagans, etc. I'm not politically correct, but I make a real effort to be considerate of others in all situations. "Speak the truth in love" is good advice for dealing with others in your family and community.

These artists go out of their way to offend others, and for that they do deserve criticism. Perhaps they will get a clue and start using their talent to uplift the civilization that provides the prosperity and the security that enables them to be artists.

Posted by: JeanE at November 22, 2007 8:47 AM

Arty, your post is perfect. I can't see how it could be improved.

Posted by: Thanatopsis at November 22, 2007 9:02 AM

I'm not politically correct, but I make a real effort to be considerate of others in all situations.

Speaking freely isn't inconsiderate, but a way to advance society. Furthermore, excuse me if I fail to curtsy when some Islamist pops by to behead me for criticizing their religion. I think it's absolutely essential to speak out, and to defend those -- like Ayan Hirsi Ali -- who do.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at November 22, 2007 9:06 AM

Islam used to spread itself with the sword. Now it is spread with a sword in one hand and the book of political correctness in the other. That's a tough combination to beat, especially when we in the West provided the second weapon.

Posted by: Neanderthal at November 22, 2007 9:08 AM

The West has committed a great folly by letting this unappeasable fifth column inside its borders.

I know I know... the Spanish were brutal savages when they expelled the Muslims from Spain. And Prince Vlad was such a cruel tyrant.

Luckily in the modern world we in the West are so much more enlightened and know sophisticated ways for dealing with Islamic conquest.

Posted by: b at November 22, 2007 9:23 AM

At least prince Vlad stopped the Turks. But he learned his vile methods of torture from his adolescent years among the Turks as a hostage. There is a movie we need better than 'young Frankenstein' or 'young Indiana Jones;'. 'Young Vlad', but it would be X rated. Turks raped their hostages back in those days, which is why when Vlad's thoughts turned to making people uncomfortable, he began by stuffing large phallic things up their butts.

Posted by: Don Meaker at November 22, 2007 10:03 AM

Typical right-wing talking points, I expected better of this author.
The neocon agenda is not working despite this chimp of a president forcing it upon us.
The rethug party will never be elected again, not even for dogcatcher of crawford texas.

Posted by: Rainlillie at November 22, 2007 10:24 AM

Tom W. wrote, "Where's the fucking outrage in Britain over this?"

It died like a dog in the street with Theo van Gogh. Shot, throat cut, death threat to Ayaan Hirsi Ali pinned to his chest with a knife through the heart.

Posted by: Looking Glass at November 22, 2007 10:39 AM

Typical right-wing talking points, I expected better of this author.

Uh, I'm neither right nor left. I'm a fiscal conservative, and socially libertarian.

There's a real danger to our country, other countries living under Enlightenment values, and to our entire way of life from Islam, and jamming your head in the sand isn't going to make it go away...although it might make you more convenient to behead.

Do you understand that Koran directs Muslims to convert or kill the rest of us?

Posted by: Amy Alkon at November 22, 2007 10:56 AM

Oh yeah - to the guy who dismisses this as "right-wing talking points" -- that's not a valid argument. If you think you have one, lay it on us.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at November 22, 2007 11:11 AM

Though they richly deserve it, we should consider the fact that those of us to whom the threat from radical Islam is clear and present are probably not running around with bumper stickers and t-shirts with statements that challenge Islam and their prophet. We too are afraid to varying degrees of reprisals.

We need to think long and hard about what that means relative to the long term battle and what Islamic terrorism has already achieved in that battle.

Posted by: Dr Deano at November 22, 2007 1:19 PM

I don't have any bumper stickers, save for the one that lets me park for free for getting 45-60mpg in my Honda Insight. However, I blog regularly about the dangers from the Islamists. Keeping silent has very negative consequences.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at November 22, 2007 1:38 PM

...Grayson Perry, the cross-dressing potter, Turner Prize winner and former Times columnist ...

Quite the resume. You know, we should give this guy one star for telling the truth. Seriously. It's a significant accomplishment considering the disadvantaged milieu he comes from.

Posted by: CJ at November 22, 2007 1:49 PM

The cruelty of Islam and the command to spread the faith by the swoard sets it apart from Christanity.
The pundits who say that Christanity is the threat as Islam are idiots.

Posted by: martin stuart at November 22, 2007 8:44 PM

Where's the rage? In Britain? Be serious. Rage has been beaten out of the British by decades of nanny-state governments. They don't even complain about having to have a license to watch their TV.

Perry's fear is real - and as they say, discretion is the better part of valor. Not that there's any valor attached to tinkerers like Perry, but you get the idea. He knows full well that he's not going to have to worry about a bevy of barbaric bishops running amok with flashing assagais. It's actually a good rule of thumb: insult only those you know won't kill you.

Posted by: ZZMike at November 22, 2007 9:18 PM

"I'm not sure I've ever purchased a piece of 'art'"

Sure you have, you own tons of "art" through the efforts of the NEA (they are thinking of changing that to the NE"A")

Posted by: martin at November 23, 2007 7:30 AM

TO: Amy Alkon
RE: Indeed

"Keeping silent has very negative consequences." -- Amy Alkon

Under English Common Law, silence is acceptance.

Keep up the good work...

....we're all excited.


[All great truths begin as blasphemies. -- George Bernard Shaw]

Posted by: Chuck Pelto at November 28, 2007 5:32 AM

P.S. God can deal with blaspheme Himself.

It's an interesting indicator that the Islamists feel they have to do it for Him. But maybe that means their god is not God.

I think that may well be the case. That or they have serious issues with low diety-esteem.

Posted by: Chuck Pelto at November 28, 2007 5:35 AM

Trey Parker and Matt Stone remain uncowed.

Posted by: Laika's Last Woof at November 29, 2007 2:24 PM

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