Sunday, September 26, 2010

On the Responsibility of the Artist and the Consumer

(This is the second time I've rewritten this post. What is so difficult when it comes to debates about art and the responsibility of the artist is that on one hand, I feel if I'm not properly outraged enough when an artist, whether intentional or as the result of unexamined privilege, further marginalizes an already marginalized group, I've failed (because I have). But on another, I spend a great deal of time in "fan world" where much is excused away, and the onus is off the person making the art. Straddling these two worlds is hard, to say the least.)

I've been reading Jason Katz's book, The Macho Paradox, which was published four years ago, but this stood out in light of the recent controversy over the recent Eminem and Rihanna collaboration, "Love the Way You Lie":

"... many Americans believe that artists have an obligation only to be true to their vision -- not to be concerned with the social consequences of their art. According to this perspective, the expression of unpopular or disturbing ideas through art might make people uncomfortable, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. The purpose of art is not to make people feel good, but to give voice to the widest possible range of human experience and emotion... I would never say that is necessary to 'shut up' Eminem, but I do believe that is imperative to explore the implications of his popularity."

This comes from a pretty meaty chapter on misogyny and hip hop, but I'd like to add that this reasoning should be applied to any anyone who makes "art" that is sexist, racist, homophobic, ableist, etc. Over the past year, I've watched not only the controversy surrounding "Love the Way You Lie" unfold, but the cause célèbre over Amanda Palmer's Evelyn/Evelyn project, and now Morrisey's recent racist remarks in a British newspaper. I believe in "hating the message, not the artist," but with reservations. Echoing Katz, this isn't about "shutting anyone up," but questioning why certain "edgy" artists are popular even when their edginess is a guise. Regarding Morrissey, I really like what Tami said:

"I won't claim that I will never again let my iPod rest on a song by The Smiths or Morrissey, but the way I experience those songs has been forever tainted. While I have never listed Morrissey among my celebrity idols, many certainly do, and I find this perplexing. It is one thing to love the music and hate the man, but if you find bigotry abhorrent, how can you then idolize someone who has a history of demonstrating racial prejudice?"

No comments:

Post a Comment