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This is what happens when you put the wrong people in charge of things.
Censorship is the new cutting edge politics! Freedom of speech is just old, dead white male stuff.
From the San Diego Union-Tribune regarding the student who wants a Woody Allen class canceled:
Lyon doesn’t believe that silencing a university professor — Steven Adler — violates the First Amendment, which she describes as a law “written by a bunch of white men …It was written in the 1700s — late 1700s. I mean, those men were experiencing things that are completely different now. (It’s) outdated.”
When asked how the law is outdated, Lyon said, “Well, it protected Donald Trump when he said --- a breadth of offensive things.”
" while betraying more than a little anxiety about female sexuality.”
The anxiety referred to is that of the editorialists alone"
Actually, no, it's the key to the myth itself. In fact Henrietta Rae's painting is much more explicit about it, since it shows him being dragged into the water. It's a none-too-subtle myth about female power. "You can drown in that."
That said, it's no excuse to censor the painting, If it makes people a little uneasy, that just what art should do.
Are you by any chance referring to a Henrietta Rae painting other than the one shown above? Clearly in Rae's painting of "Hylas and the Water Nymphs," not only is Hylas NOT being pulled into the water, but his eyes are looking up and away from the women, rather than intensely looking at the closest woman, as Hylas does in Waterhouse's. As for your other point that anxiety about female sexuality is the key to the myth, I can't say you're wrong about that, but was hoping the author of this article might defend his position, or maybe someone else could weigh in. However, I can say that The curator's admission of having been influenced in her decision by the me too campaign ought to nuance your interpretation at least a wee bit.
Glad this fine site has covered this story of scandalous art censorship in UK at last! Worthy subject: thorough coverage though I'm sad the UK contributors of this site always follow news events so late!
And yes: I think the gallery were being terribly hypocritical: and without the public protest this fine painting may have vanished into a vault!
I know one thing. There are obscene things in this world, and body of young woman is not one of them but extreme opulence and oligarchic smirk covering his/her fart of hypocrisy and dehumanization is obscene. It makes me puke.
I am for removing all oligarchic filth from public display starting with money and money itself since it is also obscene and useless in its nothingness.
Very poetic again, Kalen!
If by "oligarchic smirk" you mean the attitude of the bourgeois folks running MAG, I'm all with you...
If you mean however the folk in the painting... Well Hylas is wearing a simple tunic: and the nymphs ain't got no clothes on, so I can't see how they're being "opulent"! 😉😄
You comment reminds me of old school homework assignment where you had to write what poet meant by this or that phrase of poem.
Thanks God I am not a poet, but somebody who despise agressive bourgeoise aesthetics of "rich and beautiful" (who for me are not rich with what I value and do not posses beauty of natural simplicity and harmony awarded to all of us) indoctrinated into our mind as church baroque architecture indoctrinated parishioners to respect and be taken by beauty and power of Catholic Church, to fall in love with disgusting moneyed opulence as representing moral value or virtue of faith.
That was really well written and informative too. Thank you Dennis Moore.
At least The Guardian had the decency to allow BTL comments this time - and the ones I read were heartening. Here is a good one:
"It was the artist herself, Sonia Boyce, who called the models "pubescent girls" which is simply wrong and telling: she did not do any real research about the painting but kept on to her prejudices. Waterhouse's model for ALL the nymphs was Muriel Foster, 18 years old and thus not a pubescent girl."
This reflects a common characteristic of self-righteous moral policing: to be so eager to read obscenity into something that the actual thing itself is not seen.
What are BTL comments?!
I had to look it up too. It stands for 'below the line.' Comment section basically.
I share your pain. I had to look up BTL myself after reading about it a while ago. We live in an age of multiplying acronyms and each seems to have multiple meanings.
"The anxiety referred to is that of the editorialists alone."
The economic anxiety of an entire class.
Onward, courageous #MeToo crusaders!
Next stop? Delacroix's "La Mort de Sardanapale" (1827) https://en.wikipedia.org/wi...
(Art - old and new - belongs to the socialist working class. We will judge the merits of a work.)
With all of the professions about “soft porn” I wonder why #MeToo isn't taking on the porn industry. If there is an industry on earth that brutally and (pardon the pun) nakedly exploits young women, that would be it.
As a slight tangent, the Liberal Canadian newspaper the Globe and Mail is both virulently pro #MeToo and for the legalization of prostitution in Canada because a woman’s body is a commodity that ought to be for sale (that is literally the argument that one of the editorialists made a few years ago). What progress! (That’s sarcasm, by the way).
Aw don't attack the porn industry Gracchus: most people in that are doing what they want to do, even if it is for the money.
I'm currently reading the book "Porn Panic" by Jerry Barnett: an exploration of this topic and also on that of "puritan feminism" and its unholy modern alliance with the Right.
when "soft porn" is done by artists who sell millions of albums of empty boring RnB that's suddenly not a problem, that can even be "empowering" for women, but a visible breast (not even that ostensibly) a century ago by a good painter...
That only highlights the hypocrisy of the new Puritanism. I know many of these people because I’m unfortunate enough to be a student on a North American campus. They will advocate all forms of repression for the working class, including sexual repression, so long as their position in society is secure. And, of course, they will preach sexual restraint while fornicating like, well, frat brothers and sorority sisters. The self-absorbstion and hypocrisy of this layer literally knows no bounds. As the WSWS has pointed out, this is about politics, not sex.
Yeah well: MTV has been broadcasting "soft porn" for decades! 😄
It is. In line with its neo-Victorian moralizing, the NY Times ran on Feb 10 an op-ed by Ross Douthat, "Let's Ban Porn". It contains this remarkable statement:
The belief that it should not be restricted is a mistake; the belief that it cannot be censored is a superstition. Law and jurisprudence changed once and can change again
The New York Times outdoes itself yet again.
Neo- fascism resides in the Liberal minded now .
Fascism grows ONLY in the manure of capitalist economies and the bourgeois "democracies" which sustain each other. These are liberal social constructs and the only ones from which fascism has ever emerged. Fascism and liberalism are two faces of a coin from the same mint, or perhaps two seasons of the same liberal year. All power to the Soviets.
We need to built those soviets first.
Art is subjective . It is mostly the viewer the decides what the art means outside of understanding the environment the artist was working in. Unless you place the art work in its time and space during creation, you impose your prejudices on it.
The reviews of art are the expression of the person viewing it. Nothing more. One can debate that point of view to win over merit. But as they say, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
My worry is the expression of new artists and new works. How much self censorship will go on.
I would posit that purely subjective art is as evanescent as the moods it seeks to capture. The great Marxist writer on art, Aleksander Voronsky, characterized significant art somewhat differently:
What is art? First of all, art is the cognition of life. Art is not the free play of fantasy, feelings and moods; art is not the expression of merely the subjective sensations and experiences of the poet; art is not assigned the goal of primarily awakening in the reader 'good feelings.' Like science, art cognizes life. Both art and science have the same subject: life, reality. But science analyzes, art synthesizes; science is abstract, art is concrete; science turns to the mind of man, art to his sensual nature. Science cognizes life with the help of concepts, art with the aid of images in the form of living, sensual contemplation.
Voronsky's essays have been translated and published by Mehring Books in a wonderful volume, Art as the Cognition of Life.
Have you read Trotsky's two great works on art, Culture and Socialism and Literature and Revolution? The last is also available from Mehring Books.
I have read them and everyone should read them.
My great worry as an artist is how can we place works of art on an objective basis? If that cannot be done we might as well throw it to the dogs, or, even worse, the postmodernists.
You can be as objective as you possibly can as an artist. It is the view that you cannot control. Everyone has different levels of competence in life. They bring that with them when they experience the things life brings about.
For example there is a band called Rage Against the Machine. While when I listen to their music I can easily here the subject matter. Others will not here the words but only listen to the music.
It’s high time for the WSWS to write a general critique of modern Feminism and its postmodernist epistemology. The censorship of art and artists is only a small and early example of the assistance Feminist ideology can lend the ruling class. I’ve read the Guardian and similiarly minded sites for years and the excesses of #metoo and the accompanying more broad anti-male sentiment has been brewing for a long time.
What no one seems to be mentioning is how #MeToo is affecting and shaping the political perspectives of many young men. I personally know several young men who leaned left or were social democrats, but have since gone over to the alt-right/Nazis because they have been completely alienated by the politics of the pseudo-left. Fourth wave feminism, which claims that sexual abuse and “rape culture” are the only things that should concern anyone, has had a profound effect in driving many young men into the arms of the extreme right. The odious Richard Spencer at least has promised single payer health insurance. All the democrats and the official “left” have done is promise more #MeToo. The extreme right is the only group that will benefit from this campaign, and, in the event of a revolutionary crisis, we can be sure that the ivory tower academic moralists will side with the fascists to defend their interests. Heidegger’s actions were not a mistake. Coincidentally, I do not think his influence on Rorty, Marcuse, et al can be overstated.
First, fourth wave feminism does not in any way reflect people's experience of the real world since 2012. Second, the remote moral panic of the last few months is (I would argue) not enough to push any but those already flirting with it into nazism.
The entire media, government and establishment has drifted further to the right since 2012, and these young men have been influenced by many more environmental factors than just a bunch of middle class women who want an equal seat at the status quo boardroom table. One small part of an overall trend is not a primary cause - it's just another pustule of the same disease.
On a separate note, it would be a strange move indeed if the SEP singled out just one form of identity politics for censure. Context is too important to lose an audience before they've even picked up the brochure.
It's a wonderful antidote to much nonsense. You can purchase it from Mehring Books.
ikl64 - thanks very much for the David North book on the FS ... this is exactly the kind of book I've been looking for! Appreciated.
I would love to see a critique of right wing, bourgeois feminism by Comrade North. Such a work is desperately needed in this reactionary age.
"“series of performances, all filmed by Boyce’s team, addressing issues of race, gender, and sexuality, "
Well of COURSE I'd rather see uninformed, not even third-rate identity politics performance "art" rather than masterpieces of visual art.
Welcome to 2018 (or is it 1934?), where removing artwork in a blatant act of censorship is now known as "starting a conversation".
While a period piece in some respects, Tom Wolfe's book about the conceptual art scene, The Painted Word, remains on point with regard to how much modern art is actually a text that an object or a performance is derived from. You can see Wolfe's point in how the gallery described allowing the artist to 'hack' their exhibits as an arts practice, you can see it in her planned performances, and, finally, you see it in the issue of trying to control how the Nymphs are seen (with censorship being an extreme form, not-seeing), through talk of context/rethinking.
The most pernicious false idea that individuals such as the gallery boss cleave to is that their thinking is the leading edge of human progress, rather than something cyclical and reactionary, that we've already encountered many times before. Rhiannon Lucy-Cossett is an unthinking adherent of such a view, and thus one of the most reliable sources of this dangerous stupidity in its raw form (often universalizing her views as those shared by all 'Millennials').
The overarching project, as the writer of the piece points out, is to produce a coherent text, Art History, that aesthetic objects created at different historical moments must align perfectly with. It's a project born of intolerance, its logical endpoints too disturbing to contemplate.
To Our Moral Guardian Wannabes,
Thanks to Dennis Moore and the WSWS for properly contextualizing the medieval philistines for what they truly are: worms infesting the rotting corpse of Kapitalismus.
Actually, medieval art was a lot better.
So in the beginning we had a sex scandal involving a film producer and a hashtag. Now we have a famous artwork being removed because it shows women's breasts. It's incredible how much of a foresight David Walsh and the WSWS had when treating this issue in October and November last year.
"In any event, it may not be possible for us to determine, at this point, which particular accounts are being settled and whose interests are being advanced. (...)It is safe, however, to assume that the scandal will have consequences.""We would issue a warning: a process has been set in motion that some of those now piling on may live to regret." October 2017
"The crusade has become an openly right-wing operation that gives off the ever more pronounced odor of reaction and repression. In some extraordinary manner, the goings-on in the entertainment industry are being transformed into a call for a restoration of tight controls on sexual activity." November 2017
This has once again confirmed for me that to evaluate movements by their class character is the right way to go.
Why does the Guardian now let so many philistines write this kind of puritanical tripe about Degas and Waterhouse - that paper has really fallen
Yes it has.
“No, of course, I wouldn’t ban it, just as I wouldn’t ban filthy old pervert Degas and his pre-teen ballerinas..."She would prefer Degas to paint octogenarian ballerinas?And he also painted a lot of horses, hmmmm
Following the identity politics logic, if a male artist paints young girls, it means he’s a pedophile; if he paints octogenarians, it means he’s a gerontophiliac; if he paints horses, it means he’s a zoophiliac. In fact, if he paints women of any age or group, in any fashion, he is to blame too, because he is subjecting women to the patriarchal “male gaze”. Even worst, if he is a white artist and paints non-white people of any kind, in any fashion, he is guilty of cultural appropriation. There’s no way to win.
nonh, how many times have you heard them say "race is a construct, gender is a construct" (then pause to inhale breath, and 3 2 1, continue with): "all white men are..."
That the idpol libs don't see the contradiction between these two systems (realism and nominalism) tells you everything about the incoherence of their worldview.
Yep. And I forgot to add, if the white male artist just gives up and quits painting altogether for fear of offending anyone, not even then he would earn the respect of the identity politics crowd, because in their view he would only be doing it out of “white guilt”, an attitude which only serves to confirm his “white male privilege”.
Nothing enrages an identity politics zealot more than hearing the words "inverse racism" or "inverse sexism". But that’s what they actually promote.
The most ironic thing is that the new puritanism (supposedly from the left) is far more fanatical than the old patriarchal prudery. The latter merely saw nudity as something "dirty". The former sees it as some kind of assault on rights.
And the comment about "soft porn nymphs" must be the ultimate in self-consciously trendy dumbing down.