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Tony Grist

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Official Vandalism [Oct. 18th, 2015|12:40 pm]
Tony Grist
A judge sitting in Hammersmith has ordered the destruction of art works belonging to the artist Graham Ovenden- who has been convicted of paedophile offences. The works fingered for destruction include 19th century photographs by (or once belonging to) Pierre Louys and Wilhelm von Pluschow.

Louys is an important cultural figure, von Pluschow rather less so. Louys was a poet and novelist who received the legion d'Honneur and whose work has been set to music by Debussy and filmed by Bunuel. Von Pluschow photographed young people- mostly boys- in states of undress. Googling either of them produces a cascade of images of the kind the judge would like to see destroyed.

Stable door, horse, bolted.

So the judge's action is futile. This stuff is already in the public domain. But that's not really the point I want to make- which is this- that destroying works of art is a crappy thing to do- and even crappier when it's done by functionaries of the state. Can you think of a single act of official iconclasm- and history teems with them- which we do not now regret? Even rubbishy works of art can have a documentary value and be of use to future historians. And who's to say what is rubbishy anyway? The Nazis thought anything modernist was rubbish, ISIL thinks anything non-Islamic is rubbish.

There's a way round the problem. If you think a piece of work so obscene it should be removed from public gaze you can always lock it away. That's what the Tate has done with much of its collection of work by Ovenden (who until recently was considered respectable if a little risque)- and you can only view it if you can produce a certificate saying you're not a greasy little perve.  Again, until quite recently, the Italian state locked away some of the spicier items from its collection of antiquities from Pompeii and Herculaneum- and you could only view them if you could prove you weren't a woman. I'm not exactly recommending this option- because I deplore all kinds of censorship- but it's the lesser of two evils. At least the work you've taken out of circulation still exists- and you've allowed for the possibility that later generations may view it differently.

[User Picture]From: davesmusictank
2015-10-18 11:51 am (UTC)
Art, good or bad, should never be destroyed. Hide it n vaults may be a solution to those who would burn and condemn risque art but by destroying them is a slippery slope as to what next might be proscribed. History is full of these events as you rightly pointed out. I too hate censorship and that we should have the freedom to view or not.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2015-10-18 12:24 pm (UTC)
I'm hoping someone in a higher position of authority will step in and rescue these photographs.
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[User Picture]From: matrixmann
2015-10-18 12:14 pm (UTC)
I could understand if you put disgusting stuff like the Human Centipede movies or severe poltical propaganda to the test if it was worth keeping it alive, but... now going through works older than a century and trying to destroy material which you know about nowadays that it actually is about something that still is forbidden in society these days, this is just nothing else than destroying ancient temples in the Middle East or burning books because the author is allegedly a Jew or because you don't like the theories of Charles Darwin.
And, on the other hand, if being fair - seen from a point of time-wise distance, even the disgusting works of this time and especially propaganda sometimes open up interesting views about how zeitgeist was during this epoch.
Like when seeing an older TV series or movie and you link it with the time when it was filmed, you recognize certain things in the subtle area which are different today.
For example: The 90s were a decade which was very colorful and expressive, but though it must have (still) been a time of simple joys. The joys of people had names and faces and there was a recognizable set of ways to obtain it, which isn't the case these days anymore. People aim for a lot of things, but mainly it's just competing with the things another one has. And there's not a clear set of recognizable ways how to get there.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2015-10-18 12:27 pm (UTC)
I've no wish to watch The Human Centipede- and it's existence makes me a little sad- but I wouldn't want it banned.

I think we've gone a little crazy about paedophilia- and lost perspective. We need to take a deep breath and calm down a bit.
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[User Picture]From: matrixmann
2015-10-18 01:20 pm (UTC)
I brought this thing up because everyone who has heard of it or knows what is meant with these movies may be that minded to understand putting the question "Does human society need this?".
In some corner of my mind I'm that opinion you musn't be entitled to show each and everything in public - another good example surely would be this North Korea "comedy" movie from this year -, but, as it is, as one cannot change how some cultural circles think different about this, at least you can put it to the records to have a look at it later to use it as a piece of the puzzle to judge human culture.
An example I can recall to this is for example Rocky IV. The whole naive anti-Soviet-Union propaganda of the Reagan-era that you can see in this movie - well, these days one is better off with taking it as some involuntary comedy. Because you won't be able to tear it out of the movie, but the main plot of Stallone having another fight with an invincible-like looking opponent is just an entertainment story where you can't point at him doing something horrible or wrong. At the highest it's kitschy, but kitsch doesn't chop off heads.

With things long past it may be the same.
They're witnesses of what human culture has done back then - and sometimes it also might tell something about society structures during those times. There sure were things allowed which are not allowed anymore these days because one knows it's harmful and vice versa.
Just as they shouldn't judge everything in the world though the lens of Western culture they also shouldn't try to judge the past with the view of current Western culture - the view with all this false political correctness and such.
One can also slash itself and feel bad through doing other things...
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2015-10-18 03:41 pm (UTC)
Time does disinfect things.

Caravaggio, for instance. Some of his work looks very like paedophile porn- but it's old and venerable so nobody's trying to suppress it.

And those Rocky movies- as you say- they've turned into kitsch. There's no harm in them any more. At least I suppose not. I've never watched them myself. I self-censored. I knew I wasn't interested in watching Reagan-era propaganda.
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[User Picture]From: matrixmann
2015-10-18 04:05 pm (UTC)
Just once got caught on that one movie and saw that nonsense being depictured.
There are also other movies which try to do the same job.
Seen with the perspective of these days, one really declares it to be kitsch - but well, I suppose, only if you know that's what Russians and that's what history are not like.
I could guess you could still have an effect on people (like Americans) which never really met a Russian, know nothing about their politics and their country and which still are indoctrinated by those stories "the Russians seek to conquer the world".
At least I notice on the American side, the thinking about the Russians still keeps on surviving.

Edited at 2015-10-18 04:06 pm (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: nineweaving
2015-10-19 02:14 am (UTC)
This makes me shudder. I've just finished a book (Elizabeth Hand's Available Dark) in which


absolutely beautiful, utterly vile artwork--snuff porn with mutilation--is destroyed. I still thought: Lock it away. Bury the vault and the key.

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[User Picture]From: raakone
2015-10-19 10:47 pm (UTC)

Witch hunts? 1984?

So on the grounds that the owner is a proven sicko, his stuff should be destroyed? How does that make sense?

And yes, it reeks of Nazism, and what ISIS loves to do. What next, book burning?

And besides those pictures and paintings of children who are naked, or anything similar, what next, will the government order a purge of earlier movies and TV shows where, let's say, children are less covered than nowadays? (Certain Shirley Temple movies have her wearing quite short dresses. But NOBODY CARED! No "experts" concluded that this would be a magnet for perverts!)

All of the Anglosphere, especially the UK, is currently in a state of paranoia about pedophelia. Any decent person agrees that it is terrible. But do we need a whole WITCH-HUNT over it? I've read horror stories about someone getting in trouble for painting naked young elves and faeries. Even though they were just "naked", not "doing anything sexual", and they were clearly imaginary. But apparently something was wrong with that. It's like you're in trouble for abusing or molesting someone who DOES NOT EXIST!

I've heard of places in the UK where parents cannot photograph their own children in a play or on a sportsfield because "it may fall into the hands of paedophiles." In Canada, our Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, responded to criticism of a proposed Internet spying bill that "a vote against this is a vote for the pedophiles!" In Australia, it's illegal for a small-breasted woman to act in pornography, because she will "look too young." I call this the "Werewolf Theory", that people seem to assume that if someone sees even a picture of a naked child (or someone who looks enough like them), then all of the sudden PRIORITY OVER-RIDE: NEW BEHAVIOR DICTATED. MUST COMMIT THE UNSPEAKABLE AGAINST A CHILD, TO NOT DO SO WILL. CAUSE. EXCRUCIATING. PAIN!! Just as one with lycanthropy turns into a werewolf by seeing the full moon.

Not to mention there's those who are profiting from the paranoia, or should I say, profiteering? From "Megachurches" in the US that have another fear to make parishioners worry about (so that they will give more to them, and the simple man of God in charge can fly in his own jet), to those clothing companies who insist that girls who wear skirts or dresses must now have extra layers, stuff previously reserved for weather, or cycling (leggings, bike shorts, et al), and even say that that way there won't be "eye candy" for all of those "sickos." I get the impression that people like having witch hunts. So destroying this art is just another symptom of going about things the wrong way.

I sometimes imagine (but just can't get started on it) writing a story about a dystopian future where an American election is won by a party that campaigned on the platform of "protecting the children", ends up enacting everything Draconian and Orwellian possible, slowly turns the screw on taking away liberties, pictures, even drawings, of children, even dressed, are outlawed. Children eventually have to all wear jumpsuits of colors that "experts" determine are off-putting to "perverts", and eventually, parents aren't allowed to raise their own children, they're taken away to places in the country where they're raised by eunuchs. And of course, anyone who's in any high government position but isn't from the party is "tested" for being a "potential" pedophile, and if found "positive" is shown the door, or even hauled off to jail. If such a story already exists, I'm not surprised.

And if this art is destroyed, it will set a dangerous precedent. Will they destroy all art that has any depiction of anything "wrong"? Will we have witch hunts? Or even a whole 1984 scenario? That would be double-plus ungood! And it would basically be ripping apart history. It's happened too many times. We don't need it to happen again.
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