Thursday, January 10, 2008

Speaking Truth to Power [Safely]

From the London Times Online

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.”

At least he’s honest enough to admit he isn’t that brave. Lots of other artists maintain the conceit that their blasphemies (and blasphemy is the easiest, most juvenile of endeavors) are somehow brave and daring in an age that for the most part really doesn’t care. As if tweaking Bill Donohue makes you some sort of Martin Luther

I’m not suggesting new blasphemies against other religions and beliefs – that is hateful and wrong. I just wish some artists would stop thinking themselves brave when all they are really doing is piling on.

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