Can hurt and offense be called art? Beginning with the dismantling of Song Tuo’s “School Flowers”

Can hurt and offense be called art? Beginning with the dismantling of Song Tuo's "School Flowers"

In April this year, the exhibition “Circular Impact: Video 21” opened at the Shanghai Pavilion of OCT Contemporary Art Center. The exhibited works are 21 samples of Chinese video art from 2000 to the present. Not long ago, the WeChat public account of OCAT Shanghai Pavilion introduced one of the works-artist Song Tuo’s 2013 exhibition work “School Flowers”. In this 7-hour and 5-minute video work, Song Tuo photographed more than 4,000 female walking girls on a university campus, and ranked, edited, and marked them according to their personal aesthetics.

Subsequently, this work caused fierce protests on the Internet. Some netizens initiated a discussion on entitled “OCAT Shanghai Pavilion Exhibition “School Flowers”: Candidly photographed thousands of girls and ranked them”, and attached a link to the platform for complaints at the end of the article.

Almost at the same time as the comments were fermenting, the tweet introducing Song Tuo’s work in OCAT Shanghai Pavilion was deleted. A few hours later, in the early morning of the next day, OCAT Shanghai Pavilion issued a statement on Weibo, apologizing for the omission of the review work, the works were removed from the exhibition on the same day, and the exhibition hall was closed for adjustment. The next day, #宋拓校花# was posted on Weibo Hot Search, and Song Tuo’s personal brand Weibo @SONGTA was cancelled due to continuous complaints.

Netizens’ reasons for resisting “School Flowers” focused on the harm it caused, including infringement of portrait rights and reputation rights, abuse of artistic discourse rights to humiliate and objectify women, and the artist’s misogyny in interviews with works. Netizens questioned the artist’s “vulgarity” and the dereliction of duty of the art museum: “This is also art?” “Can this also be exhibited?” These two types of reactions raise questions about the definition of art and its publicity. Can an act of a harmful nature also be an artistic act? How does public discourse participate in judging the legitimacy of art? In the face of art, how do we exercise the freedom of expression and resistance?

1. Is the injury in the name of art art?

In 2017, in the “World Theater” exhibition of Chinese contemporary art at the Guggenheim Museum in New York, the United States, three works with animals as the protagonist caused large-scale protests and were removed before the exhibition. The three works are Huang Yongping’s “World Theater”, Xu Bing’s “Cultural Animals” and Peng Yu and Sun Yuan’s “Dogs Not Near”, cited as the title of the exhibition. The reasons for the protest are all caused by the works of art. The injury is related.

“World Theater” is a large wooden box modeled after the “Circular Prison” proposed by the British philosopher Bentham. Hundreds of insects compete and eliminate in it; “Cultural Animals” is a video in which it says The sow with the Chinese character “Book of Heaven” was put into a pigpen with a boar written in Latin, and mated on-site in a gallery in Beijing; “Dogs Not Near” recorded eight American Pitbulls tied to a wooden treadmill in pairs , Keep running to the opposite combative kind, but can’t touch the other side’s image. The American Canine Association issued a statement saying that this work is “unacceptable” and “should not be displayed in any form, of course, it cannot be regarded as art.”

When an act of harm occurs in art, does it dispel the legitimacy of art becoming art? The pros and cons of art are indeed one of the criteria for judging art. The French philosopher Jacques Rancière proposed three artistic systems: ethical, representational and aesthetic in an article entitled “Systems of Art” (included in “Rancière: Key Concepts”) .

In Plato’s time, art does not exist as art itself, but as a craft, an education, or a way of governing the city-state with virtues, so aimless and ethical poets must be expelled. Another system with a long tradition uses art’s representation of reality as a criterion for judging the relationship between the symbolic and the symbolized, and this pursuit of “representation” and “visibility” continues to this day. Identity politics.

The last one, which Lancière thinks is the most symbolic of the emergence of modernity, is aesthetic—”aesthetic” here does not refer to the pleasure of the senses or taste, but refers to the unconsciousness of the artwork. Rebellion and reshaping. Works under this system are devoted to reinventing the past, present and future art. The aesthetic art system accommodates many singular art, as well as those heterogeneous who have been excluded from the norms of interest and reality. The idea of ​​”conceptual art” embodied in “World Theater”, “Cultural Animals” and “Dogs Keep Not Close” coincides with this art system, because conceptual art asks the key question: what is art ?

Before conceptual art became the trend of American thought in the 1960s, it was the French-American artist Marcel Duchamp who led the way. In 1917, he tried to exhibit the Dadaist masterpiece “Fountain” (a ceramic urinal purchased and signed by the artist in a chain store), erasing and creating the definition of art. According to the editorial article “The Case of Richard Matt” written by two friends of Duchamp, the artist “takes a piece of daily necessities and places it so that its practical meaning disappears under the new title and viewpoint-he created A new idea for that item”. The “Richard Matt Case” also refutes the public’s criticism of urinals as “immoral” and “too similar to ordinary urinals.”

In the theoretical framework of Lancière, these two criticisms are based on the ethical or representational art system, and do not hold under the aesthetic system. The “rebellion and reshaping” of conceptual art lies in its “dematerialization”-the essence of art is the artist’s thought, not the object called art. It is also because conceptual art has abandoned the beauty of objects and turned to pursue subversive ideas. Most of the controversial works have the shadow of conceptual art. However, can the metaphysics of art, the “dematerialization” of art, and the innovation of the art system justify works that are harmful?

Indeed, controversial artists tend to call attention to the concepts behind their works rather than how the artists use specific materials. The artist Huang Yongping, who created “World Theater”, wrote about the dismantling: “It is said that more than 700,000 people oppose this work related to living animals, but how many people have seen and understood this work? Modern society is serious The new servility (news media, Internet media) produced by people are also clouded…Yes, this work reiterated Thomas Hobbs’s “All men against all men’s war”, to be precise, “All worms oppose all worms” The war’.” Huang Yongping believes that the public’s opposition is related to their ignorance of their concepts. In response, he described the intention of the work in detail to explain the legitimacy of the work.

In actual art practice, another thing that influences us to judge is the implementation process of artistic behavior. When people define whether a work with a harmful nature is art, the “motivation” and “process” of the injury have also become factors considered by artists, art galleries and the public. David Davis, professor of philosophy at McGill University in Canada and author of “Art as Practice: Reconstructing Artistic Ontology”, believes that art is no longer fixed and static, but dynamic, behavioral, and informal. of. The creation of art requires the artist to first have the intention to create art, and secondly, to publish art exposition by manipulating a certain medium. Therefore, it is not only a lofty “concept”, but also the specific operations of performing artistic behaviors are worthy of our scrutiny.

When the criticism of “School Flowers” was fermented on the Internet, some netizens compared it with the artist Cao Yu’s work “Stunner”, thinking that “it is clear at a glance whether it is really subversive.” “Stunner” was exhibited at Cao Yu’s 2019 solo exhibition of the same name in Switzerland. The photos of three adult men urinating in public are framed in a golden carved oil painting frame. In an interview with Ran Dian magazine, Cao Yu once stated to Stunner: “Men from different social strata have become’stunners’ watched by artists (women) at this time . Without exception, they are always circulated by the outer layer. Swallowed by expensive photo frames with golden light, they are awkwardly fixed in these outer frames forever.”

During the interview, the reporter believed that the artist’s forcibly intervening and showing the private behavior of the subject not only made them a product of fragility and absurdity, but also deprived them of their right to defend themselves. In this regard, Cao Yu explained that the reason why the photos can appear in the exhibition hall is the result of intense negotiations between her and the subject.

In comparison, when shooting and ranking more than 4,000 girls, Song Tuo did not have the intention of creating art, but in his own words, the original intention was “fraternity, that is, to pass it all over again” and “more is For fun”, “This idea is indeed a bit excessive, but it is very real.” When asked by the media, “Do you think you hurt those ugly people?” “It hurts, but she is like that in my eyes. I have to believe in myself and never compromise.” Song Tuo replied.

“BIE Something else” reported on Song Tuo’s detailed creative process, including inviting women to go to university for shooting in order to “look less perverted”, and hire three assistants with exhibition funds to divide the obtained video clips into “beautiful beauty” and “beautiful ugliness” , “Forgivable Ugly”, “Unforgivable Ugly” and dozens of folders. Song Tuo explained, “Everyone knows that we are shooting, but we don’t know that we will be ranked in order.”

Some netizens believe that even artists “cannot say anything” about their own work, and men’s behavior of ranking women according to beauty and ugliness can be seen everywhere. Even under the definition of art that has nothing to do with ethics and beauty, this seven-hour video It can hardly be called art. There is also a small group of netizens who oppose that the work has aroused so much anger, which shows that the artist’s notion of unwrapped by artistic discourse, whether it is rogue, trivial, or materialized, has hit the outer shell of public morality, and is in the public domain. Zhongdi completed his artistic performance. More voices believe that in an era when gender equality is still advancing hard, “School Flowers” should not be displayed as art in art galleries from the beginning.

2. Freedom of expression and resistance

Even scholars who remain open to the definition of art—such as the American philosopher Morris Weitz, who proposed the undefinability of art, and the scholar Alan Meskin who studied him—don’t ask people to give up the definition of art and turn to Accept that “everything is art”. Meskin also admitted that even though art is an open structure, with countless close relatives and neighbors from ancient times to the present, the classification of “art” is still between two properties: descriptive and value.

Meskin asked us to consider three situations: Someone points to something and tells you, “If you think this is an Apple, I don’t want to be friends with you anymore.” This is absurd in most cases. Or the person said, “If you think this is a good deed, I don’t want to be friends with you anymore.” This seems understandable. If that person says, “If you think it’s art, I don’t want to be friends with you anymore.” You might be a little hesitant. Meskin concluded in this experiment that the nature of “art” lies between the descriptive nature of “apple” and the value of “good deeds”.

The artistic characteristics of a work (whether it is the virtues and craftsmanship under the ethical system proposed by Ranciesso, or the connection with reality under the reproduction system, or the heterogeneity under the aesthetic system) can be used by us Judge whether it can be described as art like “Apple is Apple”. But how can a work persuade everyone in value and become an art that can enter the public eye? Derek Matlavus, a scholar who supports the theory of art institutions, believes that art institutions play a key role in judging the value of art. For a work of art, the art institution must have a reason to make it art, whether it is one or more.

A substantial reason can not only endow the art works with a certain degree of legitimacy in the system, but also allow art institutions to participate in public discussions around artworks and artistic concepts as intermediaries. Art institutions not only need to face the artists who speak up for them, but also the public that extends from the art space to the online world. Due to the public or semi-public nature of art institutions, once they are open to the public, they naturally enter a larger public domain that is not limited to exhibition spaces. In an era of mediation, artists, art institutions, and the public can talk to each other in an unprecedentedly transparent public sphere.

When the German philosopher and sociologist Habermas put forward the concept of “public sphere” in 1962, many scholars revised and perfected the theory of public sphere. The public sphere advocated by Habermas in “The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere” is also called the “capitalist public sphere”, which first appeared in Europe in the 18th century. Between the private life of citizens and state power, intellectuals with capital discuss major social events through salons, literary journals, and cafe talks. Habermas believes that public discourse can form public opinion and influence political behavior. Non-government-operated art institutions can be understood as a small “capitalist public sphere”. Private museums like the Guggenheim, or non-profit private art museums like OCAT, do not rely on public funds, but revolve around the funders, curatorial committees, exhibition curators, artists, and art critics of the exhibition halls. People and a small number of art audiences use economic and social resources to form a consensus through artistic discourse.

However, the American philosopher Nancy Fraser wrote in his 1990 paper “Rethinking the Public Domain” that Habermas’s public is exclusive, and the disadvantaged groups are not included in the “public” and instead gather. Become a ” counterpublic ” (counterpublic), big and small . The public sphere is not only one kind of public, but a collection of multiple publics with unequal power; different publics form discourses in their respective public spheres and compete with each other in a broader public sphere.

We can think that “School Flowers” penetrated from the public domain of art museums to many sub-anti-publics using Weibo and Douban as platforms through the Internet media, and aroused public discussions led by women—even if they were women It is also a marginalized group in the history of contemporary art . The New York Times pointed out that gender issues have gradually entered mainstream discussion, and this is also the reason why the works caused an uproar when they were exhibited again after a lapse of eight years. In this incident, the consensus reached in the secondary anti-public (boycott works) and the consensus in the public domain (exhibited works) formed a check and balance.

In the broader public sphere, how to let different public voices be reflected, compete, and ultimately influence decision-making is a more ambitious proposition. In the face of the disparity between artists and the public’s right to speak, how should art institutions protect the freedom of expression of artists and themselves, while responding to public demands? The Guggenheim Museum and OCAT Shanghai Pavilion showed different interpretation methods in their judgments during the curatorial exhibition; after the fermentation of public opinion, also out of support for “diversity”, Guggenheim and OCAT came up with Different conclusions.

Before the launch of “World Theater”, the curator Alexandra Munroe defended the cruelty of the work and gave a reason for showing it from the perspective of an art institution: “We want to use this work as the beginning of the exhibition… it Introduced to the audience an inherent realism, which is obvious in the other works in this exhibition. It introduces the artist’s thoughts to the audience, that is, advocating a state of chaos, full of doubts, atheism… sharp and cruel …Because this is the world these artists live in.” She is also prepared for controversy, including using animals that are originally fed as pets, while collaborating with the best and best animal care staff.

When the decision to withdraw the three animal-related works was made, the Guggenheim Museum issued a statement saying: “It is a pity that we have to make such a decision due to multiple obvious threats of violence… Freedom has always been and will always be the most important value advocated by the Guggenheim Museum.” Although the Guggenheim removed the exhibits, it still believes that works of art should not be “secured”. Next to the vacant World Theater cage, the museum displayed the artist’s response written on the Air France vomit bag.

When the OCAT Shanghai Pavilion tweeted an introduction for “School Flowers”, the art institution did not write a statement for it like other works, but quoted the artist’s own words: “… So if you want to see beautiful women, basically I have to get up… I went to the art gallery very early, and on the other hand, when night falls, it will be a scene of purgatory on earth.” The agency has almost nothing to do in its judgment on “School Flowers”, and it did not give any information. One reason for the work to occupy the authoritative art space is even to pass the artist’s rude remarks without comment.

The OCAT Shanghai Pavilion made the decision to dismantle the exhibition in the early morning of the second day after the introduction: “After receiving criticism from everyone, we immediately re-examined the content of the work and the interpretation of the artist’s work… All viewers and friends who are troubled, uncomfortable and hurt as a result, express our sincere apologies.” Netizens’ comments on the apology Weibo focused on questioning the negligence of the museum’s curation and review, and the lack of curatorial reasons and the museum’s standpoint. The rapid pace of change makes people suspect that its voice in the public domain violates the principles of prudence and sincerity. Song Tuo and the curator have not yet responded to the accusations.

Although out of different considerations, both Guggenheim and OCAT finally decided to withdraw the boycotted works. Whether it is infringement, offense, or discomfort, art with a harmful nature seems to be more and more difficult to see in our world today. This is also inseparable from the pan-moralization of literary and artistic works.

In 2019, a swear word wall appeared in the exhibition hall of the Central American Sculpture Department. One side of the wall was written by the artist with insult words aimed at men, and the other side was written with insult words aimed at women. The photos were sent by the creator on the Internet, which caused many Netizens felt uncomfortable, and the wall was cleaned and repainted white on the same day. In the discussion about Song Tuo, we seem to hear few voices other than condemnation. But if you search for “Song Tuo Xiao Hua” on Baidu, the first association will be “Song Tuo Xiao Hua No. 1”.

This article comes from WeChat public account : Interface Culture (ID: BooksAndFun) , author: Cai Shichang , editor: Jiang Yan

Posted by:CoinYuppie,Reprinted with attribution to:
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