Ethics and Art

Posted by Eryk Salvaggio | Tue Apr 8th 2003 2:16 a.m.

I want to clarify my position re: Morality and Art, which have been called
into question after my comments regarding Joseph McElroys exploitative war
piece. What I have to say below, out of respect to dead horses everywhere,
will have little to do with that work in particular and more to do with what
I see as a disturbing hypocrisy in the "new media community" vis a vis the
ongoing war in Iraq.

I don't see myself coming from a "high moral" standpoint, so much as a
simple ethical one. My generalized question- not about Josephs piece per se,
which was critiqued based on ethics specifically because of the artist in
questions purported "teaching ability" in the field of ethics and
enlightenment- but in your generalized area of arts at large:

All ethics reside on a framework, which is not moralistic by any means. You
cannot say "war is bad" [an ethical idea] and not have a foundation for it.
You cannot say "propaganda is bad" [another ethical standpoint] and not have
a foundation for it. And when we apply these ethics haphazardly we begin to
see our sloppiness has very real consequences. If the moral climate is void-
and I believe "morality" is subjective to each individual, and stems from
the idea of a higher authority, which means that they do not need to be
"reasoned". Ethics are community-defined and based on intellectual reasoning
and a responsibility for the results of that reasoning. Again- morality is
not an issue. The issue at hand is, what are artists responsible for? If it
is to be "against the war" then work that aims to achieve that should be
held to that standard. If the ethical climate is that the war should not be
used for entertainment purposes, then why stand by idly and allow the dead
to be used for the purpose of entertainment?

While certainly "everything can be allowed" within the framework of art;
(and the framework of anything at all) and with the understanding that I am
not confusing morality with ethics, why is one disallowed from having a
reaction to a piece of art based on an ethical approach? I understand with
morality- morality is subjective, changing over time and locations, and can
be liquid. But don't confuse ethics and morality. In fact, saying
"moralizing is fascist" is a result of an ethical decision. The idea in
America that is in vogue is that of individual rights and freedoms vs the
safety the populace- this is an "ethical" question.

If we are to say then that we favor the rights of artists because ethically
it is what we have decided on as a cultural value, then we are saying that
from an ethical standpoint.

One has brought up the idea that fascism was against the freedom of artistic
expression, and so we can say that the foundation of this ethical concept of
artistic freedom is based on a rejection of fascist ideologies as well as an
embracing of individual freedoms. Unless one wants to say "Artists should be
free because they make art and art should have no limits because it is art",
which is not a valid reason intellectually.

So if we are to reject fascism, there are two things I would bring up: One-
and I warn you, this is potentially inflammatory, and I will get to the
second much later- is the notion of using Jewish and Homosexual Skins for
lampshades. The Jews/Homosexuals were "war dead", after all. The Nazis were
simply using their war dead for decoration- much as Josephs piece did. Also,
the Jews in question were already dead- "the dead are dead", as was pointed
out in regards to the Iraqi war dead- "they cannot be exploited any more
than they can be taxed, enslaved, or otherwise oppressed." With this I
fundamentally disagree.

Obviously there are differences between the two ideas.While we have with the
Nazis a "literal" use of the war dead in artistry- which makes it so
abhorrent, there is, in works which use the war dead, a "figurative" use. I
know this example is inflammatory, but consider the idea that our art now is
less about decoration (craft) and more about "entertainment". I would go so
far as to say that the work is "fascist in ideology." And not to stand on
Josephs piece in particular- which it doesn't deserve- I would say that any
work that "exploits" the images of the dead is accomplishing the same task
as a literal exploitation of the dead.

We live in a media saturated world. Images are how we see it, images are
what the world is, for most people- westerners especially. To capture the
essence of a human these days, a photograph may be what we go with, when
skin is unavailable. And while pieces which use images of the war dead are
not "directly responsible" for the deaths, neither were the Nazi lamp
makers- they simply used what was given to them. Both types of "art" exist
because of the exploitation of these deaths- they steal power from the
dignity of dead.

Someone may ask the obvious question, then, of what about Holocaust art- one
piece in particular is a work whereas concentration camps were made out of
legos. That's ethically fine; and it differs from the use of skin for
lampshades pretty drastically. At the same time, it makes a pop cultural
reference to genocide- but does not exploit the dead directly, in the way
that images of the suffering do. For that matter, the Lego piece was also, I
believe, an attempt by a young American Jew to connect to the Holocaust. But
what of the artists who use images of Hitler and the Holocaust as
entertainment that does not commit the (apparent) sin of "moralizing" and/or
"educating." Can anyone name a piece with real power that doesn't subscribe
to either of those values? I can: "Triumph of the Will." [In fact- the only
culturally redeeming thing about this film- aside from aesthetics- is the
educational value, so even this is void.]

Ruling classes- the class of people who are victorious over another- have a
long history of exploitation of the class they have conquered. So go the
spoils of war. I live in Maine, which used to be Micmac Indian Territory,
and if you look at the gift shops you see the mockery of native American
culture on display everywhere. Fake Sacred Indian Headdress with feathers
dyed with neon orange and green, rubber Indian drums and war hammers. The
fact that we committed genocide on these people is not only ignored, but the
entire culture we displaced is replaced by Kitsch and sold on the mass
market- ironic or not, this is exploitation.

Currently, we are involved with a war in Iraq which is devastating the lives
of millions of people in the country. What I see on these mailing lists,
constantly as of late, is an open call to protest and a declaration that we
must "do something." In fact, I am called hopeless and resigned for my
stance that "doing something" would involve an actual direct involvement
with the political process, such as the stance taken by Rachel Corrie or any
of the human shield volunteers, but of course one does not have to be as
extreme as that- volunteer at OxFam, donate administrative time to a local
chapter of a red cross, or whatever. I do not believe that making statements
on mailing lists affects much change, nor do I believe that many artists are
of the caliber capable of commenting on the war as powerfully and directly
as an event like this merits. If you are offended by this idea, you need to
take a look at what war is, and what art is. While I would love a world
where even casually interested artists could make works of art that truly
stood up to war, this is simply not the case. It is the exception, not the
rule, that a piece of art can capture war. The highlight being comparing
McElroys work to "Guernica."

We then see art made about the war. And what we see is a very basic
manipulation of emotions associated with death and sexuality- this works for
much of what I will call "a long tradition of attempted antiwar art". What I
find appalling is that we have a blatant hypocrisy between the motivation of
art-makers in regards to the Bush Administrations use of war dead on CNN or
on Al-Jazeera for political purposes, and then a welcome greeting to a work
of "art" utilizing those same images as a point of "protest". People on
these lists complain about the abuse of the dead, of the people who are gung
ho for war, complaints about the use of war as entertainment, and then we
are faced with a piece that was designed to "shock someone" and it is
supported because the statement is made by an "artist" as opposed to Peter
Jennings.

The result- which stems solely from a lack of ethical integrity- is work
which borders on, if not exemplifies, a kitsch response to this useless war.
I had said before that Kitsch is what happens when art is made out of
narcissism, where the work is loved because it was made, and not loved
because it stands up on its own. This is the "ethical climate" of the
net.art community as it stands- protest, debate, argue and accuse, then
create art that is guilty of the same thing people are arguing against so
vehemently. This would be avoided if artists looked at ethical integrity and
attempted to make work that kept that integrity intact- this would mean that
no artist would resort to the cheap tricks they deplore when it is used in
propaganda- such as linking sex with murder, cheapening the faces of victims
of the war, or rendering the war to the level of reality TV.

I do not believe it is the role of art to "teach" nor do I believe it is the
role of art to "moralize"- although in the "anything goes" approach defended
by most artists/critics I've been talking to, I don't see why "anything"
does not include "moralization" or "education." But I will put that aside.

I said before that the idea that "moralization in art is bad" stems from an
argument against fascism, but contradicts itself? Here is the second
example: If the ethical climate is "against fascism", then we have to
understand that fascism is not necessarily the limitation of personal
freedom, but can be the allowance of personal freedom- and luxury- at the
expense of the freedom of others. In my guidebook, exploitation of dead
soldiers against their will- and the will of their families- for the use of
entertainment by people who make up the ruling party of war invaders is a
modern, post modern equivalent to the use of dead Jews for furniture. Yes-
it is different when you are using images of the dead as opposed to the dead
themselves, but this is not the thread on which this argument hangs.

Another argument that comes from freedom is frequently used to denounce the
need for a moral framework, and this is the notion that since anarchy is the
opposite of fascism, one must indeed subscribe to total personal and/or
theoretical anarchy in order to best retaliate against authoritarian
control. What this fails to address is the entire issue of personal
responsibility that we are so quick to denounce in the civilian german
population- "How could you let that happen?" The answer is not ethical
frameworks, but rather, a framework in which some people were more valuable
than others, where the "others" were so valueless that they can be worked to
death in order to provide the leisure class with leisure and entertainment.
And decorations. In fact, this has little to do with the loss of freedom or
the prescence of freedom- it has to do with an overvalued idea of to what
extent that freedom should be sought.

So I have no problem with people doing what they want responsibly with their
"freedom", nor is my complaint about the exploitation of war dead based on
moral grounds. I simply do not understand the hypocrisy of people who are
"against the war" and against the bush admins "use of Iraq for oil" and yet
passive when artists use the war in Iraq for poorly constructed,
irresponsible propaganda. This war is serious business- we are an invading
power occupying a territory that is not responsible for any direct threat
against us. If we as artists are to then make art casually while decrying
the lack of serious involvement of the "other people" who "allowed this to
happen" then we are not taking the war seriously. And that is fine, if we
remove ourselves from the ethical framework that this war is illegitimate
and should not be permitted to go on. Myself, I am silent in regards to art
in this war- no ascii Baghdads, no film clips of nightvision invasions-
because I do not believe in my own abilities at this point to do any justice
to what is happening at this point in history.

In the end, of course, war is war- kill if you wish, rape, pillage, argue
and destroy, this is what humans do, myself included- nothing much "matters"
in the end, everything simply is what it is, and there is no actual
"responsibility." What I am advocating is not a moral condemnation of this
fact, but the establishment of an ethical constraint to these behaviors
turning the world into anarchy and our art from being fascist. This is the
same exact place that the rejection of morality and art comes from in the
first place. And if you are against "ethics," then you are by definition
purely apathetic- to war, to starvation, to politics. And that is itself an
ethical choice. If that is your bag, then fine- but you give up your right
to complain. If you want to be against this war, that is an ethical
decision, and as an artist one must take that ethical framework seriously in
regards not only to posts which spew venom against the war, war coverage,
George Bush and Wolf Blitzer, but also to take the framework seriously in
regards to one's own view of the world and how we act within it.

If you don't make art about the war then you don't have to worry about it.
Plenty of artists ignore political issues that are too overwhelming for
them. I am currently in that camp. This is a simple matter of honesty- this
war is bigger than my abilities as an artist. I am not ashamed of that.

Plenty of artists choose other topics for their work. Make art about ideas,
social issues, make art about art, whatever you want to do. I mean what
usually happens when I talk like this is that people who have no interest in
making art about social issues or war or humanity feel like I am pressuring
them to "take moral responsibility" for their art, which is not the case at
all. I don't have time to sit here and tell other people what to do. What I
am saying is- if you are making statements, believe in the statements you
make, and stand by them, or else you are just spewing statements everywhere.
This is hardly a dictatorial argument, nor do I really find it to be self
righteous- it's a fact. If you make a statement and then contradict it, you
are contradicting your statement! I mean, seriously, what the fuck, right?
This has nothing to do with "morality."

If one wants to make anti-war art, choose to work within the ethical
construct, or choose not to- it doesn't matter. Throw out the idea of
ethical integrity and you leave your work to flounder in an imprecise
articulation of nothing in particular. It's not like it's going to stop your
career.

"Self Righteously" Yours,
-e.

----- Original Message -----
From: "Peter von Brandenburg" <blackhawk@thing.net>
To: <thingist@bbs.thing.net>
Sent: Monday, April 07, 2003 4:13 PM
Subject: Re: [thingist] Starship Troopers

> J+: Akh, maybe I *will* watch it again after all. See, the closest I got
was an
> *extremely* oblique critique of h/wood, as if PV were saying, "you fucking
morons, you
> wouldn't know a good film or intelligent directorial if you sat on one, so
here: I'm
> going to give you exactly what you want & deserve". But even if I grant
him that, it
> still didn't come together for me. I wonder what Keith &/or Fred thought
of it. So
> let's go back to the orig point & where I would be tempted to apply Eryk's
Puritanism
> -- if most of the viewers (in this country anyway) saw the film & only
grokked that it
> glorified fascism (what *we* see as fascism but they do not) then what is
the overall
> "msg" the film conveys? Or is this just another twist on the old
anti-elitist line,
> that the pleasure of a highly trained & well-educated privileged few
(people who
> partake of high culture) is not worth the debasement of the majority of
the consumers
> of the culture-product in Q? best, -- B.
>
>
> John Klima wrote:
>
> > see previous post, and here perhaps is the dif of time: i said to myself
"he's *got*
> > to be joking" and left it at that (hmm, i said the same thing about
shrub, and it
> > turned out he wasn't. perhaps p.v. wasn't joking either. no,no, he must
have been
> > joking. he must have.).
> >
> > once said, the rest of the movie was just fabulous, it was like watching
a real
> > artifact from the future.
>
> --------------------------------------------------------------------
> t h i n g i s t
> message by Peter von Brandenburg <blackhawk@thing.net>
> archive at http://bbs.thing.net
> info: send email to majordomo@bbs.thing.net
> and write "info thingist" in the message body
> --------------------------------------------------------------------
>
  • joseph mcelroy | Tue Apr 8th 2003 3:12 a.m.
    Ethics in business are based upon certain assumptions like lets not destroy
    shareholder value by faulty accounting. Ethics in biology is lets not destroy
    the world with faulty virii.

    Ethics in art are much more difficult to define, since no obvious destruction
    exists, and is easily sidetracked by the hysterical ranting of boys comparing
    pictures of the dead to the lampshades made from their skins. The basis for
    your "intellectual reasoning" is still assumptions, made with cultural and
    moral conditioning well intact. Rally around Eryk's flag everybody and give him
    the ethical power he so desperately craves.

    joseph & donna
    www.electrichands.com
    joseph franklyn mcelroy
    corporate performance artist www.corporatepa.com

    go shopping -> http://www.electrichands.com/shopindex.htm
    call me 646 279 2309

    SUBSCRIBE TO OUR NEWSLETTER CUPCAKEKALEIDOSCOPE - send email to
    CupcakeKleidoscope-subscribe@yahoogroups.com

    Quoting Eryk Salvaggio <eryk@maine.rr.com>:

    >
    > I want to clarify my position re: Morality and Art, which have been called
    > into question after my comments regarding Joseph McElroys exploitative war
    > piece. What I have to say below, out of respect to dead horses everywhere,
    > will have little to do with that work in particular and more to do with what
    > I see as a disturbing hypocrisy in the "new media community" vis a vis the
    > ongoing war in Iraq.
    >
    > I don't see myself coming from a "high moral" standpoint, so much as a
    > simple ethical one. My generalized question- not about Josephs piece per se,
    > which was critiqued based on ethics specifically because of the artist in
    > questions purported "teaching ability" in the field of ethics and
    > enlightenment- but in your generalized area of arts at large:
    >
    > All ethics reside on a framework, which is not moralistic by any means. You
    > cannot say "war is bad" [an ethical idea] and not have a foundation for it.
    > You cannot say "propaganda is bad" [another ethical standpoint] and not have
    > a foundation for it. And when we apply these ethics haphazardly we begin to
    > see our sloppiness has very real consequences. If the moral climate is void-
    > and I believe "morality" is subjective to each individual, and stems from
    > the idea of a higher authority, which means that they do not need to be
    > "reasoned". Ethics are community-defined and based on intellectual reasoning
    > and a responsibility for the results of that reasoning. Again- morality is
    > not an issue. The issue at hand is, what are artists responsible for? If it
    > is to be "against the war" then work that aims to achieve that should be
    > held to that standard. If the ethical climate is that the war should not be
    > used for entertainment purposes, then why stand by idly and allow the dead
    > to be used for the purpose of entertainment?
    >
    > While certainly "everything can be allowed" within the framework of art;
    > (and the framework of anything at all) and with the understanding that I am
    > not confusing morality with ethics, why is one disallowed from having a
    > reaction to a piece of art based on an ethical approach? I understand with
    > morality- morality is subjective, changing over time and locations, and can
    > be liquid. But don't confuse ethics and morality. In fact, saying
    > "moralizing is fascist" is a result of an ethical decision. The idea in
    > America that is in vogue is that of individual rights and freedoms vs the
    > safety the populace- this is an "ethical" question.
    >
    > If we are to say then that we favor the rights of artists because ethically
    > it is what we have decided on as a cultural value, then we are saying that
    > from an ethical standpoint.
    >
    > One has brought up the idea that fascism was against the freedom of artistic
    > expression, and so we can say that the foundation of this ethical concept of
    > artistic freedom is based on a rejection of fascist ideologies as well as an
    > embracing of individual freedoms. Unless one wants to say "Artists should be
    > free because they make art and art should have no limits because it is art",
    > which is not a valid reason intellectually.
    >
    > So if we are to reject fascism, there are two things I would bring up: One-
    > and I warn you, this is potentially inflammatory, and I will get to the
    > second much later- is the notion of using Jewish and Homosexual Skins for
    > lampshades. The Jews/Homosexuals were "war dead", after all. The Nazis were
    > simply using their war dead for decoration- much as Josephs piece did. Also,
    > the Jews in question were already dead- "the dead are dead", as was pointed
    > out in regards to the Iraqi war dead- "they cannot be exploited any more
    > than they can be taxed, enslaved, or otherwise oppressed." With this I
    > fundamentally disagree.
    >
    > Obviously there are differences between the two ideas.While we have with the
    > Nazis a "literal" use of the war dead in artistry- which makes it so
    > abhorrent, there is, in works which use the war dead, a "figurative" use. I
    > know this example is inflammatory, but consider the idea that our art now is
    > less about decoration (craft) and more about "entertainment". I would go so
    > far as to say that the work is "fascist in ideology." And not to stand on
    > Josephs piece in particular- which it doesn't deserve- I would say that any
    > work that "exploits" the images of the dead is accomplishing the same task
    > as a literal exploitation of the dead.
    >
    > We live in a media saturated world. Images are how we see it, images are
    > what the world is, for most people- westerners especially. To capture the
    > essence of a human these days, a photograph may be what we go with, when
    > skin is unavailable. And while pieces which use images of the war dead are
    > not "directly responsible" for the deaths, neither were the Nazi lamp
    > makers- they simply used what was given to them. Both types of "art" exist
    > because of the exploitation of these deaths- they steal power from the
    > dignity of dead.
    >
    > Someone may ask the obvious question, then, of what about Holocaust art- one
    > piece in particular is a work whereas concentration camps were made out of
    > legos. That's ethically fine; and it differs from the use of skin for
    > lampshades pretty drastically. At the same time, it makes a pop cultural
    > reference to genocide- but does not exploit the dead directly, in the way
    > that images of the suffering do. For that matter, the Lego piece was also, I
    > believe, an attempt by a young American Jew to connect to the Holocaust. But
    > what of the artists who use images of Hitler and the Holocaust as
    > entertainment that does not commit the (apparent) sin of "moralizing" and/or
    > "educating." Can anyone name a piece with real power that doesn't subscribe
    > to either of those values? I can: "Triumph of the Will." [In fact- the only
    > culturally redeeming thing about this film- aside from aesthetics- is the
    > educational value, so even this is void.]
    >
    > Ruling classes- the class of people who are victorious over another- have a
    > long history of exploitation of the class they have conquered. So go the
    > spoils of war. I live in Maine, which used to be Micmac Indian Territory,
    > and if you look at the gift shops you see the mockery of native American
    > culture on display everywhere. Fake Sacred Indian Headdress with feathers
    > dyed with neon orange and green, rubber Indian drums and war hammers. The
    > fact that we committed genocide on these people is not only ignored, but the
    > entire culture we displaced is replaced by Kitsch and sold on the mass
    > market- ironic or not, this is exploitation.
    >
    > Currently, we are involved with a war in Iraq which is devastating the lives
    > of millions of people in the country. What I see on these mailing lists,
    > constantly as of late, is an open call to protest and a declaration that we
    > must "do something." In fact, I am called hopeless and resigned for my
    > stance that "doing something" would involve an actual direct involvement
    > with the political process, such as the stance taken by Rachel Corrie or any
    > of the human shield volunteers, but of course one does not have to be as
    > extreme as that- volunteer at OxFam, donate administrative time to a local
    > chapter of a red cross, or whatever. I do not believe that making statements
    > on mailing lists affects much change, nor do I believe that many artists are
    > of the caliber capable of commenting on the war as powerfully and directly
    > as an event like this merits. If you are offended by this idea, you need to
    > take a look at what war is, and what art is. While I would love a world
    > where even casually interested artists could make works of art that truly
    > stood up to war, this is simply not the case. It is the exception, not the
    > rule, that a piece of art can capture war. The highlight being comparing
    > McElroys work to "Guernica."
    >
    > We then see art made about the war. And what we see is a very basic
    > manipulation of emotions associated with death and sexuality- this works for
    > much of what I will call "a long tradition of attempted antiwar art". What I
    > find appalling is that we have a blatant hypocrisy between the motivation of
    > art-makers in regards to the Bush Administrations use of war dead on CNN or
    > on Al-Jazeera for political purposes, and then a welcome greeting to a work
    > of "art" utilizing those same images as a point of "protest". People on
    > these lists complain about the abuse of the dead, of the people who are gung
    > ho for war, complaints about the use of war as entertainment, and then we
    > are faced with a piece that was designed to "shock someone" and it is
    > supported because the statement is made by an "artist" as opposed to Peter
    > Jennings.
    >
    > The result- which stems solely from a lack of ethical integrity- is work
    > which borders on, if not exemplifies, a kitsch response to this useless war.
    > I had said before that Kitsch is what happens when art is made out of
    > narcissism, where the work is loved because it was made, and not loved
    > because it stands up on its own. This is the "ethical climate" of the
    > net.art community as it stands- protest, debate, argue and accuse, then
    > create art that is guilty of the same thing people are arguing against so
    > vehemently. This would be avoided if artists looked at ethical integrity and
    > attempted to make work that kept that integrity intact- this would mean that
    > no artist would resort to the cheap tricks they deplore when it is used in
    > propaganda- such as linking sex with murder, cheapening the faces of victims
    > of the war, or rendering the war to the level of reality TV.
    >
    > I do not believe it is the role of art to "teach" nor do I believe it is the
    > role of art to "moralize"- although in the "anything goes" approach defended
    > by most artists/critics I've been talking to, I don't see why "anything"
    > does not include "moralization" or "education." But I will put that aside.
    >
    > I said before that the idea that "moralization in art is bad" stems from an
    > argument against fascism, but contradicts itself? Here is the second
    > example: If the ethical climate is "against fascism", then we have to
    > understand that fascism is not necessarily the limitation of personal
    > freedom, but can be the allowance of personal freedom- and luxury- at the
    > expense of the freedom of others. In my guidebook, exploitation of dead
    > soldiers against their will- and the will of their families- for the use of
    > entertainment by people who make up the ruling party of war invaders is a
    > modern, post modern equivalent to the use of dead Jews for furniture. Yes-
    > it is different when you are using images of the dead as opposed to the dead
    > themselves, but this is not the thread on which this argument hangs.
    >
    > Another argument that comes from freedom is frequently used to denounce the
    > need for a moral framework, and this is the notion that since anarchy is the
    > opposite of fascism, one must indeed subscribe to total personal and/or
    > theoretical anarchy in order to best retaliate against authoritarian
    > control. What this fails to address is the entire issue of personal
    > responsibility that we are so quick to denounce in the civilian german
    > population- "How could you let that happen?" The answer is not ethical
    > frameworks, but rather, a framework in which some people were more valuable
    > than others, where the "others" were so valueless that they can be worked to
    > death in order to provide the leisure class with leisure and entertainment.
    > And decorations. In fact, this has little to do with the loss of freedom or
    > the prescence of freedom- it has to do with an overvalued idea of to what
    > extent that freedom should be sought.
    >
    > So I have no problem with people doing what they want responsibly with their
    > "freedom", nor is my complaint about the exploitation of war dead based on
    > moral grounds. I simply do not understand the hypocrisy of people who are
    > "against the war" and against the bush admins "use of Iraq for oil" and yet
    > passive when artists use the war in Iraq for poorly constructed,
    > irresponsible propaganda. This war is serious business- we are an invading
    > power occupying a territory that is not responsible for any direct threat
    > against us. If we as artists are to then make art casually while decrying
    > the lack of serious involvement of the "other people" who "allowed this to
    > happen" then we are not taking the war seriously. And that is fine, if we
    > remove ourselves from the ethical framework that this war is illegitimate
    > and should not be permitted to go on. Myself, I am silent in regards to art
    > in this war- no ascii Baghdads, no film clips of nightvision invasions-
    > because I do not believe in my own abilities at this point to do any justice
    > to what is happening at this point in history.
    >
    > In the end, of course, war is war- kill if you wish, rape, pillage, argue
    > and destroy, this is what humans do, myself included- nothing much "matters"
    > in the end, everything simply is what it is, and there is no actual
    > "responsibility." What I am advocating is not a moral condemnation of this
    > fact, but the establishment of an ethical constraint to these behaviors
    > turning the world into anarchy and our art from being fascist. This is the
    > same exact place that the rejection of morality and art comes from in the
    > first place. And if you are against "ethics," then you are by definition
    > purely apathetic- to war, to starvation, to politics. And that is itself an
    > ethical choice. If that is your bag, then fine- but you give up your right
    > to complain. If you want to be against this war, that is an ethical
    > decision, and as an artist one must take that ethical framework seriously in
    > regards not only to posts which spew venom against the war, war coverage,
    > George Bush and Wolf Blitzer, but also to take the framework seriously in
    > regards to one's own view of the world and how we act within it.
    >
    > If you don't make art about the war then you don't have to worry about it.
    > Plenty of artists ignore political issues that are too overwhelming for
    > them. I am currently in that camp. This is a simple matter of honesty- this
    > war is bigger than my abilities as an artist. I am not ashamed of that.
    >
    > Plenty of artists choose other topics for their work. Make art about ideas,
    > social issues, make art about art, whatever you want to do. I mean what
    > usually happens when I talk like this is that people who have no interest in
    > making art about social issues or war or humanity feel like I am pressuring
    > them to "take moral responsibility" for their art, which is not the case at
    > all. I don't have time to sit here and tell other people what to do. What I
    > am saying is- if you are making statements, believe in the statements you
    > make, and stand by them, or else you are just spewing statements everywhere.
    > This is hardly a dictatorial argument, nor do I really find it to be self
    > righteous- it's a fact. If you make a statement and then contradict it, you
    > are contradicting your statement! I mean, seriously, what the fuck, right?
    > This has nothing to do with "morality."
    >
    > If one wants to make anti-war art, choose to work within the ethical
    > construct, or choose not to- it doesn't matter. Throw out the idea of
    > ethical integrity and you leave your work to flounder in an imprecise
    > articulation of nothing in particular. It's not like it's going to stop your
    > career.
    >
    > "Self Righteously" Yours,
    > -e.
    >
    >
    >
    >
    >
    >
    > ----- Original Message -----
    > From: "Peter von Brandenburg" <blackhawk@thing.net>
    > To: <thingist@bbs.thing.net>
    > Sent: Monday, April 07, 2003 4:13 PM
    > Subject: Re: [thingist] Starship Troopers
    >
    >
    > > J+: Akh, maybe I *will* watch it again after all. See, the closest I got
    > was an
    > > *extremely* oblique critique of h/wood, as if PV were saying, "you fucking
    > morons, you
    > > wouldn't know a good film or intelligent directorial if you sat on one, so
    > here: I'm
    > > going to give you exactly what you want & deserve". But even if I grant
    > him that, it
    > > still didn't come together for me. I wonder what Keith &/or Fred thought
    > of it. So
    > > let's go back to the orig point & where I would be tempted to apply Eryk's
    > Puritanism
    > > -- if most of the viewers (in this country anyway) saw the film & only
    > grokked that it
    > > glorified fascism (what *we* see as fascism but they do not) then what is
    > the overall
    > > "msg" the film conveys? Or is this just another twist on the old
    > anti-elitist line,
    > > that the pleasure of a highly trained & well-educated privileged few
    > (people who
    > > partake of high culture) is not worth the debasement of the majority of
    > the consumers
    > > of the culture-product in Q? best, -- B.
    > >
    > >
    > > John Klima wrote:
    > >
    > > > see previous post, and here perhaps is the dif of time: i said to myself
    > "he's *got*
    > > > to be joking" and left it at that (hmm, i said the same thing about
    > shrub, and it
    > > > turned out he wasn't. perhaps p.v. wasn't joking either. no,no, he must
    > have been
    > > > joking. he must have.).
    > > >
    > > > once said, the rest of the movie was just fabulous, it was like watching
    > a real
    > > > artifact from the future.
    > >
    > > --------------------------------------------------------------------
    > > t h i n g i s t
    > > message by Peter von Brandenburg <blackhawk@thing.net>
    > > archive at http://bbs.thing.net
    > > info: send email to majordomo@bbs.thing.net
    > > and write "info thingist" in the message body
    > > --------------------------------------------------------------------
    > >
    >
    > --------------------------------------------------------------------
    > t h i n g i s t
    > message by "Eryk Salvaggio" <eryk@maine.rr.com>
    > archive at http://bbs.thing.net
    > info: send email to majordomo@bbs.thing.net
    > and write "info thingist" in the message body
    > --------------------------------------------------------------------
  • Eryk Salvaggio | Tue Apr 8th 2003 4:29 a.m.
    Oh totally, this whole ethics thing could be total horseshit. I seriously
    have no clue, but it seems to articulate the way I feel about stuff pretty
    well. Of course I wouldn't subscribe to any completely binary structure or
    structure that has no opting out, but this one seems to work to explain what
    I mean by responsibility as opposed to the accusation of morality, which
    strikes me as a very god-fearing term.

    I'm always nervous when a system exists where the opposite proves the rule
    [ie, rejecting ethical frameworks is an ethical framework] but I don't know
    if that is actual fallacy or just looks like one.

    But to answer your- question? Or to respond to your reaction, I guess- I
    would venture to say that the ethics of our current modus operandi- in
    regards to the arts- stems largely from the desire to avoid the mistakes
    that led to the rise of fascism/communism and pretty much to avoid the whole
    idea of totalitarianism control over art, which I would guess [and I have no
    real knowledge, by the way- I am just a pocket sociologist, as is the case
    with most artists, unfortunately] is a reaction also to McCarthyism and even
    so far back as prosecution of artists by the church of Europe [and the rest
    of the world for that matter] and "continentally", a puritanical society of
    early America. It is also designed to respect the freedoms of individual
    expression as an extension of individual freedom, which is an American
    Ethical Framework [or so it claims- a derailment and lack of ethical
    integrity within that ethical framework has led up to plenty of oppression
    and restrictions in the name of "individual freedom"- it may be closer to
    the truth to say we are within an intellectual framework of "individual
    freedoms to the rich and white land owners" but this is a decision for which
    we are all responsible.] Of course, as you say, any cultural ethical
    framework will be the result of cultural conditioning- in fact, "cultural
    conditioning" is almost, but not entirely, synonymous with the integration
    of an ethical framework to an individual born into that culture.

    By the way, my thesis was not dependant on the assumption that lampshades
    made from skin were on par with photographs of the dead- and I said as much
    within it. But I maybe didn't clarify: The idea was that the attitudes both
    "artisans" had towards the responsibility of those skins/photographs was
    inherently similar in that one was used for decoration, the other for
    entertainment, both at the expense of dehumanization of an individual [which
    is against the the aforementioned ethical framework of individual freedom.]

    Also, the ethics of anti war art are based upon certain assumptions on thier
    own, which are not as hard to define as those in straight up "art," because
    anti war art presupposes the ethical framework of "war is bad." This being
    said, at the very least, anti war art should not end up declaring war or
    glorifying war, especially if within that ethical framework you have a
    critique of the media's manipulation of the dead. In your work in
    particular, you said you made the piece in order to put the images in a
    situation which shocked you. This implies, and I am probably going to be
    wrong, since I am asking _you_ the question, but to me it implies that there
    was an ethical framework wherein images "ought" to retain thier power.
    Unfortunately, your piece violently rejects that framework by stripping the
    images of thier power by putting them in a situation where they are
    trivialized [disco music, dancing girls, etc.]

    If you would like to subscribe to the opposing framework- that the art
    itself is a reflection of an idea that the images should be stripped of
    thier power, then please refer to the my lines concerning the intent of
    those using Jewish Skins as Lampshades and the Intent of those using Images
    of the dead- to strip the dead of thier power in order to best facilitate
    the propaganda of the ruling class.

    Of course, these are only some ethical frameworks from which to choose from-
    and in fact, I assume that you did not chose one to work in at all. And, as
    a result, you have made a piece that is, in my opinion, sloppy and
    forgettable (w/exception to its exploitative nature), regardless of how much
    I like or dislike you personally.

    Cheers,
    -e.

    PS: For anyone keeping score, we are once again seeing 2 out of 3 for
    Josephs regular pattern:

    1. Declare any calls on his "fallibility" as attacks.
    2. React to critiques and comments which are unfavorable to him with
    personal insults: "Rally around Eryk's flag everybody and give him the
    ethical power he so desperately craves", "Hysterical Ranting."
    3. Avoid Responsibility for those comments and his own work through
    rationalization, rationalization, rationalization: "Ethics in art are much
    more difficult to define, since no obvious destruction exists, and is easily
    sidetracked by the hysterical ranting of boys comparing pictures of the dead
    to the lampshades made from their skins."

    ----- Original Message -----
    From: "joseph (yes=no & yes<>no) " <joseph@electrichands.com>
    To: <thingist@bbs.thing.net>; "Eryk Salvaggio" <eryk@maine.rr.com>
    Cc: <list@rhizome.org>
    Sent: Tuesday, April 08, 2003 2:12 AM
    Subject: Re: [thingist] Ethics and Art

    > Ethics in business are based upon certain assumptions like lets not
    destroy
    > shareholder value by faulty accounting. Ethics in biology is lets not
    destroy
    > the world with faulty virii.
    >
    > Ethics in art are much more difficult to define, since no obvious
    destruction
    > exists, and is easily sidetracked by the hysterical ranting of boys
    comparing
    > pictures of the dead to the lampshades made from their skins. The basis
    for
    > your "intellectual reasoning" is still assumptions, made with cultural and
    > moral conditioning well intact. Rally around Eryk's flag everybody and
    give him
    > the ethical power he so desperately craves.
    >
    >
    > joseph & donna
    > www.electrichands.com
    > joseph franklyn mcelroy
    > corporate performance artist www.corporatepa.com
    >
    > go shopping -> http://www.electrichands.com/shopindex.htm
    > call me 646 279 2309
    >
    > SUBSCRIBE TO OUR NEWSLETTER CUPCAKEKALEIDOSCOPE - send email to
    > CupcakeKleidoscope-subscribe@yahoogroups.com
    >
    >
    >
    >
    >
    > Quoting Eryk Salvaggio <eryk@maine.rr.com>:
    >
    > >
    > > I want to clarify my position re: Morality and Art, which have been
    called
    > > into question after my comments regarding Joseph McElroys exploitative
    war
    > > piece. What I have to say below, out of respect to dead horses
    everywhere,
    > > will have little to do with that work in particular and more to do with
    what
    > > I see as a disturbing hypocrisy in the "new media community" vis a vis
    the
    > > ongoing war in Iraq.
    > >
    > > I don't see myself coming from a "high moral" standpoint, so much as a
    > > simple ethical one. My generalized question- not about Josephs piece per
    se,
    > > which was critiqued based on ethics specifically because of the artist
    in
    > > questions purported "teaching ability" in the field of ethics and
    > > enlightenment- but in your generalized area of arts at large:
    > >
    > > All ethics reside on a framework, which is not moralistic by any means.
    You
    > > cannot say "war is bad" [an ethical idea] and not have a foundation for
    it.
    > > You cannot say "propaganda is bad" [another ethical standpoint] and not
    have
    > > a foundation for it. And when we apply these ethics haphazardly we begin
    to
    > > see our sloppiness has very real consequences. If the moral climate is
    void-
    > > and I believe "morality" is subjective to each individual, and stems
    from
    > > the idea of a higher authority, which means that they do not need to be
    > > "reasoned". Ethics are community-defined and based on intellectual
    reasoning
    > > and a responsibility for the results of that reasoning. Again- morality
    is
    > > not an issue. The issue at hand is, what are artists responsible for? If
    it
    > > is to be "against the war" then work that aims to achieve that should be
    > > held to that standard. If the ethical climate is that the war should not
    be
    > > used for entertainment purposes, then why stand by idly and allow the
    dead
    > > to be used for the purpose of entertainment?
    > >
    > > While certainly "everything can be allowed" within the framework of art;
    > > (and the framework of anything at all) and with the understanding that I
    am
    > > not confusing morality with ethics, why is one disallowed from having a
    > > reaction to a piece of art based on an ethical approach? I understand
    with
    > > morality- morality is subjective, changing over time and locations, and
    can
    > > be liquid. But don't confuse ethics and morality. In fact, saying
    > > "moralizing is fascist" is a result of an ethical decision. The idea in
    > > America that is in vogue is that of individual rights and freedoms vs
    the
    > > safety the populace- this is an "ethical" question.
    > >
    > > If we are to say then that we favor the rights of artists because
    ethically
    > > it is what we have decided on as a cultural value, then we are saying
    that
    > > from an ethical standpoint.
    > >
    > > One has brought up the idea that fascism was against the freedom of
    artistic
    > > expression, and so we can say that the foundation of this ethical
    concept of
    > > artistic freedom is based on a rejection of fascist ideologies as well
    as an
    > > embracing of individual freedoms. Unless one wants to say "Artists
    should be
    > > free because they make art and art should have no limits because it is
    art",
    > > which is not a valid reason intellectually.
    > >
    > > So if we are to reject fascism, there are two things I would bring up:
    One-
    > > and I warn you, this is potentially inflammatory, and I will get to the
    > > second much later- is the notion of using Jewish and Homosexual Skins
    for
    > > lampshades. The Jews/Homosexuals were "war dead", after all. The Nazis
    were
    > > simply using their war dead for decoration- much as Josephs piece did.
    Also,
    > > the Jews in question were already dead- "the dead are dead", as was
    pointed
    > > out in regards to the Iraqi war dead- "they cannot be exploited any more
    > > than they can be taxed, enslaved, or otherwise oppressed." With this I
    > > fundamentally disagree.
    > >
    > > Obviously there are differences between the two ideas.While we have with
    the
    > > Nazis a "literal" use of the war dead in artistry- which makes it so
    > > abhorrent, there is, in works which use the war dead, a "figurative"
    use. I
    > > know this example is inflammatory, but consider the idea that our art
    now is
    > > less about decoration (craft) and more about "entertainment". I would go
    so
    > > far as to say that the work is "fascist in ideology." And not to stand
    on
    > > Josephs piece in particular- which it doesn't deserve- I would say that
    any
    > > work that "exploits" the images of the dead is accomplishing the same
    task
    > > as a literal exploitation of the dead.
    > >
    > > We live in a media saturated world. Images are how we see it, images are
    > > what the world is, for most people- westerners especially. To capture
    the
    > > essence of a human these days, a photograph may be what we go with, when
    > > skin is unavailable. And while pieces which use images of the war dead
    are
    > > not "directly responsible" for the deaths, neither were the Nazi lamp
    > > makers- they simply used what was given to them. Both types of "art"
    exist
    > > because of the exploitation of these deaths- they steal power from the
    > > dignity of dead.
    > >
    > > Someone may ask the obvious question, then, of what about Holocaust art-
    one
    > > piece in particular is a work whereas concentration camps were made out
    of
    > > legos. That's ethically fine; and it differs from the use of skin for
    > > lampshades pretty drastically. At the same time, it makes a pop cultural
    > > reference to genocide- but does not exploit the dead directly, in the
    way
    > > that images of the suffering do. For that matter, the Lego piece was
    also, I
    > > believe, an attempt by a young American Jew to connect to the Holocaust.
    But
    > > what of the artists who use images of Hitler and the Holocaust as
    > > entertainment that does not commit the (apparent) sin of "moralizing"
    and/or
    > > "educating." Can anyone name a piece with real power that doesn't
    subscribe
    > > to either of those values? I can: "Triumph of the Will." [In fact- the
    only
    > > culturally redeeming thing about this film- aside from aesthetics- is
    the
    > > educational value, so even this is void.]
    > >
    > > Ruling classes- the class of people who are victorious over another-
    have a
    > > long history of exploitation of the class they have conquered. So go the
    > > spoils of war. I live in Maine, which used to be Micmac Indian
    Territory,
    > > and if you look at the gift shops you see the mockery of native American
    > > culture on display everywhere. Fake Sacred Indian Headdress with
    feathers
    > > dyed with neon orange and green, rubber Indian drums and war hammers.
    The
    > > fact that we committed genocide on these people is not only ignored, but
    the
    > > entire culture we displaced is replaced by Kitsch and sold on the mass
    > > market- ironic or not, this is exploitation.
    > >
    > > Currently, we are involved with a war in Iraq which is devastating the
    lives
    > > of millions of people in the country. What I see on these mailing lists,
    > > constantly as of late, is an open call to protest and a declaration that
    we
    > > must "do something." In fact, I am called hopeless and resigned for my
    > > stance that "doing something" would involve an actual direct involvement
    > > with the political process, such as the stance taken by Rachel Corrie or
    any
    > > of the human shield volunteers, but of course one does not have to be as
    > > extreme as that- volunteer at OxFam, donate administrative time to a
    local
    > > chapter of a red cross, or whatever. I do not believe that making
    statements
    > > on mailing lists affects much change, nor do I believe that many artists
    are
    > > of the caliber capable of commenting on the war as powerfully and
    directly
    > > as an event like this merits. If you are offended by this idea, you need
    to
    > > take a look at what war is, and what art is. While I would love a world
    > > where even casually interested artists could make works of art that
    truly
    > > stood up to war, this is simply not the case. It is the exception, not
    the
    > > rule, that a piece of art can capture war. The highlight being comparing
    > > McElroys work to "Guernica."
    > >
    > > We then see art made about the war. And what we see is a very basic
    > > manipulation of emotions associated with death and sexuality- this works
    for
    > > much of what I will call "a long tradition of attempted antiwar art".
    What I
    > > find appalling is that we have a blatant hypocrisy between the
    motivation of
    > > art-makers in regards to the Bush Administrations use of war dead on CNN
    or
    > > on Al-Jazeera for political purposes, and then a welcome greeting to a
    work
    > > of "art" utilizing those same images as a point of "protest". People on
    > > these lists complain about the abuse of the dead, of the people who are
    gung
    > > ho for war, complaints about the use of war as entertainment, and then
    we
    > > are faced with a piece that was designed to "shock someone" and it is
    > > supported because the statement is made by an "artist" as opposed to
    Peter
    > > Jennings.
    > >
    > > The result- which stems solely from a lack of ethical integrity- is work
    > > which borders on, if not exemplifies, a kitsch response to this useless
    war.
    > > I had said before that Kitsch is what happens when art is made out of
    > > narcissism, where the work is loved because it was made, and not loved
    > > because it stands up on its own. This is the "ethical climate" of the
    > > net.art community as it stands- protest, debate, argue and accuse, then
    > > create art that is guilty of the same thing people are arguing against
    so
    > > vehemently. This would be avoided if artists looked at ethical integrity
    and
    > > attempted to make work that kept that integrity intact- this would mean
    that
    > > no artist would resort to the cheap tricks they deplore when it is used
    in
    > > propaganda- such as linking sex with murder, cheapening the faces of
    victims
    > > of the war, or rendering the war to the level of reality TV.
    > >
    > > I do not believe it is the role of art to "teach" nor do I believe it is
    the
    > > role of art to "moralize"- although in the "anything goes" approach
    defended
    > > by most artists/critics I've been talking to, I don't see why "anything"
    > > does not include "moralization" or "education." But I will put that
    aside.
    > >
    > > I said before that the idea that "moralization in art is bad" stems from
    an
    > > argument against fascism, but contradicts itself? Here is the second
    > > example: If the ethical climate is "against fascism", then we have to
    > > understand that fascism is not necessarily the limitation of personal
    > > freedom, but can be the allowance of personal freedom- and luxury- at
    the
    > > expense of the freedom of others. In my guidebook, exploitation of dead
    > > soldiers against their will- and the will of their families- for the use
    of
    > > entertainment by people who make up the ruling party of war invaders is
    a
    > > modern, post modern equivalent to the use of dead Jews for furniture.
    Yes-
    > > it is different when you are using images of the dead as opposed to the
    dead
    > > themselves, but this is not the thread on which this argument hangs.
    > >
    > > Another argument that comes from freedom is frequently used to denounce
    the
    > > need for a moral framework, and this is the notion that since anarchy is
    the
    > > opposite of fascism, one must indeed subscribe to total personal and/or
    > > theoretical anarchy in order to best retaliate against authoritarian
    > > control. What this fails to address is the entire issue of personal
    > > responsibility that we are so quick to denounce in the civilian german
    > > population- "How could you let that happen?" The answer is not ethical
    > > frameworks, but rather, a framework in which some people were more
    valuable
    > > than others, where the "others" were so valueless that they can be
    worked to
    > > death in order to provide the leisure class with leisure and
    entertainment.
    > > And decorations. In fact, this has little to do with the loss of freedom
    or
    > > the prescence of freedom- it has to do with an overvalued idea of to
    what
    > > extent that freedom should be sought.
    > >
    > > So I have no problem with people doing what they want responsibly with
    their
    > > "freedom", nor is my complaint about the exploitation of war dead based
    on
    > > moral grounds. I simply do not understand the hypocrisy of people who
    are
    > > "against the war" and against the bush admins "use of Iraq for oil" and
    yet
    > > passive when artists use the war in Iraq for poorly constructed,
    > > irresponsible propaganda. This war is serious business- we are an
    invading
    > > power occupying a territory that is not responsible for any direct
    threat
    > > against us. If we as artists are to then make art casually while
    decrying
    > > the lack of serious involvement of the "other people" who "allowed this
    to
    > > happen" then we are not taking the war seriously. And that is fine, if
    we
    > > remove ourselves from the ethical framework that this war is
    illegitimate
    > > and should not be permitted to go on. Myself, I am silent in regards to
    art
    > > in this war- no ascii Baghdads, no film clips of nightvision invasions-
    > > because I do not believe in my own abilities at this point to do any
    justice
    > > to what is happening at this point in history.
    > >
    > > In the end, of course, war is war- kill if you wish, rape, pillage,
    argue
    > > and destroy, this is what humans do, myself included- nothing much
    "matters"
    > > in the end, everything simply is what it is, and there is no actual
    > > "responsibility." What I am advocating is not a moral condemnation of
    this
    > > fact, but the establishment of an ethical constraint to these behaviors
    > > turning the world into anarchy and our art from being fascist. This is
    the
    > > same exact place that the rejection of morality and art comes from in
    the
    > > first place. And if you are against "ethics," then you are by definition
    > > purely apathetic- to war, to starvation, to politics. And that is itself
    an
    > > ethical choice. If that is your bag, then fine- but you give up your
    right
    > > to complain. If you want to be against this war, that is an ethical
    > > decision, and as an artist one must take that ethical framework
    seriously in
    > > regards not only to posts which spew venom against the war, war
    coverage,
    > > George Bush and Wolf Blitzer, but also to take the framework seriously
    in
    > > regards to one's own view of the world and how we act within it.
    > >
    > > If you don't make art about the war then you don't have to worry about
    it.
    > > Plenty of artists ignore political issues that are too overwhelming for
    > > them. I am currently in that camp. This is a simple matter of honesty-
    this
    > > war is bigger than my abilities as an artist. I am not ashamed of that.
    > >
    > > Plenty of artists choose other topics for their work. Make art about
    ideas,
    > > social issues, make art about art, whatever you want to do. I mean what
    > > usually happens when I talk like this is that people who have no
    interest in
    > > making art about social issues or war or humanity feel like I am
    pressuring
    > > them to "take moral responsibility" for their art, which is not the case
    at
    > > all. I don't have time to sit here and tell other people what to do.
    What I
    > > am saying is- if you are making statements, believe in the statements
    you
    > > make, and stand by them, or else you are just spewing statements
    everywhere.
    > > This is hardly a dictatorial argument, nor do I really find it to be
    self
    > > righteous- it's a fact. If you make a statement and then contradict it,
    you
    > > are contradicting your statement! I mean, seriously, what the fuck,
    right?
    > > This has nothing to do with "morality."
    > >
    > > If one wants to make anti-war art, choose to work within the ethical
    > > construct, or choose not to- it doesn't matter. Throw out the idea of
    > > ethical integrity and you leave your work to flounder in an imprecise
    > > articulation of nothing in particular. It's not like it's going to stop
    your
    > > career.
    > >
    > > "Self Righteously" Yours,
    > > -e.
    > >
    > >
    > >
    > >
    > >
    > >
    > > ----- Original Message -----
    > > From: "Peter von Brandenburg" <blackhawk@thing.net>
    > > To: <thingist@bbs.thing.net>
    > > Sent: Monday, April 07, 2003 4:13 PM
    > > Subject: Re: [thingist] Starship Troopers
    > >
    > >
    > > > J+: Akh, maybe I *will* watch it again after all. See, the closest I
    got
    > > was an
    > > > *extremely* oblique critique of h/wood, as if PV were saying, "you
    fucking
    > > morons, you
    > > > wouldn't know a good film or intelligent directorial if you sat on
    one, so
    > > here: I'm
    > > > going to give you exactly what you want & deserve". But even if I
    grant
    > > him that, it
    > > > still didn't come together for me. I wonder what Keith &/or Fred
    thought
    > > of it. So
    > > > let's go back to the orig point & where I would be tempted to apply
    Eryk's
    > > Puritanism
    > > > -- if most of the viewers (in this country anyway) saw the film & only
    > > grokked that it
    > > > glorified fascism (what *we* see as fascism but they do not) then what
    is
    > > the overall
    > > > "msg" the film conveys? Or is this just another twist on the old
    > > anti-elitist line,
    > > > that the pleasure of a highly trained & well-educated privileged few
    > > (people who
    > > > partake of high culture) is not worth the debasement of the majority
    of
    > > the consumers
    > > > of the culture-product in Q? best, -- B.
    > > >
    > > >
    > > > John Klima wrote:
    > > >
    > > > > see previous post, and here perhaps is the dif of time: i said to
    myself
    > > "he's *got*
    > > > > to be joking" and left it at that (hmm, i said the same thing about
    > > shrub, and it
    > > > > turned out he wasn't. perhaps p.v. wasn't joking either. no,no, he
    must
    > > have been
    > > > > joking. he must have.).
    > > > >
    > > > > once said, the rest of the movie was just fabulous, it was like
    watching
    > > a real
    > > > > artifact from the future.
    > > >
    > > > --------------------------------------------------------------------
    > > > t h i n g i s t
    > > > message by Peter von Brandenburg <blackhawk@thing.net>
    > > > archive at http://bbs.thing.net
    > > > info: send email to majordomo@bbs.thing.net
    > > > and write "info thingist" in the message body
    > > > --------------------------------------------------------------------
    > > >
    > >
    > > --------------------------------------------------------------------
    > > t h i n g i s t
    > > message by "Eryk Salvaggio" <eryk@maine.rr.com>
    > > archive at http://bbs.thing.net
    > > info: send email to majordomo@bbs.thing.net
    > > and write "info thingist" in the message body
    > > --------------------------------------------------------------------
  • Raymond Pottelberg | Tue Apr 8th 2003 4:14 p.m.
    It is perhaps misleading to associate the production of trinkets from the war dead with a specific political system or ideology (Fascism in this case). The production of human skin lampshades, etc., might be better described as 'barbarous' rather than 'fascist' -- and such barbarous trophy-making is most often a form of fairly spontaneous folk art, often arising among warriors. I quote the following at length:

    ----"Japanese skulls were much-envied trophies among U.S. Marines in the Pacific theater during World War II. The practice of collecting them apparently began after the bloody conflict on Guadalcanal, when the troops set up the skulls as ornaments or totems atop poles as a type of warning. The Marines boiled the skulls and then used lye to remove any residual flesh so they would be suitable as souvenirs. U.S. sailors cleaned their trophy skulls by putting them in nets and dragging them behind their vessels. Winfield Townley Scott wrote a wartime poem, 'The U.S. Sailor with the Japanese Skull" that detailed the entire technique of preserving the headskull as a souvenir. In 1943 Life magazine published the picture of a U.S. sailor's girlfriend contemplating a Japanese skull sent to her as a gift - with a note written on the top of the skull. Referring to this practice, Edward L. Jones, a U.S. war correspondent in the Pacific wrote in the February 1946 Atlantic Magazine, "We boiled the flesh off enemy skulls to make table ornaments for sweethearts, or carved their bones into letter-openers." On occasion, these "Japanese trophy skulls" have confused police when they have turned up during murder investigations. It has been reported that when the remains of Japanese soldiers were repatriated from the Mariana Islands in 1984, sixty percent were missing their skulls."
    Source: Kenneth V. Iserson, M.D., Death to Dust: What happens to Dead Bodies?, Galen Press, Ltd. Tucson, AZ. 1994. p.382. ----

    Clearly such acts may be described as atrocious, barbarous, tasteless --you pick the adjective -- but they cannot be attributed any particular political ideology. Trophy-taking/making seems to be a natural part of the psychopathology of war, if you choose to describe war in those terms.

    Whether the use of the images of the dead in works of art is or is not a part of that pathology remains to be seen. Some art is political in intent. Some art is pathological in origin.

    >
    > One has brought up the idea that fascism was against the freedom of
    > artistic
    > expression, and so we can say that the foundation of this ethical
    > concept of
    > artistic freedom is based on a rejection of fascist ideologies as well
    > as an
    > embracing of individual freedoms. Unless one wants to say "Artists
    > should be
    > free because they make art and art should have no limits because it is
    > art",
    > which is not a valid reason intellectually.
    >
    > So if we are to reject fascism, there are two things I would bring up:
    > One-
    > and I warn you, this is potentially inflammatory, and I will get to
    > the
    > second much later- is the notion of using Jewish and Homosexual Skins
    > for
    > lampshades. The Jews/Homosexuals were "war dead", after all. The Nazis
    > were
    > simply using their war dead for decoration- much as Josephs piece did.
    > Also,
    > the Jews in question were already dead- "the dead are dead", as was
    > pointed
    > out in regards to the Iraqi war dead- "they cannot be exploited any
    > more
    > than they can be taxed, enslaved, or otherwise oppressed." With this I
    > fundamentally disagree.
    >
    > Obviously there are differences between the two ideas.While we have
    > with the
    > Nazis a "literal" use of the war dead in artistry- which makes it so
    > abhorrent, there is, in works which use the war dead, a "figurative"
    > use. I
    > know this example is inflammatory, but consider the idea that our art
    > now is
    > less about decoration (craft) and more about "entertainment". I would
    > go so
    > far as to say that the work is "fascist in ideology." And not to stand
    > on
    > Josephs piece in particular- which it doesn't deserve- I would say
    > that any
    > work that "exploits" the images of the dead is accomplishing the same
    > task
    > as a literal exploitation of the dead.
    >
    >
  • joseph mcelroy | Tue Apr 8th 2003 4:39 p.m.
    Quoting Eryk Salvaggio <eryk@maine.rr.com>:

    >
    > Oh totally, this whole ethics thing could be total horseshit. I seriously
    > have no clue, but it seems to articulate the way I feel about stuff pretty
    > well. Of course I wouldn't subscribe to any completely binary structure or
    > structure that has no opting out, but this one seems to work to explain what
    > I mean by responsibility as opposed to the accusation of morality, which
    > strikes me as a very god-fearing term.

    This is a particulary valid question. But to answer it you must reach a
    consensus on what is the purpose of art (as opposed to the species and genus of
    human activity). Business is easy - the company increases the capital owned by
    the shareholders, thus any activity (such as crooked books or pilfering cash)
    that reduces the capital value (other than normal decision making processes) is
    unethical. Opposed, it is quite ethical (within his profession) for a theif to
    steal but unethical for him to rat out his compatriots, because the purpose is
    to acquire capital by illegal means without getting caught.

    In this reqard, your question of "what is the artist responsible for" must be
    preceeded by the question "what is the purpose of art" , or because that
    question is too broad, it might be satisfactory to categorize known art, and
    say "what is the purpose of art within a defined context" With this in mind,
    if either of my war peices were meant to be considered decorative art, then
    they could indeed be compared to the lampshades made of skin, and I would have
    to admit to being unethical. I beleive it would also be unethical for a
    viewer, who should also bear ethical responsibility, to place this work within
    the context of decorative art.

    My intentions for this work were to cause an evaluation of personal response
    and responsibility with regard to marketing, propoganda, and acts of war. I am
    trying to influence the ethics of the viewer. I believe this lies within an
    acceptable context and the domain of valid purposes of art.

    Is the work ethical? Much like an accountant would pass a new technique past
    the eyes of her professional peers before using it, I passed my work before the
    artists on the artists mailing lists to which I am subscribed. Regardless of
    whether the work is unethical, I have done nothing unethical as I am following
    the accepted practices of a professional.

    As to whether the work is ethical, the opinion is greatly varied. Thus I am
    left only to my personal judgement as the final arbitrar, unless someone
    quickly finds a convincing arguement within the context I have defined. So
    far, I am inclined to increase the strength of the indicator of my intent, and
    then release it.

    > Also, the ethics of anti war art are based upon certain assumptions on thier
    > own, which are not as hard to define as those in straight up "art," because
    > anti war art presupposes the ethical framework of "war is bad." This being
    > said, at the very least, anti war art should not end up declaring war or
    > glorifying war, especially if within that ethical framework you have a
    > critique of the media's manipulation of the dead. In your work in
    > particular, you said you made the piece in order to put the images in a
    > situation which shocked you. This implies, and I am probably going to be
    > wrong, since I am asking _you_ the question, but to me it implies that there
    > was an ethical framework wherein images "ought" to retain thier power.
    > Unfortunately, your piece violently rejects that framework by stripping the
    > images of thier power by putting them in a situation where they are
    > trivialized [disco music, dancing girls, etc.]

    These peices are not making the moral judgment that "war is bad", but that "war
    is bad without a conscious decision made by an informed population and totally
    in the interest of self-defense as opposed to finanical gain after all efforts
    to avoid war have been made" . I said that my piece is a declaration of war
    (non-violent in a physical sense) against the prevailing blind acceptance of a
    neoconservative agenda. Thus I cannot state that I am "against war" in a
    general sense. I do agree, that ethically, I believe that images "ought" to
    retain their power. However, I disagree that they are stripped of their power
    in the situation I placed them, but instead were increased.

    joseph
    www.electrichands.com
    joseph franklyn mcelroy
    corporate performance artist www.corporatepa.com

    call me 646 279 2309

    SUBSCRIBE TO OUR NEWSLETTER CUPCAKEKALEIDOSCOPE - send email to
    CupcakeKleidoscope-subscribe@yahoogroups.com

    Quoting Eryk Salvaggio <eryk@maine.rr.com>:

    >
    > Oh totally, this whole ethics thing could be total horseshit. I seriously
    > have no clue, but it seems to articulate the way I feel about stuff pretty
    > well. Of course I wouldn't subscribe to any completely binary structure or
    > structure that has no opting out, but this one seems to work to explain what
    > I mean by responsibility as opposed to the accusation of morality, which
    > strikes me as a very god-fearing term.
    >
    > I'm always nervous when a system exists where the opposite proves the rule
    > [ie, rejecting ethical frameworks is an ethical framework] but I don't know
    > if that is actual fallacy or just looks like one.
    >
    > But to answer your- question? Or to respond to your reaction, I guess- I
    > would venture to say that the ethics of our current modus operandi- in
    > regards to the arts- stems largely from the desire to avoid the mistakes
    > that led to the rise of fascism/communism and pretty much to avoid the whole
    > idea of totalitarianism control over art, which I would guess [and I have no
    > real knowledge, by the way- I am just a pocket sociologist, as is the case
    > with most artists, unfortunately] is a reaction also to McCarthyism and even
    > so far back as prosecution of artists by the church of Europe [and the rest
    > of the world for that matter] and "continentally", a puritanical society of
    > early America. It is also designed to respect the freedoms of individual
    > expression as an extension of individual freedom, which is an American
    > Ethical Framework [or so it claims- a derailment and lack of ethical
    > integrity within that ethical framework has led up to plenty of oppression
    > and restrictions in the name of "individual freedom"- it may be closer to
    > the truth to say we are within an intellectual framework of "individual
    > freedoms to the rich and white land owners" but this is a decision for which
    > we are all responsible.] Of course, as you say, any cultural ethical
    > framework will be the result of cultural conditioning- in fact, "cultural
    > conditioning" is almost, but not entirely, synonymous with the integration
    > of an ethical framework to an individual born into that culture.
    >
    > By the way, my thesis was not dependant on the assumption that lampshades
    > made from skin were on par with photographs of the dead- and I said as much
    > within it. But I maybe didn't clarify: The idea was that the attitudes both
    > "artisans" had towards the responsibility of those skins/photographs was
    > inherently similar in that one was used for decoration, the other for
    > entertainment, both at the expense of dehumanization of an individual [which
    > is against the the aforementioned ethical framework of individual freedom.]
    >
    > Also, the ethics of anti war art are based upon certain assumptions on thier
    > own, which are not as hard to define as those in straight up "art," because
    > anti war art presupposes the ethical framework of "war is bad." This being
    > said, at the very least, anti war art should not end up declaring war or
    > glorifying war, especially if within that ethical framework you have a
    > critique of the media's manipulation of the dead. In your work in
    > particular, you said you made the piece in order to put the images in a
    > situation which shocked you. This implies, and I am probably going to be
    > wrong, since I am asking _you_ the question, but to me it implies that there
    > was an ethical framework wherein images "ought" to retain thier power.
    > Unfortunately, your piece violently rejects that framework by stripping the
    > images of thier power by putting them in a situation where they are
    > trivialized [disco music, dancing girls, etc.]
    >
    > If you would like to subscribe to the opposing framework- that the art
    > itself is a reflection of an idea that the images should be stripped of
    > thier power, then please refer to the my lines concerning the intent of
    > those using Jewish Skins as Lampshades and the Intent of those using Images
    > of the dead- to strip the dead of thier power in order to best facilitate
    > the propaganda of the ruling class.
    >
    > Of course, these are only some ethical frameworks from which to choose from-
    > and in fact, I assume that you did not chose one to work in at all. And, as
    > a result, you have made a piece that is, in my opinion, sloppy and
    > forgettable (w/exception to its exploitative nature), regardless of how much
    > I like or dislike you personally.
    >
    > Cheers,
    > -e.
    >
    >
    >
    >
    >
    >
    > PS: For anyone keeping score, we are once again seeing 2 out of 3 for
    > Josephs regular pattern:
    >
    > 1. Declare any calls on his "fallibility" as attacks.
    > 2. React to critiques and comments which are unfavorable to him with
    > personal insults: "Rally around Eryk's flag everybody and give him the
    > ethical power he so desperately craves", "Hysterical Ranting."
    > 3. Avoid Responsibility for those comments and his own work through
    > rationalization, rationalization, rationalization: "Ethics in art are much
    > more difficult to define, since no obvious destruction exists, and is easily
    > sidetracked by the hysterical ranting of boys comparing pictures of the dead
    > to the lampshades made from their skins."
    >
    >
    >
    > ----- Original Message -----
    > From: "joseph (yes=no & yes<>no) " <joseph@electrichands.com>
    > To: <thingist@bbs.thing.net>; "Eryk Salvaggio" <eryk@maine.rr.com>
    > Cc: <list@rhizome.org>
    > Sent: Tuesday, April 08, 2003 2:12 AM
    > Subject: Re: [thingist] Ethics and Art
    >
    >
    > > Ethics in business are based upon certain assumptions like lets not
    > destroy
    > > shareholder value by faulty accounting. Ethics in biology is lets not
    > destroy
    > > the world with faulty virii.
    > >
    > > Ethics in art are much more difficult to define, since no obvious
    > destruction
    > > exists, and is easily sidetracked by the hysterical ranting of boys
    > comparing
    > > pictures of the dead to the lampshades made from their skins. The basis
    > for
    > > your "intellectual reasoning" is still assumptions, made with cultural and
    > > moral conditioning well intact. Rally around Eryk's flag everybody and
    > give him
    > > the ethical power he so desperately craves.
    > >
    > >
    > > joseph & donna
    > > www.electrichands.com
    > > joseph franklyn mcelroy
    > > corporate performance artist www.corporatepa.com
    > >
    > > go shopping -> http://www.electrichands.com/shopindex.htm
    > > call me 646 279 2309
    > >
    > > SUBSCRIBE TO OUR NEWSLETTER CUPCAKEKALEIDOSCOPE - send email to
    > > CupcakeKleidoscope-subscribe@yahoogroups.com
    > >
    > >
    > >
    > >
    > >
    > > Quoting Eryk Salvaggio <eryk@maine.rr.com>:
    > >
    > > >
    > > > I want to clarify my position re: Morality and Art, which have been
    > called
    > > > into question after my comments regarding Joseph McElroys exploitative
    > war
    > > > piece. What I have to say below, out of respect to dead horses
    > everywhere,
    > > > will have little to do with that work in particular and more to do with
    > what
    > > > I see as a disturbing hypocrisy in the "new media community" vis a vis
    > the
    > > > ongoing war in Iraq.
    > > >
    > > > I don't see myself coming from a "high moral" standpoint, so much as a
    > > > simple ethical one. My generalized question- not about Josephs piece per
    > se,
    > > > which was critiqued based on ethics specifically because of the artist
    > in
    > > > questions purported "teaching ability" in the field of ethics and
    > > > enlightenment- but in your generalized area of arts at large:
    > > >
    > > > All ethics reside on a framework, which is not moralistic by any means.
    > You
    > > > cannot say "war is bad" [an ethical idea] and not have a foundation for
    > it.
    > > > You cannot say "propaganda is bad" [another ethical standpoint] and not
    > have
    > > > a foundation for it. And when we apply these ethics haphazardly we begin
    > to
    > > > see our sloppiness has very real consequences. If the moral climate is
    > void-
    > > > and I believe "morality" is subjective to each individual, and stems
    > from
    > > > the idea of a higher authority, which means that they do not need to be
    > > > "reasoned". Ethics are community-defined and based on intellectual
    > reasoning
    > > > and a responsibility for the results of that reasoning. Again- morality
    > is
    > > > not an issue. The issue at hand is, what are artists responsible for? If
    > it
    > > > is to be "against the war" then work that aims to achieve that should be
    > > > held to that standard. If the ethical climate is that the war should not
    > be
    > > > used for entertainment purposes, then why stand by idly and allow the
    > dead
    > > > to be used for the purpose of entertainment?
    > > >
    > > > While certainly "everything can be allowed" within the framework of art;
    > > > (and the framework of anything at all) and with the understanding that I
    > am
    > > > not confusing morality with ethics, why is one disallowed from having a
    > > > reaction to a piece of art based on an ethical approach? I understand
    > with
    > > > morality- morality is subjective, changing over time and locations, and
    > can
    > > > be liquid. But don't confuse ethics and morality. In fact, saying
    > > > "moralizing is fascist" is a result of an ethical decision. The idea in
    > > > America that is in vogue is that of individual rights and freedoms vs
    > the
    > > > safety the populace- this is an "ethical" question.
    > > >
    > > > If we are to say then that we favor the rights of artists because
    > ethically
    > > > it is what we have decided on as a cultural value, then we are saying
    > that
    > > > from an ethical standpoint.
    > > >
    > > > One has brought up the idea that fascism was against the freedom of
    > artistic
    > > > expression, and so we can say that the foundation of this ethical
    > concept of
    > > > artistic freedom is based on a rejection of fascist ideologies as well
    > as an
    > > > embracing of individual freedoms. Unless one wants to say "Artists
    > should be
    > > > free because they make art and art should have no limits because it is
    > art",
    > > > which is not a valid reason intellectually.
    > > >
    > > > So if we are to reject fascism, there are two things I would bring up:
    > One-
    > > > and I warn you, this is potentially inflammatory, and I will get to the
    > > > second much later- is the notion of using Jewish and Homosexual Skins
    > for
    > > > lampshades. The Jews/Homosexuals were "war dead", after all. The Nazis
    > were
    > > > simply using their war dead for decoration- much as Josephs piece did.
    > Also,
    > > > the Jews in question were already dead- "the dead are dead", as was
    > pointed
    > > > out in regards to the Iraqi war dead- "they cannot be exploited any more
    > > > than they can be taxed, enslaved, or otherwise oppressed." With this I
    > > > fundamentally disagree.
    > > >
    > > > Obviously there are differences between the two ideas.While we have with
    > the
    > > > Nazis a "literal" use of the war dead in artistry- which makes it so
    > > > abhorrent, there is, in works which use the war dead, a "figurative"
    > use. I
    > > > know this example is inflammatory, but consider the idea that our art
    > now is
    > > > less about decoration (craft) and more about "entertainment". I would go
    > so
    > > > far as to say that the work is "fascist in ideology." And not to stand
    > on
    > > > Josephs piece in particular- which it doesn't deserve- I would say that
    > any
    > > > work that "exploits" the images of the dead is accomplishing the same
    > task
    > > > as a literal exploitation of the dead.
    > > >
    > > > We live in a media saturated world. Images are how we see it, images are
    > > > what the world is, for most people- westerners especially. To capture
    > the
    > > > essence of a human these days, a photograph may be what we go with, when
    > > > skin is unavailable. And while pieces which use images of the war dead
    > are
    > > > not "directly responsible" for the deaths, neither were the Nazi lamp
    > > > makers- they simply used what was given to them. Both types of "art"
    > exist
    > > > because of the exploitation of these deaths- they steal power from the
    > > > dignity of dead.
    > > >
    > > > Someone may ask the obvious question, then, of what about Holocaust art-
    > one
    > > > piece in particular is a work whereas concentration camps were made out
    > of
    > > > legos. That's ethically fine; and it differs from the use of skin for
    > > > lampshades pretty drastically. At the same time, it makes a pop cultural
    > > > reference to genocide- but does not exploit the dead directly, in the
    > way
    > > > that images of the suffering do. For that matter, the Lego piece was
    > also, I
    > > > believe, an attempt by a young American Jew to connect to the Holocaust.
    > But
    > > > what of the artists who use images of Hitler and the Holocaust as
    > > > entertainment that does not commit the (apparent) sin of "moralizing"
    > and/or
    > > > "educating." Can anyone name a piece with real power that doesn't
    > subscribe
    > > > to either of those values? I can: "Triumph of the Will." [In fact- the
    > only
    > > > culturally redeeming thing about this film- aside from aesthetics- is
    > the
    > > > educational value, so even this is void.]
    > > >
    > > > Ruling classes- the class of people who are victorious over another-
    > have a
    > > > long history of exploitation of the class they have conquered. So go the
    > > > spoils of war. I live in Maine, which used to be Micmac Indian
    > Territory,
    > > > and if you look at the gift shops you see the mockery of native American
    > > > culture on display everywhere. Fake Sacred Indian Headdress with
    > feathers
    > > > dyed with neon orange and green, rubber Indian drums and war hammers.
    > The
    > > > fact that we committed genocide on these people is not only ignored, but
    > the
    > > > entire culture we displaced is replaced by Kitsch and sold on the mass
    > > > market- ironic or not, this is exploitation.
    > > >
    > > > Currently, we are involved with a war in Iraq which is devastating the
    > lives
    > > > of millions of people in the country. What I see on these mailing lists,
    > > > constantly as of late, is an open call to protest and a declaration that
    > we
    > > > must "do something." In fact, I am called hopeless and resigned for my
    > > > stance that "doing something" would involve an actual direct involvement
    > > > with the political process, such as the stance taken by Rachel Corrie or
    > any
    > > > of the human shield volunteers, but of course one does not have to be as
    > > > extreme as that- volunteer at OxFam, donate administrative time to a
    > local
    > > > chapter of a red cross, or whatever. I do not believe that making
    > statements
    > > > on mailing lists affects much change, nor do I believe that many artists
    > are
    > > > of the caliber capable of commenting on the war as powerfully and
    > directly
    > > > as an event like this merits. If you are offended by this idea, you need
    > to
    > > > take a look at what war is, and what art is. While I would love a world
    > > > where even casually interested artists could make works of art that
    > truly
    > > > stood up to war, this is simply not the case. It is the exception, not
    > the
    > > > rule, that a piece of art can capture war. The highlight being comparing
    > > > McElroys work to "Guernica."
    > > >
    > > > We then see art made about the war. And what we see is a very basic
    > > > manipulation of emotions associated with death and sexuality- this works
    > for
    > > > much of what I will call "a long tradition of attempted antiwar art".
    > What I
    > > > find appalling is that we have a blatant hypocrisy between the
    > motivation of
    > > > art-makers in regards to the Bush Administrations use of war dead on CNN
    > or
    > > > on Al-Jazeera for political purposes, and then a welcome greeting to a
    > work
    > > > of "art" utilizing those same images as a point of "protest". People on
    > > > these lists complain about the abuse of the dead, of the people who are
    > gung
    > > > ho for war, complaints about the use of war as entertainment, and then
    > we
    > > > are faced with a piece that was designed to "shock someone" and it is
    > > > supported because the statement is made by an "artist" as opposed to
    > Peter
    > > > Jennings.
    > > >
    > > > The result- which stems solely from a lack of ethical integrity- is work
    > > > which borders on, if not exemplifies, a kitsch response to this useless
    > war.
    > > > I had said before that Kitsch is what happens when art is made out of
    > > > narcissism, where the work is loved because it was made, and not loved
    > > > because it stands up on its own. This is the "ethical climate" of the
    > > > net.art community as it stands- protest, debate, argue and accuse, then
    > > > create art that is guilty of the same thing people are arguing against
    > so
    > > > vehemently. This would be avoided if artists looked at ethical integrity
    > and
    > > > attempted to make work that kept that integrity intact- this would mean
    > that
    > > > no artist would resort to the cheap tricks they deplore when it is used
    > in
    > > > propaganda- such as linking sex with murder, cheapening the faces of
    > victims
    > > > of the war, or rendering the war to the level of reality TV.
    > > >
    > > > I do not believe it is the role of art to "teach" nor do I believe it is
    > the
    > > > role of art to "moralize"- although in the "anything goes" approach
    > defended
    > > > by most artists/critics I've been talking to, I don't see why "anything"
    > > > does not include "moralization" or "education." But I will put that
    > aside.
    > > >
    > > > I said before that the idea that "moralization in art is bad" stems from
    > an
    > > > argument against fascism, but contradicts itself? Here is the second
    > > > example: If the ethical climate is "against fascism", then we have to
    > > > understand that fascism is not necessarily the limitation of personal
    > > > freedom, but can be the allowance of personal freedom- and luxury- at
    > the
    > > > expense of the freedom of others. In my guidebook, exploitation of dead
    > > > soldiers against their will- and the will of their families- for the use
    > of
    > > > entertainment by people who make up the ruling party of war invaders is
    > a
    > > > modern, post modern equivalent to the use of dead Jews for furniture.
    > Yes-
    > > > it is different when you are using images of the dead as opposed to the
    > dead
    > > > themselves, but this is not the thread on which this argument hangs.
    > > >
    > > > Another argument that comes from freedom is frequently used to denounce
    > the
    > > > need for a moral framework, and this is the notion that since anarchy is
    > the
    > > > opposite of fascism, one must indeed subscribe to total personal and/or
    > > > theoretical anarchy in order to best retaliate against authoritarian
    > > > control. What this fails to address is the entire issue of personal
    > > > responsibility that we are so quick to denounce in the civilian german
    > > > population- "How could you let that happen?" The answer is not ethical
    > > > frameworks, but rather, a framework in which some people were more
    > valuable
    > > > than others, where the "others" were so valueless that they can be
    > worked to
    > > > death in order to provide the leisure class with leisure and
    > entertainment.
    > > > And decorations. In fact, this has little to do with the loss of freedom
    > or
    > > > the prescence of freedom- it has to do with an overvalued idea of to
    > what
    > > > extent that freedom should be sought.
    > > >
    > > > So I have no problem with people doing what they want responsibly with
    > their
    > > > "freedom", nor is my complaint about the exploitation of war dead based
    > on
    > > > moral grounds. I simply do not understand the hypocrisy of people who
    > are
    > > > "against the war" and against the bush admins "use of Iraq for oil" and
    > yet
    > > > passive when artists use the war in Iraq for poorly constructed,
    > > > irresponsible propaganda. This war is serious business- we are an
    > invading
    > > > power occupying a territory that is not responsible for any direct
    > threat
    > > > against us. If we as artists are to then make art casually while
    > decrying
    > > > the lack of serious involvement of the "other people" who "allowed this
    > to
    > > > happen" then we are not taking the war seriously. And that is fine, if
    > we
    > > > remove ourselves from the ethical framework that this war is
    > illegitimate
    > > > and should not be permitted to go on. Myself, I am silent in regards to
    > art
    > > > in this war- no ascii Baghdads, no film clips of nightvision invasions-
    > > > because I do not believe in my own abilities at this point to do any
    > justice
    > > > to what is happening at this point in history.
    > > >
    > > > In the end, of course, war is war- kill if you wish, rape, pillage,
    > argue
    > > > and destroy, this is what humans do, myself included- nothing much
    > "matters"
    > > > in the end, everything simply is what it is, and there is no actual
    > > > "responsibility." What I am advocating is not a moral condemnation of
    > this
    > > > fact, but the establishment of an ethical constraint to these behaviors
    > > > turning the world into anarchy and our art from being fascist. This is
    > the
    > > > same exact place that the rejection of morality and art comes from in
    > the
    > > > first place. And if you are against "ethics," then you are by definition
    > > > purely apathetic- to war, to starvation, to politics. And that is itself
    > an
    > > > ethical choice. If that is your bag, then fine- but you give up your
    > right
    > > > to complain. If you want to be against this war, that is an ethical
    > > > decision, and as an artist one must take that ethical framework
    > seriously in
    > > > regards not only to posts which spew venom against the war, war
    > coverage,
    > > > George Bush and Wolf Blitzer, but also to take the framework seriously
    > in
    > > > regards to one's own view of the world and how we act within it.
    > > >
    > > > If you don't make art about the war then you don't have to worry about
    > it.
    > > > Plenty of artists ignore political issues that are too overwhelming for
    > > > them. I am currently in that camp. This is a simple matter of honesty-
    > this
    > > > war is bigger than my abilities as an artist. I am not ashamed of that.
    > > >
    > > > Plenty of artists choose other topics for their work. Make art about
    > ideas,
    > > > social issues, make art about art, whatever you want to do. I mean what
    > > > usually happens when I talk like this is that people who have no
    > interest in
    > > > making art about social issues or war or humanity feel like I am
    > pressuring
    > > > them to "take moral responsibility" for their art, which is not the case
    > at
    > > > all. I don't have time to sit here and tell other people what to do.
    > What I
    > > > am saying is- if you are making statements, believe in the statements
    > you
    > > > make, and stand by them, or else you are just spewing statements
    > everywhere.
    > > > This is hardly a dictatorial argument, nor do I really find it to be
    > self
    > > > righteous- it's a fact. If you make a statement and then contradict it,
    > you
    > > > are contradicting your statement! I mean, seriously, what the fuck,
    > right?
    > > > This has nothing to do with "morality."
    > > >
    > > > If one wants to make anti-war art, choose to work within the ethical
    > > > construct, or choose not to- it doesn't matter. Throw out the idea of
    > > > ethical integrity and you leave your work to flounder in an imprecise
    > > > articulation of nothing in particular. It's not like it's going to stop
    > your
    > > > career.
    > > >
    > > > "Self Righteously" Yours,
    > > > -e.
    > > >
    > > >
    > > >
    > > >
    > > >
    > > >
    > > > ----- Original Message -----
    > > > From: "Peter von Brandenburg" <blackhawk@thing.net>
    > > > To: <thingist@bbs.thing.net>
    > > > Sent: Monday, April 07, 2003 4:13 PM
    > > > Subject: Re: [thingist] Starship Troopers
    > > >
    > > >
    > > > > J+: Akh, maybe I *will* watch it again after all. See, the closest I
    > got
    > > > was an
    > > > > *extremely* oblique critique of h/wood, as if PV were saying, "you
    > fucking
    > > > morons, you
    > > > > wouldn't know a good film or intelligent directorial if you sat on
    > one, so
    > > > here: I'm
    > > > > going to give you exactly what you want & deserve". But even if I
    > grant
    > > > him that, it
    > > > > still didn't come together for me. I wonder what Keith &/or Fred
    > thought
    > > > of it. So
    > > > > let's go back to the orig point & where I would be tempted to apply
    > Eryk's
    > > > Puritanism
    > > > > -- if most of the viewers (in this country anyway) saw the film & only
    > > > grokked that it
    > > > > glorified fascism (what *we* see as fascism but they do not) then what
    > is
    > > > the overall
    > > > > "msg" the film conveys? Or is this just another twist on the old
    > > > anti-elitist line,
    > > > > that the pleasure of a highly trained & well-educated privileged few
    > > > (people who
    > > > > partake of high culture) is not worth the debasement of the majority
    > of
    > > > the consumers
    > > > > of the culture-product in Q? best, -- B.
    > > > >
    > > > >
    > > > > John Klima wrote:
    > > > >
    > > > > > see previous post, and here perhaps is the dif of time: i said to
    > myself
    > > > "he's *got*
    > > > > > to be joking" and left it at that (hmm, i said the same thing about
    > > > shrub, and it
    > > > > > turned out he wasn't. perhaps p.v. wasn't joking either. no,no, he
    > must
    > > > have been
    > > > > > joking. he must have.).
    > > > > >
    > > > > > once said, the rest of the movie was just fabulous, it was like
    > watching
    > > > a real
    > > > > > artifact from the future.
    > > > >
    > > > > --------------------------------------------------------------------
    > > > > t h i n g i s t
    > > > > message by Peter von Brandenburg <blackhawk@thing.net>
    > > > > archive at http://bbs.thing.net
    > > > > info: send email to majordomo@bbs.thing.net
    > > > > and write "info thingist" in the message body
    > > > > --------------------------------------------------------------------
    > > > >
    > > >
    > > > --------------------------------------------------------------------
    > > > t h i n g i s t
    > > > message by "Eryk Salvaggio" <eryk@maine.rr.com>
    > > > archive at http://bbs.thing.net
    > > > info: send email to majordomo@bbs.thing.net
    > > > and write "info thingist" in the message body
    > > > --------------------------------------------------------------------
  • Raymond Pottelberg | Tue Apr 8th 2003 5:44 p.m.
    It is probably misleading to associate the production of trinkets from the war dead with a specific political system or ideology (Fascism in this case). The production of human skin lampshades, etc., might be better described as 'barbarous' rather than 'fascist' -- and such barbarous trophy-making is most often a form of fairly spontaneous folk art, often arising among warriors. I quote the following at length:

    ----"Japanese skulls were much-envied trophies among U.S. Marines in the Pacific theater during World War II. The practice of collecting them apparently began after the bloody conflict on Guadalcanal, when the troops set up the skulls as ornaments or totems atop poles as a type of warning. The Marines boiled the skulls and then used lye to remove any residual flesh so they would be suitable as souvenirs. U.S. sailors cleaned their trophy skulls by putting them in nets and dragging them behind their vessels. Winfield Townley Scott wrote a wartime poem, 'The U.S. Sailor with the Japanese Skull" that detailed the entire technique of preserving the headskull as a souvenir. In 1943 Life magazine published the picture of a U.S. sailor's girlfriend contemplating a Japanese skull sent to her as a gift - with a note written on the top of the skull. Referring to this practice, Edward L. Jones, a U.S. war correspondent in the Pacific wrote in the February 1946 Atlantic Magazine, "We boiled the flesh off enemy skulls to make table ornaments for sweethearts, or carved their bones into letter-openers." On occasion, these "Japanese trophy skulls" have confused police when they have turned up during murder investigations. It has been reported that when the remains of Japanese soldiers were repatriated from the Mariana Islands in 1984, sixty percent were missing their skulls."
    Source: Kenneth V. Iserson, M.D., Death to Dust: What happens to Dead Bodies?, Galen Press, Ltd. Tucson, AZ. 1994. p.382. ----

    Clearly such acts may be described as atrocious, barbarous, tasteless --you pick the adjective -- but they cannot be attributed to any specific political ideology. Trophy-taking/making seems to be a natural part of the psychopathology of war, if you choose to describe war in those terms.

    Whether the use of the images of the dead in works of art is or is not a part of that pathology remains to be seen. Some art is political in intent. Some art is pathological in origin. Some political ideologies will find some art to be tasteless and barbarous and pathological(which was the Nazi opinion of modernist art and Mickey Mouse).

    Western democracies have arrived at the general opinion that the greatest possible free expression in art serves the greatest common good. But that freedom does not extend to making art from contraband materials. An artist painting with a cocaine gesso would soon run afoul of the law and an artist making a sculpture from exhumed corpses would spend the next phase of career in an asylum. Similarly, I assume that a US marine in the current war caught converting a dead Iraqi soldier into an objet d'art would be subject to court martial and/or psychological treatment.

    But the notion of contraband IMAGES, or contraband IDEAS, runs generally against 'our' (vaguely: Western democratic) concept of artistic and intellectual freedom. To blur the distinction between images and bodies, and between barbarous acts and barbarous ideas, must be considered in the light of the effect it would have on other aspects of intellectual and artistic freedom. There is a difference between writing an angry letter to the editor and throwing a grenade at the object of your anger. It would be chilling to blur that difference.

    Of course, there have been succesful legal incursions to contrabandize certain images -- child pornography and snuff films being obvious instances -- works that arise from genuine criminal acts. This contrabandizement of images arising from a criminal act obviously has a direct bearing on the on our arguments here. But I will not press this further. I will let others argue about the criminality or legitimacy of this war or any other war, and who is and who isn't a war criminal.

    My intent was only to clarify the difference between 'acts of barbarism' and 'acts of Fascism' concerning trophy-taking from the war dead.

    >
    > One has brought up the idea that fascism was against the freedom of
    > artistic
    > expression, and so we can say that the foundation of this ethical
    > concept of
    > artistic freedom is based on a rejection of fascist ideologies as well
    > as an
    > embracing of individual freedoms. Unless one wants to say "Artists
    > should be
    > free because they make art and art should have no limits because it is
    > art",
    > which is not a valid reason intellectually.
    >
    > So if we are to reject fascism, there are two things I would bring up:
    > One-
    > and I warn you, this is potentially inflammatory, and I will get to
    > the
    > second much later- is the notion of using Jewish and Homosexual Skins
    > for
    > lampshades. The Jews/Homosexuals were "war dead", after all. The Nazis
    > were
    > simply using their war dead for decoration- much as Josephs piece did.
    > Also,
    > the Jews in question were already dead- "the dead are dead", as was
    > pointed
    > out in regards to the Iraqi war dead- "they cannot be exploited any
    > more
    > than they can be taxed, enslaved, or otherwise oppressed." With this I
    > fundamentally disagree.
    >
    > Obviously there are differences between the two ideas.While we have
    > with the
    > Nazis a "literal" use of the war dead in artistry- which makes it so
    > abhorrent, there is, in works which use the war dead, a "figurative"
    > use. I
    > know this example is inflammatory, but consider the idea that our art
    > now is
    > less about decoration (craft) and more about "entertainment". I would
    > go so
    > far as to say that the work is "fascist in ideology." And not to stand
    > on
    > Josephs piece in particular- which it doesn't deserve- I would say
    > that any
    > work that "exploits" the images of the dead is accomplishing the same
    > task
    > as a literal exploitation of the dead.
    >
    >
  • D42 Kandinskij | Thu Apr 10th 2003 1:54 p.m.
    On Tue, 8 Apr 2003 01:16:20 -0400, "Eryk Salvaggio" <eryk@maine.rr.com>
    said:

    "Artists" will never be responsible as responsibility requires that one
    gives up "opinionating" about things one does not know, while most
    "modern"
    art is based in loud-screaming of one's opinions in this or that medium

    + the one thing "artists" will never admit is that they are..
    nothing
    + know..
    nothing

    quite rather the opposite they shall insist + insist towards the building
    of the false persona.

    It's easy to bomb WTC. Bombing "artist" identities--c'est difficile.
    These days--more bloated than anyone else's.

    Recognition of their *significant* contributions to war they shall never
    deem to acknowledge + where there is no remorse, there is no forgiveness.

    Parasitising one of the last available venues for humanity:
    c'est ca votre "revoluticion".

    --
    -IID42 Kandinskij @27+
    vivienn@fastmail.fm

    --
    http://www.fastmail.fm - Choose from over 50 domains or use your own
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