Sunday, November 23, 2008

When Does Art Become a Form of Exploitation?

When Does Art Become a Form of Exploitation?

At what point does art-- or should I say the subjects or themes that artists choose to explore-- become a form exploitation? Lately there seems to have been an increase in headlines asking this specific question. Some view this question as an attack on the arts while others view it as a discussion that is needed within the context of the art world and how the general public views art.

There are many questions to ask involving the issue of art and exploitation:

Is it exploitation when an artist like Bill Henson takes photographs of nude teens as young as 12 in the name of art?

Is it exploitation when an artist like Gretchen Beck mentions during a lecture about her work that her agreement with a specific ethnic group in Africa has helped to develop her career by serving as a point of contact and reference for her art?

Is it exploitation when an artist focuses his or her art on racial struggles that he or she has not experienced personally?

Is it exploitation when an artist documents his or her interactions with victims of drug addictions or individuals caught in the throws of poverty-- all the while receiving hundreds or thousands of dollars per image?

Is it exploitation when an artist builds a financial empire on the creation of faith based art while living in a way that is in conflict with the religious views he or she projects in his or her art?

Is it exploitation when an artist claims that his or her art is in support of fallen soldiers while at the same time being vocal against those who are still in the field of battle?

At what point should these works be considered exploitation? Should a line be drawn? Or is the nature of artistic expression to exploit in some manner even if our intentions are good?

The validity of said works is decided by each individual who views them. Some will be outraged while others will praise the artist for what he or she has accomplished in order to expose viewers or inform viewers about a specific topic-- regardless of his or her intention for having done so. However, contradictions can easily pop up when an artist is exploring delicate issues-- such as religion, poverty, aspects of sexuality, and cultural differences-- in an controversial manner. Due to this many feel that these artists set themselves up for confrontation. Critics of said works may even describe the practice as a form of attention seeking or an easy way to create buzz. What are your thoughts on this issue? When does art become a form of exploitation? At what point does an artist create works simply for media appeal? How can we know the true intentions behind the creation of said works? Are we meant to know? Does it matter? What say you…

Links of Interest:
Students Question: Art or Exploitation?

Views on child protocols divided

Never Forget. You’re Reminded

Take care, Stay true,

Brian Sherwin
Senior Editor


Marilee Salvator said...

these are very good questions Brian. in fact, there questions i ask just about everyday, ones i am always discussing while i am teaching art at my university.

art has a lot of power, it is capable of penetrating the mind far beyond words. i believe it is the artists job to use it responsibly.

when art is used to exploit another group, which could include race, culture, gender, i could go on here, i believe it is inappropriate.

the interesting thing i run into all of the time with students is that they make something and do not mean to be exploiting someone/something but yet when the work is finished it does just that. but when they make it and choose to hang it up on the wall they have the responsibility of defending it.

if the artist does not intend to offend or exploit another and the work reads as such then they haven't created a successful piece of art. i think they should take it off the wall and make another piece that says what they want it to.

so in a way i am curious about these individuals your speaking of. Did they want to be exploiting someone? if they didn't intend on doing this and viewers are reading it as such then the work is not successful and their not getting the correct point across.

If they in fact do want it to read this way then they had better have a damn good reason for it and be able to defend it.

I could go on and on about this but think ill stop here for now.

jesseedwards said...


Balhatain said...

Otonicar? When?

Donald Frazell said...

The art world has exploited the rest of the world for decades, being all about itself, its growth, its flousihing, but not addin one iota of truth or beauty to it. It takes, but never gives. Those in its tiny inbred world of course get, and give through sily openings, but what relevance does it have to the 99.9% of the world that doesnt care about it, or looks and says, what the f*@!?

Artistes think they are better and smarter, but really retarded. Art has a function, one it has failed to perfrom for generations, it has exploited us through taxes for grants and boring museums, Disneyish art villages, commissioined works, and just getting on our nerves with childish absurdities.

True art has worth, adds to live, to EVERYONES, not just the children of the rich.And hypersensitive in need of medication. Unless it unites, uplifts, excites, enhances, motivates the vsat array of humanity, its on sense, useless, a parasite on the people.

I wrote this letter to the LA Times, LA Weekly, Mayor, board of Supervisors, a groups that supports MoCA that of course deleted it and blocked me off their site, freedom of speech among the left, yeah, riiiight.

MoCA is going broke, as it should. Nothing of value to humanity in it, a temple to the vanity of the art world is all, exploiting the good will of the people. Times are hard and gonna get worse, and a thousand more important items on the agenda, unless art finaly steps up again and contributes, it belongs in the dustbin of history with fascism and communism, RIP Contemporary art, Modernism will live again.

The Failure of MoCA to serve the needs of Los Angelenos

MoCA does not represent the goals, aspirations, needs, or varied artistic creativity of Los Angeles. Contemporary art in general, has been about amusing and serving the desires of a tiny minority, the wealthy, and keeping art academies in business. It has no relevance to the life of Americans, and certainly not Los Angeles. No public funds should be used in any way. All efforts to keep the Museum financially stable, is completely on the audience it serves, the rich, and the Art Academies that rely on their patronization. If they cannot keep it afloat, it does not deserve to exist.
Privatizing the main site would be best, Museums such as the Norton Simon are of much higher quality, and involves far more and disparate peoples than MoCA ever has. The Museum of Latin American Art in Long Beach has far greater outreach, and relevance to the community it truly serves. Its finances are stable, and within reason, for public use, not private sources who use MoCA more for its own desires than the public good. Art has always been to define a community, who a people are, and their search for meaning in life, of god, and family. Contemporary art in general does none of this, being about self-expression, desires, and defining decadence in a Gilded Age of self-worship, which has now ended. The equivalent of the Academy of the nineteenth century, its day is over, if it ever truly had one.
The Modern Art of the Panza Collection should be sold to a modern museum, preferably the gallery at LACMA. They now have more than enough wall space, and need to upgrade a rather mediocre level of art. It could be kept, as the only truly valuable work in the Museum, being stolen fair and square. As Manhattan was for a few baubles, in the great American tradition of land deception and breaking of treaties. Or housed at the Geffen, and selling or renting the main site for another type of museum or other public usage. Selling the other works, whose prices have crashed forever, true worth now to be seen, could keep the Institution alive. And hopefully bring more of LA into it, looking for more and better art to inspire the imaginations and hearts of Los Angelenos, few of who know, or care, about the Contemporary, or its art.
But the desires of the few, no matter how well connected or financed, should not induce the City or County of Los Angeles into any deals. A reprioritizing of values is now underway, the new Administration holding out the promise of uniting us as a whole, being about We, rather than the Meism of Contemporary “Art”. Sacrifice is now called for, not to promote the few, but by the whole, for the whole, including the wealthy, who hold the resources of our age to an inordinate degree. There are far greater needs at stake, our children, our homes, our livelihoods. Our planet and basic human values, God and Nature, Art has not addressed these fundamental human needs for generations.
And until it does, should not be financed by public funds, through grants, incentives, deals, property or direct cash infusions. Let the market it serves determine the outcome.

Donald Frazell Internet Author Imperial Clothing

Damien Franco said...

I love answering questions with more questions. It's how I roll.

If artists become too afraid of being labeled as exploitative (is that a word?) then who would be left to tell the stories that need to be told?

Just a thought...

Donald Frazell said...

Questions done answer questions, thats a game. Good questions lead to answer taht go on to even better quetions, tahts life. And used to be art, but still is science.

Kathy said...

WOULD U PLEASE remove MY son's name from your BLOG. THIS is a total lack of RESPECT...
MARKET yourself without disrespecting my son.

Kathy said...

I am tired of asking for respect 4 my son.
I will report this to the ATTORNEY GENERAL's OFFICE.

Kathy said...

I am very SERIOUS.....REMOVE MY son's NAME ASAP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I have nothing to lose U do............
Have U had a suit like I'm referring to??????
HAVE FUN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Balhatain said...

Kathy, with all due respect this is an art blog-- people discuss art and art related topics here. Someone commented with the fact that KERSE had died so I asked when, nothing more. The passing of KERSE was mentioned on many websites including news sources. Sorry if you see that as disrespect.

People discuss art and art related news on this blog. You have never contacted me about this concern before. Thus, your three comments came as a surprise.

Now it could be that you are not who you are claiming to be. Either way,I can assure you that nothing illegal has occurred.

Just so everyone knows, making statements like “I have nothing to lose U do” after threatening someone with a lawsuit is not a good way to go about taking legal action.

Kathy said...

I Apologize sincerely..........I'm still between 2 worlds. I've read each and every blog in regards
since his birth.
Unfortunatly.......I have read some , too many negative comments or rather issues that to not
pertain to my son's life at this time. I do have
SO much LOVE 4 all the ARTISTS that he grew up with in Wallingford, The Hill, and also the boys / men he aquired as FAMILY.
an ART in every way.
I now drive down streets, often feeling BLUE.....
I see my son or one of his brothers writings, I
I change the music to something with ENERGY,
that's what I feel when I see "THE BOYS WRITING"
I am proud of each and EVERYONE of THEM.....

Balhatain said...

No problem. Have you thought about creating a blog where you can keep a journal of your thoughts about the loss? Perhaps include images of his work? Technically you could make it private or if you want public so that people can learn more about him. said...

You raise questions you never really try to tackle in a serious way, other than the "to each his own" escape hatch. Rubbish. Not everything is art. Some so-called "art" is in fact pedophilia and/or generally vile (self-gratuitious violence, for example), with a pretty bow on it. I am not referring to hypocrisy, another, unrelated theme of your post. Hypocrites can indeed be artists. Flawed, selfish reprobates, too, can be masters. But violence and pedophilia speak more to pathology than they do to any sort of talent. As an artist, I am very sensitive to artistic freedom and the need for hypervigilance to protect that freedom. However, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, and the hesitancy to call it for what it is frusrates me to no end.