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Friday, March 9, 2012

When Art Becomes Evil

TW: Rape, assault, sexual assault, mention of animal abuse.

Clifford Owens is no stranger to the world of performance art. Since November, the frequent university lecturer has performed a series of scores, written by others, in front of live audiences. In some displays, he has groped and kissed audience members, fondled vegetables, and even molested chickens. But on Sunday, he plans to go one step further in an effort to provoke his audience and the art world at large.

Sunday will be his last show, during which he will perform this Kara Walker score:

“Score: French kiss an audience member. Force them against a wall and demand Sex. The audience/viewer should be an adult. If they are willing to participate in the forced sex act abruptly turn the tables and you assume the role of victim. Accuse your attacker. Seek help from others, describe your ordeal. Repeat.”

All in all, this sets up a scenario where Mr. Owens may actually rape someone (or multiple people) on stage or falsely accuse someone of said crime whilst pretending to be victimized. While he acknowledges that he doesn't think it will involve penile penetration, it might. At the very least, Mr. Owens will peruse the audience for victims of his choosing and force himself upon them. For the African-American artist, it's a game where he gets to play with power dynamics and racial theories, but even he sees a problem with getting psyched up to do the show: "There's a reason why I don't try and force a sex act on the audience. But on Sunday, I'm going to take it there. And I'm really nervous about it.", mused Owens when questioned.

I, for one, think that rape, real or pretend, is not art. While I have defended exhibitions where people have shat on stage or pissed on crucifixes, this is different entirely. With a captive audience, Clifford Owens may feel a rush, one that will take him to the point of sexually assaulting another human being. The audience will want more, and collective apathy could cause a very real person to be very really harmed. All it will take is someone to be too terrified to physically resist the "artist" and Owens will violate someone with the express consent of viewers.

On Sunday night, there will be many women in New York who will be sexually attacked and you and I will be powerless to stop these most heinous of crimes. But one man, fascinated with his own private parts and the sexual exploitation of everything within reach, will attack people and call it art.

Whether it's in pornography or on a stage, I have a serious problem with the term art being applied to the degradation of human beings, as well as non-human animals. As someone who has made a living from art, I'm absolutely disgusted that someone could equate something I find absolutely repugnant with something amazing. But, moreover, as a victim of rape, I find it absolutely appalling that someone could trivialize my experience and those of others.

I really hope nobody attends this brutal performance, I really do, but I know that there will be the curious; those looking for someone willing to test this limits of what society deems acceptable. All I can hope for now is that when Clifford Owens steps on stage, he is immediately arrested for Conspiracy to Commit Rape.

Art is a wonderful thing- sometimes it's dark, sometimes pure; it can be on stage or on a canvas. It captivates the eye and makes you think. It could be an image of a war gone by or a guy hanging from meat hooks to see how much he can take, and when it is live, consent is a given in art. Regardless of what you call it, violence against a woman with limited or no consent is criminal. Where I come from that's not called art- it's called evil.

Image credit: On Stellar Rays

3 comments:

  1. Interesting..but Art has ALWAYS been in the eye of the beholder (not just for beauty). I almost didn' recognize this new style of writing you have...need to catch up on some blogs.

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  2. http://ninjawiththeorangetshirt.files.wordpress.com/2010/11/rape-time.jpg

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  3. Excellent article ,
    loved this .
    "I find it absolutely appalling that someone could trivialize my experience and those of others."

    ReplyDelete

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