Rolling Stone Magazine Calls Rick Santorum “Vile”. Why?

Let me first say I am not a fan of presidential candidate, Rick Santorum. But unlike Rolling Stone writer, Kristen Gwynne, I do not think of him as being “vile” and “extremist.” I think the people of the U.S. are smarter than that. 

On Thursday (28 May 2015) she assembled a list of some of Santorum’s quotes saying because it is official he is running “it’s time to brush up on what he believes about abortion, gay people and more” and then introduced him as “Former Republican senator and known right-wing extremist” (emphasis added, but not really because it’s already there).

As I read through the list, it did give me pause because I thought, “hey, maybe I’m an extremist too. If one believes in marriage as it has been for 1000’s of years between a man and a woman, does that make one “vile”?

Uh oh. Like how the word “sick” in today’s vernacular can mean “awesome,” now “vile” describes someone who doesn’t agree with mainstream media mantras? Hm. Okay. I might be “vile.”

Now granted, I think Gwynne has a bit of a point in her first used quote to her credit, but I wouldn’t paint Santorum as “vile” because of it, I guess because I still use the old definition.

1. On same-sex marriage, 2004: “This is an issue just like 9/11. We didn’t decide we wanted to fight the war on terrorism because we wanted to. It was brought to us. And if not now, when? When the supreme courts in all the other states have succumbed to the Massachusetts version of the law?”

Drawing a parallel between real extremists such as those responsible for 9/11 and those who want to marry the same-sex is a little extreme, but I don’t agree it equates Santorum to being an extremist as being synonymous to a terrorist, as the word “extremist” connotes in Gwynne’s list of Santorum’s quotes.

The only reason I take issue with this publication is because it used extreme adjectives to drive clicks to the page, and when you get there you see it is a bait-and-switch of language. 

The listed synonyms for the word “vile” are:

evil, wicked, shameful, depraved, base

What I think is extreme, and a bit wicked even, is painting those who don’t agree with your worldview as “vile” and “extremist.”

It comes across as desperate and juvenile, and even greedy, considering examples such as this appear to be merely ploys to drive traffic to a site for monetary gain.

A little, base?

I won’t pursue a full critique on the extreme use of terms in this publication. We all know why it’s done.  Click the link above for your own reference if you want more examples from the intolerant-agenda.

Unfortunately though I believe society has very possibly reached the point where if/when one disagrees with another, they are coined as being “vile” and “extremist.” So sad so many are so easily manipulated by words. It gives me pause to make sure I teach my child it is okay to befriend those with different beliefs than her and that when she meets other with different ideas about life, that doesn’t make them vile-extremists. 

There have been other cultures that did this in the not too distant past led by real mouthpieces for intolerance towards those who lived differently and believed different things about mankind and God in society.

And if we don’t pause and see how mishandling terms such as those used in this Rolling Stone article effect culture, we very well might end up burning up books that articulate opposing views to mainstream mantras in the streets .

Weimar book burning cultural rev burning books
(2 different cultures, 2 different times, 1 common goal. Get rid of opposing views)

We’re not yet burning books, but we better assess the track we’re on and the consequence of our words used to describe those we don’t agree with. The burning books may very well become those that are written by opposing politicians, artists, poets, musicians, teachers, and anyone else who is regarded as “vile” and “extreme” by mainstream outlets.

Vile? No.

Different opinion? Yes.

While this is not as juicy as throwing mud on Santorum’s face, it is more accurate and assumes people are smart enough on their own to draw his/her own conclusions. 

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The Truth About Some Contemporary Art

We’ve all seen artwork that leaves us wondering, “what was that supposed to mean?”.  It is typical of the artist to say they want to make the viewers “think” when in reality we’re being left confused or worse, unchanged, which I guess in essence the goal has been achieved considering confusing others leaves them thinking.

I have yet to meet an artist though who says this is their intention, or admit what they are presenting really doesn’t have a message, or if it does have a message then acknowledge the manner in which the work is executed is not able to relay said message, nor say they use the guise and aesthetic of contemporary art to present work as something with intellectual insight, representation, and/or meaning, but really doesn’t have meaning beyond its materials and/or true intention of being a misleading guise.

It’s easier to say a work has an intended purpose when it doesn’t at which point might have to actually explain the “non-ness” of the work. Too deep. And a little delusional even. 

Why admit a work doesn’t meet a real expressed intention, or have one to begin? If we did, we might lose our tenure-track professorship at that art school, or fellowship, or gallery representation, speaking engagements, et cetera. But if this really is the goal, to leave viewers confused about a work’s purpose and meaning, then let it be said and sought after directly and with forthrightness, then there will be something of substance to explore.

To say you would like to make the viewers “think” is really a pointless goal only because we are always thinking.

Lose the vagueness and trade it for intentionality. Say what you mean, and mean what you say as the adage best informs. As an art student in college I was exposed, like most in art school, to what was considered art via mainstream media outlets such as Art In America, Sculpture Inc. Magazine, Art News and others. But luckily I had great professors who challenged me to intellectually consider how and why what was being feed as art was influencing culture and me personally. 

Unfortunately though, most art students are not challenged in this way. I have seen in graduate school, and as an art professor in addition to being an artist. What is presented as art in galleries and mainstream media, is bought hook-line-and-sinker despite its having stood up rigorous inquiry or debate as to the validity of its intended purpose.

When I see a mass of materials in a gallery presented as sculptural art for example, that is presented as being something with an intended meaning to be understood by viewers, like say work by artist Richard Tuttle, and have nothing to go on but an assembly of materials and a title sheet, I’m left to assume there is something I am supposed to understand or gather.

Fiction Fish Tuttle “Fiction Fish” by Richard Tuttle

In reality though, if we’re honest towards what is actually happening, what a lot of artist want to leave viewers with is the impression that the art represents something in an enlightened manner which most just will not be able to interpret and attain intellectually. This is what I mean by guise.

When you ask a gallery curator or docent to explain works such as these, they, in my experience, go into an intellectually redundant script that is merely the spoken guise of the visual guise-artwork and by the time he/she has completed their well rehearsed script, you’re ready for a nap. (Again, in my experience.) 

As Gertrude Stein said of her childhood home in Oakland in the early 30’s after revisiting it after spending most of her life abroad,

…”there is no there there.”   

Gertrude Stein

This absence of forthrightness and intentionality in contemporary art is only funded by a small percentage of wealthy patrons who, unfortunately, possess the majority of influence in the art world, allow artists such as those with “no there there” to continue influencing culture at large, and well to be frank, it’s unfortunate, because like sheep we all seem to gobble it up as absolute truth creating the standard for what is and is not art today. 

The most helpful question posed to me while in grad school which stills guides me today and I fail at attaining albeit strive to appropriately answer with my work is,

“What do you want your work to do?”

What I say I want it to do and what it does are not always simpatico, but at least I can answer with certainty, what I want it to do and where it falls short in doing that which allows me to learn from it and re-aim for the next work.

If I wanted my work to confuse people, I would not hesitate in saying that was my goal. But this is what so much artwork these days does, but never owns up to letting it be known that’s its intention which is, in my humble opinion, cowardly.

DISCLAIMER:

There is a lot to Richard Tuttle’s work I do enjoy, aesthetically.

Has The Guise Movement influenced me as an artist?

-Absolutely. I was trained by modernist and postmodern artists. The influence is not all bad. Aesthetically, I enjoy a lot of it. My riff with this approach is lack of forthrightness and truthfulness. A lot in this school of thought have been taught art is whatever you say it is. If this were entirely the case, we would not art schools to tell us so. But when we go to art schools we learn craft, philosophy, and conceptual representation, which in itself contradicts art can be anything because we are taught standards.

How do I know there are artists who approach art this way, using a “guise,” or “guisement” if you want to say it that way?

-Not certain this is indeed the case, just going on what I see and hear from work and interviews of artists. Having a Bachelor’s also in Psychology has helped me discern intentions.

Do you feel hypocritical considering your own work will not be understood by all people?

-Not really because I strive for my work to be straightforward removing the why or what-questions. A good example of what I strive not to do nor to teach in my art classes comes from Texas State University this year when an art major sat outside the school’s library steps, almost entirely naked, as a way of addressing the objectification of women in our culture.

While in concept this sounds like an avant-garde approach to the topic, it is not art in a visual arts sense but is performance, which will take another article to explain the difference between because the visual arts programs throughout the U.S. have been contaminated by this misnomer that performance is just another concentration like painting, ceramics, or sculpture. It is not.

Story for the above mentioned misinformed art major from TSU:               Texas State Univ art student

The Monotonous Effect of the Tolerance Agenda in the Arts

“I stand corrected” is an idea that doesn’t seem to exist these days, definitely one I do not see in media. Saying those words take a bit of humbleness and one might be able to argue this is one thing lacking culturally.

Art and politics in my mind go hand in hand, meaning art reflects, and in some degree guides and influences culture and vice versa. Over the past five decades, but increasingly more-so over the last ten to thirteen years, the staunch push for tolerance via political operandi has started to contradict itself by resulting in vitriolic intolerance towards those who hold a different belief than others on certain topics, topics such as but not limited to, abortion, war, and marriage, just to name a few.

I will be the first to admit, I do not have it all figured out, and yes I do have to summon up strength externally to in essence, “bite my tongue,” until I can respond sincerely and humbly when disagreeing with someone who holds to a different position than myself. But like most art forms, I understand humbleness and sincerity are process-based that requires practice, much like an art-making process, and is one I will fail at times, but will not cease pursuing.

The prospective consequence of promoting tolerance while exercising intolerance towards art made from a different perspective or worldview is that galleries will end up with a linear, monotonous perspective on the walls and pedestals. The United States, with all its faults, has great potential representing the arts from a myriad of perspectives. And we do a lot of the time.

But ask yourself this, what perspective(s) is being represented when you visit a well-known contemporary museum of art such as The Guggenheim or The Whitney? I really see primarily one these days, secularism. And the same perspective year in and year out, after the initial aesthetic oo’s and ah’s, is just boring because it is a linear, one-sided perspective.

Of course linear presentation of art isn’t a great representation of our culture with all of our philosophies and religions because it negates a truer representation of our culture. Having lived in a Communist country I can say from firsthand experience when a culture eradicates ethereal perspectives such as ones from a religious worldview, it will become black-and-white, i.e. colorless, and/or just the same ‘ol urinal on a pedestal, which after a first viewing is just a urinal on a pedestal that triggers a want to actually use it for its intended purpose.

I would like to see artwork made by artists from every type of background represented in galleries and receptions that intermingled this pluralistic culture we live in. But I think we’re scared of the types of conversations that would commence. We’re scared of words, so we surround ourselves with like-minded individuals for emotional protection.

We can still share dreams without offending someone right?

truth Orwell

Chris Burden Dies At 69: Artist -or- Lunatic?

  

Art is said to represent both contemporary culture and the one to come. Chris Burden’s portfolio seems to support this argument.

His career launched as a graduate art student from UC Irvine after his performance “Shoot” where his friend shot him in the arm with a .22 rifle in an art gallery, in front of an audience, as an exploration of “the aesthetic experience of suffering.” During this period of his life, Burden was also simultaneously addressing cultural desensitization to violence as a result to insistent and apathetic news coverage of the ravages of the Vietnam War.

  

Burden said regarding “Shoot” that that performance was a “criticism of vicarious experience”… “because most people’s knowledge”… “is only second hand through the media.” (Avalanche 8, Summer/Fall, 1973.)

How much more so today?

I wonder how a 25-year old Burden might address the cultural issues of today with our vicarious and voyeauristic social media laden lifestyle and integration? Might he get a friend to shot him with a gun printed via 3D printer and upload it to YouTube and ask all to join in by having their friends shot them and uploading their videos? 

We might say Burden was a masochistic psycho dubbing as an artist, but let’s not overlook that his work also reveals something true about us culturally, for better or worse. There was an audience that gathered to view Burden’s “Shoot” that knowing what was going to commence chose to not stop it.

Just a month ago on an art commentary blog, Art Lark, “Shoot” was referenced specifically as a work that revealed “the weakness of human psychological and moral condition” of our culture during that time. 

Has our culture changed much since the 70’s? 

In some ways, yes. But philosophically, not so much. We’re actually living out the seeds sown during that time now in the present.

Art leaves one thinking. While I might not be attracted to Burden’s portfolio in an aesthetically pleasant sense, it does cause me to stop and consider what it reveals about our culture and the direction it is going, something I can only hope my work will do. 

May he rest in peace and God be with his family.

Christo’s New Endeavor: “Walking On Water”

I was fortunate enough to have witnessed one of Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s monumental works, The Gates, in 2005 in Central Park, New York City while just an eager little art major in college. It blew my mind as well as opened it to new understandings and possibilities of the art making process.

The Gates

This next work of his will be the first monumental piece since The Gates in 2005 and since the death of his wife and partner in the creative process, Jeanne-Claude, in 2009.

Titled, Walking On Water, it is estimated to cost up to $10,000,000 using 70,000 square meters of fabric and 200,000 floating cubes in the islands of Monte Isola and San Paolo of Italy.  According to The Economist, this project only took a year to get approval whereas some of his others have taken decades.

 christo

I call that commitment to the craft.

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