It is a modern maxim that the fastest lane to success is exhibiting a provocative art work in such a way that it becomes a Chupa-Chups candy for the mass media to lick into a scandal.
Provocative art can be harming, like Pussy Riot‘s act that harmed the Church’s sham of being merciful and got the girls boxed in a nice Russian prison; harmful, like Pavlensky‘s nailing his scrotum to the Red Square; and harmless, like Paul McCarthy‘s inflatable sculptures with sexual connotations.
If the harming and harmful types pinch the nerve of a society in ways the society starts wriggling in agony, exposing its deep sores and chronic illnesses, the harmless kind allows the media to blow innocuous issues out of proportion, at a profit. It is safe, guarantees high ratings, and represents a great photo opportunity. This is the most recent case.
According to The Guardian, it is “McCarthy’s controversial sculpture, Tree,” that has provoked a right-wing backlash after it was installed in Place Vendome instead of the usual Christmas decoration.
You may wonder what can be controversial about a giant sex toy? An artwork that tests tolerance limits of the Religion of Peace (also known as Islam), would be controversial. A sex toy is just a sex toy, even if it is a Hulk’s accessory.
Yet, there is controversy in the media coverage of this sculptural summit of human intelligence. Jonathan Jones, Guardian’s leading art critic, asks his audience with a good measure of condescension in his voice, “Why are Parisians being so prudish?”
He is proud the English have shown McCarthy’s phallic Pinocchio in front of Tate Modern without a whiff of public protest.
Jonathan Jones believes the English are such an elevated and sublime nation that they didn’t see the phallic meaning, and even if they saw it, they interpreted it as a dialogue with Walt Disney who might have added the long nose to Pinocchio’s face as a subconscious reference to the penis. He says, “…if you don’t see the phallus in the film, you won’t see it in the statue. The London crowds didn’t.”
Dear Mr Jones, a more plausible explanation would have to address the possibility of the Global Warming driving Londoners massively blind (the effect previously attributed to intemperate masturbation). I can easily imagine how the English, in the usual English custom, take this setback in good humour, pretend nothing has happened, but sometimes tend to miss the point if it is visual.
The French sabotaged Paul McCarthy’s butt-plug “Tree” the other day, and now they are labelled myopic, bigoted and intolerant retards, far, I assume, inferior to the English, who according to Jonathan Jones, possess inordinate quantities of “…the underlying puritanism…, that stopped us noticing how filthy McCarthy’s Tate Modern sculpture really was”.
Perhaps, the French see “the naked Emperor” for what it is, and have no fear to say it out loud, unlike the English, for whom maintaining the decorum of decency is more important than the truth?
Is it also the reason for the French to be much more willing to openly criticise poor service in, say, a restaurant, than the English, who are more likely to withdraw into the poker face state of I-am-halving-the-tips? Or is it just a cultural cliche?
If someone is so sublime that he takes a giant butt plug for Christmas tree, it is called visual agnosia, as in the Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat. It is a dangerous disorder requiring professional help: imagine the likely reversal, taking a Christmas tree for a sex toy. Santa Claus who shoots down the chimney and discovers the consequences of this mistake risks losing his sanity, along with tossing his milk and cookies.
I never support censorship, or public pressure on artists, but today I find myself on the vandals’ side. It is my firm belief this butt-plug art is as productive for human development as anal sex is conductive to making children.
If a French or English reader happens to stumble upon this post, I’d love to hear your opinion on each other. Is it just a cultural English snob who loves being seen in opposition to the French or something ancient that runs dark and deep?
If you are not French or English, just tell me if you play for the vandals or against them.
Send the link to your friends, let’s see which side they are on!