Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Camille Paglia's strange silence on Islam and women

Many years ago I read Camille Paglia's massive tome Sexual Personae. It was probably the most thought provoking and insightful book I've ever read. It wouldn't be an exaggeration to say it changed my life.

It's truly massive in scope and looks at many different artistic genres over the centuries. It also has a lot to say about culture and really distilled what was so wrong with the creepily anodyne victim feminism that was so dominant then (and still is today, in many places).

Being a comedian and actor in Melbourne - easily the most left-wing and "right on" city in Australia - I was surrounded by women like this, as well as their tragically sappy "significant others". This was driving me crazy, so Camille Paglia's book was a real lifeline.

Being so provocative and feisty and such an advocate of the power of female sexuality, it's really strange that Paglia hasn't said much at all about Islam's appalling treatment of women and the alarming lack of feminist condemnation of it.

Maybe she fears being marked for death, or has succumbed to the politically correct view that criticizing Islam is a big no no for public intellectuals? Or perhaps she's just become detached from the big debates? There's also the possibility that she's planning to burst back onto the stage with another paradigm busting book that will deal with this and many other issues - though that seems unlikely.

Whatever the reason for her conspicuous absence from this particular debate it's very strange - as well as disappointing.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Edward Burtynsky shows pollution can be beautiful

I think it's fair to say that most artists are pretty green in their worldview, and this attitude often informs their art. Photographers, for example, are certainly very fond of showing the spectacular beauty of nature with loving landscapes, seascapes and the like. There aren't that many who would portray human caused pollution in a similar way.

But there's at least one I know of. He's a Canadian called Edward Burtynsky and he's got an exhibition running that has many strangely beautiful photos of the BP oil spill. When asked about what he was trying to achieve with them he said:

All my photos try to carry the same ingredients. First, it's an interesting image to look at, what people call aesthetics or visually compelling composition. But once the viewer is in there and looking around, the subject itself should be more challenging. What is going on? In all my work I toggle between attraction and repulsion, working towards irreconcilable emotions. The photographs become more interesting then and enters the realm of art in a more compelling way.

It's refreshing to know that an artist is trying to provoke a more ambivalent response to his nature-themed work, particularly when the dominant attitude in the arts world is so simplistically deep green and preachy.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Rodney Pople worships at the Altarpiece of political correctness

Australia's trendy "artists" are nothing if not predictable. Here's the latest example of their tragically yawn-inducing tactics: Rodney Pople has taken a portrait of the Madonna and child and superimposed hardcore porn onto it.

The lazy act of provocation is typical of the talentless weasels of Artsville. Firstly, he didn't even create his own images, as the article describes:

Pople photographed the altar piece last year, then used digital technology to add pornography taken from magazines found by his wife, curator Felicity Fenner.

Secondly, it's clearly meant to shock and offend. But it's only aimed at one group: Christians. The elephant in the, er, gallery is the absence of treasured symbols from another religion whose followers are easily offended. Like so many arty types before him, he's avoided using his searing and courageous creativity to offend Islam.

But of course he wouldn't be foolish enough to do that. If he did, not only would he be persona non grata in the arts world and never be able to sell another one of his, er, "creations"; he'd quite probably be marked for death and need round the clock protection as well! Instead, he chooses to provoke the people least likely to act violently against him because of their anger. That's the sign of a true coward.

I will give him one thing, though. At least he does admit that it's designed to shock. Many artists even weasel out of that one, feigning surprise that their work has caused outrage, adding that it was actually intended as a "celebration" of Christianity, or some other such nonsense.

What's truly funny is this description of his intentions:

"My paintings challenge the facade of our politically correct society by hinting, with an unabashed use of fiction and exaggeration, what might lie beneath the surface."

Er, no. They're not even paintings, just visual mashups. And they clearly don't challenge anything much, least of all political correctness. On the contrary, they hide behind it.

If he sincerely believes what he says then he's a fool as well as a coward. But he's not nearly as tragic as the poor dupes who are there to buy. What kind of an idiot would fork out $65000 dollars for such lazily concocted, skill-free crap?