Monday, May 12, 2008
Hiding the Bodies in Our Backyard.
I am fucking seething. It's bad enough that the fuckers won't show us the bodies. Now they won't even let us have art address the fact that there are bodies. I wrote about Susan C. Dessel's utterly urgent installation, Our Backyard: A Cautionary Tale, when it was up at Dam, Stuhltrager in 2006. It's been showing at the Long Beach Island Foundation of the Arts and Sciences. Judging from the photos on their site it's an organization that supports art and tennis. Well, they've censored Dessel's piece and here are photos that the artist sent me this morning. And here are the LIBF email addresses to which you can write. I wrote this in about 3 minutes before work. I'll continue this later.
OK. Lunchtime. Returning now. Read James Wagner on this. Read what Ed Winkleman has to say.
I've been thinking about this all morning. Maybe, just maybe, this is fucking perfect. I'm not saying that the LIBF's reaction is appropriate, but it does speak to a certain power that the art holds. In Dave Hickey's The Invisible Dragon: Four Essays on Beauty he writes about Jesse Helms' reaction to Mapplethorpe. The war Helms waged against the work wasn't fueled by his misunderstanding of the images. To the contrary, Helms absolutely got it. He understood the power of their beauty and the influence wielded therein. Hence the sweaty, red-faced battle cry. That "supporters" of the LIBF were willing to go to the extreme of threatening to end their "support" of the institution so quickly just means that the work cut to the center of their hollow little bones. Surrounding the work with what looks like a medical scrim perfectly mirrors our country's refusal to look at what we've done. We want our wars to be clean and clinical. No bodies. No shame. No eyes. No memory. This is George Bush's 8-year Oedipal wet dream. Good luck cleaning the sheets.
When I first saw Our Backyard: A Cautionary Tale I said, "When they start hiding the dead it falls to artists to dig up the bodies and throw them back on the road, and Dessel has a strong arm." Trust me, kids. A scrim won't stop this work. Killing it will only make it stronger.