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Do you mean torturous?
What does offend me is censorship within an arts school, especially coming from (2!!) of its instructors. Even if the universe eventually unanimously agrees that Ben Beres' imagery crossed a line or is offensive to women (god help us), censoring his work in an environment that is designed to nurture and encourage creativity, expression and individuality is a far, far greater crime. The more I think about it the more it pisses me off.
In fact, fuck Cornish. Suppression of individual expression is far worse than terrible teaching. Those instructors should be ashamed of themselves for letting their personal feelings get in the way of the school's mission statement.
"I'd like to chime in here. In my opinion, to label this issue as "Cornish" censors artists" is far too simple. The Cornish Alumni Gallery exists within an institution and place of employment. Like any other employer, it relies on a trusting relationship with its employees to provide a safe place to work that respects personal boundaries. In this case, the work targeted a number of employees by name, without consent. Example: I work in cubicle A and draw a picture of the person in cubicle B's "parts" with their name on it. If person in cubicle B doesn't appreciate my drawing of them, it comes down. Plain and simple. An art gallery in a public/work space is not a protected enclave from these basic workplace considerations. Hate to get all administrative here, but it comes with the job. Happy to talk more at the opening tonight. Love and respect to all."
I don't expect people to like it, but that's pretty much what the issue comes down to for me. The realities of public/private/institutional space are complex. You can count on Cornish to address these issues in a forum of some kind, TBA. The conversation will continue...
Jen writes not to "get sidetracked too much by the censorship." Turning a blind eye to oppression of artistic expression is almost as bad as oppressing it. The message this sends—not just to people as a whole, but to individual groups (minorities, women, men, etc) and their unique viewpoints and expressions of it—is destructive. It's anti-intellectualism at its core.
This isn't "cubicle art," for crying out loud. What a comparison!
Ben Beres is employed by Cornish in the Printmaking department. This is missing from Jen's report and makes all the difference.
It doesn't matter if it's Microsoft, Cornish, or a hot dog truck, drawing caricatures of co-workers for public display that cause your co-workers discomfort, no matter your good intentions, constitutes harassment.
Cornish has done the right thing by removing the piece, given that it has an obligation to its employees to create a nonthreatening work environment. Besides, given the controversy it will likely be shown at another venue, any of which would be more appropriate than where these female artists have to show up every work day.
What I said was that I had a conflict with how obviously appropriate the removal of the piece would be in a corporate office such as Microsoft, and that it was troublesome and questionable that I somehow felt an art school was different. Ultimately, at the end of the day, as a woman and an employee of an art school; this conflict is personally unresolved but I can intellectually accept that it is no different.
At the risk of being TL;DR, I'd like to include a response I gave to the Internet yesterday:
I should say here that this show doesn't have the immediate intention to provoke, actually. I knew that there would be a reaction to the list of artists, if read before the statement. What it has is the intention to include men in a conversation that I think is as important to men as it is to women. This show also includes elegant nods to Louise Nevelson, Louise Bourgeois, Linda Benglis, and Dora Maar. The only provocative piece in the show is Ben's.
For me, I felt that the questions Ben's piece raise are as valuable to the conversation as anything else. Is Ben Beres really, truly reducing the women of the Seattle art world to boobs, or sexual objects? Or is he pointing at what men think about, in response to any women, let alone Elles? Or is this how Ben Beres celebrates women, which points back to the first question? I think that it's interesting to note that if a woman had made this, there would be little to no outrage but of course a woman making it would change the context. Also I think that it's interesting to see all the women who want to be in it. What does that mean? Questions about who is included and who is not are equally as valid, as part of that conversation.
For me, this piece embodied everything that it means to be a woman right now. The complexity, the internal battle, the damned if I do/damned if I don't.
I think this piece is purposefully minimal and vague - it can and will mean a lot of different things to everyone who looks at it. What it says to the viewer will say more about the viewer than it says about the artist's intention. That is part of its potency, and its volatility.
I imagine that on first glance, it is just boobs. It gave me pause. I saw my name. I thought "huh, subversive" - but then I laughed. It's like Pollock peeing in Guggenheim's fireplace. Then the bigger questions came (listed previously).
I am more fascinated by all the conversations this piece has started than anything that I have ever put on a wall. Am I and other women in this piece being diminished? Is it a backlash against the obvious push to feature women artists in Seattle right now? Is this at its simplest, a piece about appreciation, or does it demonstrate a bounty? There are more artists on this print than what I put in Red Current. I wish I could have demonstrated the bounty of Seattle as effectively! And maybe it simply points at the thing we both want and don't want - to be identified as "an artist, but with boobs" ... in fact I was so blown away by a question I was asked, in regards to whether it's problematic that women state they wanted to be in this piece, that it shifted everything about how I saw this piece into a perspective of our duality as women, both wanting recognition for our merit, and for our beauty and/or womanhood.
At its worst, it is un-examined and written off as a trite and juvenile shock piece, which I argue it is definitely not. But somehow I don't think that's going to happen, if the conversations which have already started continue.
I just can't help but feel this piece is incredibly important to include. To remove it would endanger the value and the importance of all these other conversations that are happening, and would sharpen the focus on a scandal, and not the poignancy of the piece.
if we want to talk about risk, it takes risk to be a woman and put a show of men together at a time when the spotlight is on women. it takes even further risk to be the male artist who points at the very conflict that makes our daily existence so frustrating. and further than that, it takes risk to keep it up on the walls of the institution that claims to make progress.
Here's the info for an upcoming talk. This one was scheduled months ago and isn't aimed to tackle the recent issue here, but I guarantee that we will be pulling an additional discussion together soon to address it specifically. But it is hard to imagine that the current situation wouldn't come up at the talk listed below. Especially at Cornish, the issue needs to be now looked at as an educational opportunity. I'll give you the details as I have them. Best, Cable
Women and the Visual:
The Influence of John Berger and Laura Mulvey
Friday, November 16
1000 Lenora Street, 7th floor
12 - 1 PM
Seattle Art Museum is currently hosting an unprecedented set of exhibitions and programs showcasing women artists. Cornish College of the Arts is joining SAM in this celebration of great art by women with a community discussion: Women and the Visual: TheInfluence of John Berger and Laura Mulvey. Forty years after the publication of seminal works by John Berger and Laura Mulvey, a panel of Seattle artists considers the influence of their thinking on women as both subjects and objects of art. Please join us for this special lunchtime discussion, as part of Cornish’s Sustenance series.
Sharon Arnold, artist, curator, and writer
Michelle Dunn Marsh, artist
Amanda Manitach, artist, writer
Steve Sewell, artist
Jenifer Ward, Interim Provost, Cornish College of the Arts
1 a: means of support, maintenance, or subsistence : living b : food,
provisions; also : nourishment
2: a monthly lunchtime discussion about arts issues, open to the entire Cornish community, from 12 - 1pm.
art is supposed to be open to interpretation, and cornish has decided to say "no, this is what it is." and that's bullshit.
2. Ben's piece is creepy, bordering on sexual harassment.
3. Cornish shouldn't have censored the piece.
108 artists is pretty inclusive compared to anything a gallery survey could accommodate. And yet there's many times that number of female artists living/working in Seattle. I wondered who might walk away feeling like shit because they weren't included and who wouldn't, what this said about communities and sub-communities and individual art practices and gender. I don't know those directly involved with the exception of some of the artists featured in the print. If the piece had been made by a woman I absolutely would've had the same same questions about parameters of public/social/artistic validation. If the piece had featured/named male artists, I wonder what the reactions would have been on all levels.
For my part I had a sort of personal epiphany after seeing it online and thinking about it, regarding how it made me feel, what I should be focusing on, what I want from my art practice and from community. Most of us wish to be rewarded/recognized/etc- to me that's a natural part of caring about my work. Yet ultimately acknowledgement is a highly internal conversation. Online I don't as much see that dynamic play out within networks I'm part of in other cities. Maybe it's that everyone's under-recognized in places like NY. Yet I don't think there's a lack of artist-activated community in those particular cities either.
FWIW I think it's a really good piece and a really great curatorial premise. Initially when I saw the curator's comment in a thread, that the piece would no longer be in the show, I thought the artist and curator had more direct voice in that decision. I didn't think it should be pulled because of the questions it raised (for me or others, whether about breasts, names, acknowledgment, gender, etc), yet I thought if it had been pulled, it was because of a decision made by the artist and/or curator.
The show however, is so much bigger than one piece, and one artist. I encourage you to please stop by the Cornish Alumni Gallery, which is in the main entrance of the Lenora Building, and see the rest of the work by these artists:
Adam Boehmer, Chris Buening,Tim Cross, Brian Cypher, Curtis Erlinger, Ollie Glatzer, Sean Johnson, Matt Sellars (AR '93), Mike Simi, and Ian Toms (AR '09) - all whom considered, reflected, referred, portrayed, and executed the curatorial statement beautifully, elegantly, and succinctly.
I'm posting photos on the facebook page, if you are interested in the previews!
I am a man and have been sexually harassed on two different occasions in my work place and I was not comfortable or brave enough to come forward and say something about. I simply avoided the work site where the harasser works.
We should congratulate these two women for being brave enough to come forward and we should stand behind their choice. Saying things like "That is Lame!!!" and "This is Bullshit!!!" only perpetuate and support Sexual Harassment in the workplace and make it more difficult for people to come forward in the future.
@20: why wouldn't we ask men to respond? the male voice is as important to Feminism as any other. that's the point.
The male voice, to me, is not as important in women's issues as the female voice. It should take a backseat for fucking once. A backseat that's right there one inch behind us, but a backfuckingseat. And I don't want to apologize for that attitude.
Obviously, I am a Feminist, and I believe in and celebrate this moment in Seattle right now, and applaud the Centre Pompidou for creating such a monumental exhibition. I am presenting an exhibition that points right back at that celebration.
Catharina Manchanda, in a talk at Gage, pointed out the irony that the women artists we know about in history are in part due to the famous male artists they knew. I am enjoying the turnaround in this show of men who are shaped by the female artists they admired.
Try to think of it this way. I am offend in this society on a daily bases (list upon request), but if I wasn't then I wouldn't be living in a free society. No one asked for my consent and that is fine because it is better for all of us to have the option of being offended, then to not have the option at all.
What is next a harsh art critique becomes a hostile work environment and reviews must be censored? Look out Jen. ;-)
That said I am just a man, so I feel as if I should just take a backseat driver approach on this one.
It is women blowing the whistle on the display of their bodies, however symbolic, in a juvenile cartoon to humiliate them in their workplace in a mardi gras style display of breasts.
Transfer it to the men's room wall and its a lawsuit.
And I have seen better drawings.
Makes great publicity for the curator who is, of course, another woman. For every Gloria Steinem, there is always a Phyllis Schlafly. (Look it up, you so called post-feminists.)
Since this kind of reflexive male attempt to subjugate and control women through representation has been a cultural staple for over 500 years, I can't imagine why we care how males respond to Elle's.
What about the students? Wanna bet Cornish has way more females than males in the student body?
The college has done the responsible thing because they have a responsibility toward the young women they are educating. To present this in their place of learning is to throw a wet blanket on a candle.
I respect that Cornish as an institution needs to keep clear boundaries drawn against potential sexual harassment. As an outsider, I don't feel entitled to comment on whether the piece does constitute harassment. This isn't a simple case of censoring nudity.
For whatever it's worth, I viewed Beres' piece as a male confession, and a challenge to examine how the simple classification aspect of the Elle's exhibits reinforces male hegemony and objectification.
The boobs were fine. It's a funny piece that makes you think for like 15 whole minutes. People feeling sexually harassed in their workplace and then having the courage to come forward with it is a good thing. So, taking it down makes sense. All fine. Let's see the whole piece online though soon?
What's not fine with me is having this piece, and this show of male artists (and I like those male artists! I admire their work and they are friends of mine!) take center stage the one month--of, oh, THE CENTURY-- that women have the stage.
Motherfucking backseat it! JUST THIS ONCE!
I am a woman! Does that not factor into the presentation of this show? Would it be different if this were presented by a male curator?
This is a valid perspective, and interest, to include a part of the conversation that doesn't often get acknowledged. As I have said before, it's fine to have a heavily gendered discussion, but at what point can all genders have that discussion together, in the same room, at the same time? This show does nothing but point back at women, talk about women, pay elegant homage to women. I encourage everyone to go see it. The artists in this show are celebrating the inspiration of women artists through their work, yes, even Ben Beres. If it were not for his piece, would you feel this sense of outrage?
This show has, through the controversy of this piece, done nothing but unearth a dialogue about gender that is as valid and important to the purpose and point of Elles as the simple celebration of women that has been going on throughout the city. And this does not diminish that celebration. Elles will be up through mid- January. Women do and will continue to have this stage. I hope that the exciting conversation that has erupted around all of this is only the beginning of women continuing to take over.
Another thing that nags at me about this show is the title. Ils disent means "They [they being two or more people, at least one of whom is male] say." But the English-speaking eye merely sees the similarity to the English word DISSENT. Titled this way, the show presents itself as a dissent. A protest. Of what? Elles. (As in, the shows.) What else could it be? Ils. Elles. Disent. Dissent.
It is problematic to have a show (of male artists) dissent from the Elles shows.
That said, I don't think the male artists in the show are dissenting; I think YOU are, by curating this show and titling it this way. Rather than curate another all-women show this month you have dissented and curated an all-men show. I don't think you did this because you're anti-feminist. I think you did it because it was subversive.
The result is problematic. But, nonetheless, I'm glad you did it. It's better to take risks and have messy conversations than to stay safe and boring.
You're absolutely right. The play on words is obvious if you look closely enough, which you have. In putting together this show, this was actually the argument I expected, rather than the one I got.
Dissent means precisely that - a difference of opinion. When I curated Red Current, I made sure to bring the experience of discovery down to a personal level, because I found the idea of proselytizing a show of "woman artists!!!" distasteful. It left me feeling marginalized. I don't identify as a woman artist - I identify as an artist. I don't wish to have to qualify that all the time. So I presented this show with the intention to promote a bounty of Seattle artists, and allow the discovery of who they were to emerge second. Not first.
So with Elles, it's hard to not jump and say "fuck yeah ladytime!!!!" - believe me. But part of my criticism of Elles (yes, there are others but nothing to do with this issue) has to do with what I foresaw: a city erupting with shows about women. Is that bad? No. What am I getting at? There was potential for men to feel like they didn't get to participate. I knew I could have been wrong about that perception, too. But here we are. My aim was to include these artists in the most exciting conversation to happen in this city in a long time. I wanted to poke at gender politics. I wanted to poke at who gets to talk and when. I wanted to poke at all of these things that have come up.
When I was asked to do a response show at Cornish, I had three choices: create a show of women, create a 'non-gendered' show with equal sexes, or create this one. Out of the three, I imagined that it would be very hard to do better than Red Current, and the show I came up with was what interested me most.
Don't we all find that dissent an integral component of good conversation, the foundation upon which the most interesting and productive dialogue takes place? My opinion is there isn't enough dissent in contemporary society, that we are so afraid of conflict we shy away from things that disagree.
Thank god these conversations are messy. Maybe without the mess they wouldn't be happening.
There have been plenty of comments directed at the curator, the critic, the women who did not want to be depicted and many comments from women directing their disagreement of the artwork a man created at each other. At the very least, whoever the artist is at the center of the controversy, should share not only the notoriety of the "scandal" but should also be given the opportunity to make his intent known. If men are going to be included in the dialogue and ride the coattails of the enhanced visibility of women artists in Seattle, then they/we should also be equal targets of criticism and evaluation.
I am not sure it matters what Ben's intent is ultimately however because the image has its impact independent of his intention. If he is lampooning a particular attitude the effect is still the same. He repeats and strengthens degrading messages.
Like Archie Bunker's TV comments on All in the Family back in the 70's, the script may have targeted the racist comments of a bigot as a source of humor, in the end it just repeats his racism in a powerful forum that strengthens and spreads it.
It's impact on the students, remains negative and it legitimizes that kind of treatment of Cornish employees and women in general in their eyes.
Rightly or wrongly, I immediately read the Beres as a well-made feminist point about artists becoming 'women artists' rather than artists. There is clearly no intention to differentiate the breasts so the names attached to them are in effect random - these are not pictorial representations of individual women, so it is hard to see why anyone should be offended on that score.
On the other hand, if I was going to use another artist's name IN ANY CAPACITY, even a completely non-controversial one, I would ask them first. That's good manners.
So, in my backseaty, non-Seattley way, I think the artwork is fine but the artist has been rather ill-mannered and that is a good enough reason for the work to have caused a good deal of unease.