Features Nov 14, 2012 at 4:00 am

A Controversy Over Censorship—or Harassment?—at Cornish

Mamelles by Ben Beres. Courtesy of the artist


I don't think these breasts would be helped by malt liquor or cocaine... but the giant argument this is sure to start might!


censorship can have lengthy implications and energy. I would like to see this work in a gallery or other forum, and make up my own mind. I was curator in a homophobic art debacle a bit ago on Vashon Island, purportedly a bastion of open-mindedness, and still carry a bit of "recognition" on the part of the paranoid on this rock who remember and still wish I would disappear. Minority, yes, but ever present. Another example of others wanting the power to help you make up YOUR own mind....I would like the print to stay, and be part of the discussion.
Yes! Yes, we should subdue feminism by removing artwork that raises its questions. Let's put women's issues back in the closet where no one will see them or talk about them ever again!

But seriously, the people who objected to this art should be fired--not because they have opinions, but because they don't understand the basic tenets of art. Art is not supposed to just be pretty wall decoration, clothed and buttoned up and perfectly in line with your smug political correctness.

Sometimes art offends you, and that is the point.
Its really not a deep philosophical problem. How hard is it to understand why a woman wouldn't want a caricature of her breasts and her name on a wall in the place that she works. Pretending that its difficult to understand makes one a sexist jerk, or maybe just a plain old jerk. Its called manners.
Yes! Yes, we should subdue feminism by removing artwork that raises its questions. Let's put women's issues back in the closet where no one will see them or talk about them ever again!

But seriously, the people who objected to this art should be fired--not because they have opinions, but because they don't understand the basic tenets of art. Art is not supposed to just be pretty wall decoration, clothed and buttoned up and perfectly in line with your smug political correctness.

Sometimes art offends you, and that is the point.
If Beres had tried to accurately describe in line the shape/size/etc of each woman's breasts then there would be a quite different discussion. His use of uniform breast size/shape/etc leads us to believe that he knew exactly what he was doing.

It would be a shame if people weren't making such a big deal out of this.

Does this piece promote rumors? Does it tarnish reputations? I don't need Cornish to ensure that women are greater than the sum of their parts. This is where censorship speaks louder than the thing which it tries to censor. I need art to raise questions about subjects like feminism and racism and violence and the goings on in my city (art-wise or other).

What's more of a slippery slope?- Quantifying these women by Beres's goofy print, or Cornish absolving the implications by censoring it? It's a Censorship Paradox.
If Beres had tried to accurately describe in line the shape/size/etc of each woman's breasts then there would be a quite different discussion. His use of uniform breast size/shape/etc leads us to believe that he knew exactly what he was doing.

It would be a shame if people weren't making such a big deal out of this.

Does this piece promote rumors? Does it tarnish reputations? I don't need Cornish to ensure that women are greater than the sum of their parts. This is where censorship speaks louder than the thing which it tries to censor. I need art to raise questions about subjects like feminism and racism and violence and the goings on in my city (art-wise or other).

What's more of a slippery slope?- Quantifying these women by Beres's goofy print, or Cornish absolving the implications by censoring it? It's a Censorship Paradox.
for the record, i'm not in the show. i was invited, but declined because i found the main premise of a show with all men to be laughable (having made the joke before: "when will men get a chance to do a show together?!") and the details to be far too blurry to even consider (is the *show* a curated response to Elles? are the individual works made *in* response--to a show that hadn't even opened yet? or is it about feminine *practices* in art, and what the fuck does that even mean?). without a clear idea of what the hell i was being invited to, i stayed away.

after a week of discussing all the finer points of content and context, censorship and harassment, victim blaming and myriad other moral outcry, my opinion on the matter of ben's smart print and it's removal from an art school remains: it's bullshit.
Yeah this "Ben Beres" guy is just being a plain old jerk. He is taking real people with great accomplishments and reducing them to 1 body part. This isn't art, it's just trolling disguised as art.
I'd like to add that I really dislike this whole recent trend of "I am going to intentionally do something to piss people off and call it art" that's been everywhere. The abortion artist person, the guy taking pictures of people in Apple stores without their permission, and now this.

If you're an artist, why not try intentionally making something that is beautiful? If you want to be a troll, just go on the internet.
CharlesF- the reduction of which you speak is Ben's comment on the very basic separation of sexes that continues into Elles. it is not an attack. clearly. also it is art. that's just as Ann as the nose on plain's face.
@12: I don't agree. I would categorize it instead as a visual essay or a philosophical essay or statement. He is not creating a beautiful artifact, he is trying to make a point about feminism as it relates to visual artists (in a way that I just so happen to find offensive).
@4/@6 -- your arrogance is astounding. The women who objected to having the piece in their workplace (whether you want to call it censorship, sexual harassment, or both) should be fired for not "understanding art"? Can you be any more patronizing or irrational?

The more this story unfolds the more I think Cornish did the right thing. There's a sort of mob mentality that's honestly way creepier than the breasts or depictions. That the women who came forward and requested the piece be removed from their workplace, have people like @4 calling for their termination, and other insults thrown at them on FB threads? Thanks Jen for calling that dude out publicly. Use of the word "pussy" in that sort of derogatory sense = semantics rooted in violence.

I still ask why artists I know in other cities don't have these sorts of things ever erupting/going viral in online networks etc. I'm referring to the excessive tagging and obsessive reinforcing, publishing city-wide who's who lists.. Honestly this sort of thing just perpetuates Seattle's isolation from broader art communities and/or others who may have something to offer. Recalling specifically past articles re: Seattle artists not represented at the Whitney et al...
CharlesF- i'll be the first to agree with you about the slippery slope that is commentary in art, but to say that a visual essay is *not* art is a silly as being the curator who thinks art *should* be challenging... a challenging visual essay is a viable option for artistic expression, and the piece rendered is one of art. it's 2012- everything is art, nothing is art, blah blah blah...
I'd like to interject that 8 out of the 10 artists responded directly to Elles, and have made beautiful work in doing so. I encourage everyone to see Ils Disent for themselves, because I feel it is important to the conversation to include all voices. In a lovely turnaround of influence, each of these men respond to the women artists who have shaped and inspired them. I personally cannot abide a future where the pendulum is forever swinging from one extreme to the other. Feminism is indeed a woman's issue, but it is a human problem. Going forward, voices need to speak and be heard, together. This show is an attempt to address that desire.

For the complexities of my response as not only an artist and a curator, but as a fellow woman and human being, I encourage all of you to read my comments on the previous SLOG entry about this issue. It has been no easy task to deal with this matter, and Facebook is an unreliable and incomplete measure of any one response.

Shaun @9: Thanks for letting me know you're not in the show, and I put in a correction; it should be reflected soon.
Wait- why are we talking about censorship and not consent?
my alma matter has done all sorts of stupid shit, this is just another item on that list.

is mrs.greer aware that she's the archetypal anal art chick?
Pretty simple case to me! Did the women give permission to the artist for him to use their names? If not, any person whose name is included in the art piece has a right to censor it. It doesn't matter if the names were matched to pictures of beautiful breasts, cocks,butts, faces or cartoon characters.
Pretty simple case to me! Did the women give the artist permission to use their names? If not, any woman whose name is included has a right to censor the art piece. It doesn't matter if the pictures are of breasts, cocks, faces, cartoon characteristics.

How is there even a discussion about this??
What if I illustrated Ben Beres enjoying sex with a goat? Would it be okay with him or anyone else if I put it in the lobby of his school or workplace?
Art, yes. But nasty art. I wonder what the censorship outrage would be if a woman artist produced a piece with actual mens' names with a drawing of a penis below each name. A limp penis, to echo the metaphor of sagging breasts.
I'd like to try and reiterate, expanded on and clarify some points I've made before on this issue. To me, this issue is barely about the content of the print by Ben Beres. Boobs or no boobs, the presence of the print in the 3rd floor lobby gallery mentioned staff and faculty by name in a manner they were not comfortable with. It is not up to me (or anyone else) to determine whether or not someone should or shouldn't take offense. Cornish, as an employer and institution, has a duty to offer a safe work environment for employees that respects their personal boundaries, without judgement. Same for students. If a student hangs artwork on campus that mentions another student in an unfavorable or offensive way, Cornish has a responsibility to protect that student. In my opinion, the responsibility to protect one person trumps the right for another to insult. Again, without judgement towards the insulted. To me, this is the issue. I appreciate Jen's questioning "that the print's removal is an implicit empowering of the two individual women who are standing out from the other 106?". Some will call it 'censorship' all the live-long day. Maybe so, but it's also something else. Censorship is an easy answer to a simple question. The answers to some of the more complex (and important) questions are, perhaps, not as straight-forward.
Cable Griffith, Curator
Cornish College of the Arts
To those complaining that Cornish committed censorship: Their only other choice was to tell these two female employees, "You don't want cartoons of your breasts on the wall in your workplace? Tough shit." Besides for being horribly insensitive it would violate laws against sexual harrassment. How would these women so outraged over "censorship" feel if their employer reacted that way if they had issues with sexist, racist, or homophobic things in the workplace? The outcry among women over this shows the hypocrasy of some feminists. They want for themselves a workplace free of anything that makes them uncomfortable yet turn around and bash these 2 women for not wanting caratures of their boobs hanging on the wall of where they work. You guys are jerks. What if Ben had made a print that glamorized rape or depicted Cornish professors who were "people of color" or gay in a way that seems racist or homophobic to some of the people depicted? Would all of you be defending that and telling the offended employees to get over it?
@19 So it's ok for everyone *else* involved to run endless circles around this?
@26, this is some nonsense:
"It really was an almost completely laid bare example of male privilege. I felt like Ben Beres was really intentionally exercising it. Like he was aware of it, and he is saying, 'Look, this is what I get to do as a man. I get to portray you like this without asking.'"

many being quoted sound worse than they could, but this gal just steals the show with her soapbox hyperbole.
Thank you @21. I had the same thought.

I've been quite troubled by the discussion since last week and attempted to write out my thoughts but was too angry at the time.

I cannot believe how people have made this controversy out to be more complicated than it is. But then again, censorship is a sexy topic, n'est pas?

It is simple. The women did not consent to having their names used, and if someone did not want their own name up on that piece, well…no is no. Remember the phrase?

No means no.

Two women laid down a boundary. We do not need to know the reasons why. And instead of celebrating the idea that they took a stand regarding their personal well being, in the name of free speech and art they are being called pussy and the conversation simply zones in on censorship of boobs or on whether or not there should be an all male response to the Elles exhibit. Good grief.

I do think Ben Beres created a brilliant piece. I also strongly believe freedom of expression comes with responsibility. As humans, we will bump up against each other simply by living. Sometimes we just step over boundaries. It happens. And I honestly believe that Beres meant no harm to the women he listed, yet in a way, was paying homage. But when someone complained (and the reason does not matter) about having their names used, that request needs to be honored. Otherwise those uncomfortable with their names on the piece are in some fashion getting violated simply by being strong enough to lay down a boundary.

And the public's response to the controversy is a perfect example of how all of us have the capacity to violate by whitewashing the request of the two women involved.

Over the weekend I imagined Ben taking the piece and simply wiping out the two names and renaming the boobs with "anonymous", which is definitely a historical component of women's art. That way he could still hang the work, and the women would also be comfortable.
@16 - What pendulum are you speaking of, specifically, that you cannot abide by?
Good intentions from Beres to Arnold notwithstanding, and Art doing what it does… of course it got pulled!

If I were to post, let's see... realistic tiny li'l dicks with *actual people's names* next to 'em, & not check in those people first… well, I'm sure they'd all be fine with it, right?
Any time someone responds with "the opposite of breasts is penises" is forgetting that breasts are sexualized, not sex organs. The opposite of this piece, if we are reducing this to women:men (christ! Again?!) would simply be nippled pecs.
This article is too long to read. But in short: there's a women-only show at SAM. Then a Cornish show men-only response to said women's only show. I'd say he nailed the brief. Exclusionary / reductive show themes === reductive art. Brilliant actually. Ben is a class A A hole, but that has nothing to do with this art piece ;)
The problem to me is simply that the artist (a perfect gentleman, by the way) doesn't fully understand the implications of the work he has created. It is the same age-old problem of men making art about women. If he had somehow managed to implicate his artistic self (with its default male identity) in the reductiveness of its vision the piece might have been successful. But seeing his oeuvre over the years - with its emphasis on Duchampian fart-jokes - makes me think he's not quite up to the task.
I'm sorry, but I can't muster up any sympathy for that poor, privileged white male. He represented women in an objectifying, dehumanizing way without their permission.

It all would have been okay (fun, even) if he had given a damn about their consent, but tellingly, he didn't. It isn't commentary on jack shit, it's an attack.
Great article.

Thank you especially for this:

"Of course, calling yourself a feminist is easy; what matters is how you act it out (obviously). So: We are all feminists here. Check. Next question: What does a feminist do?"

@34 The piece has various issues but in order to be an attack I wonder if there has to be an actual intent to objectify or dehumanize. From all accounts it sounds like there wasn't one. Doesn't diminish the right of those represented to their voice.

I wonder how, or if, this piece would have been different if it depicted 108 historically famous female artists. The same questions about gender and representation would stand but the focus would not have been so close to home, would not have entered the individual's specific workplace. Would it have presented as more of, or less of an objectification and/or commentary on Elles?
This wall of boob and text just makes me miss all the absolutely fantastic women that supported and guided my own art practice. This print is charged with names that work like spells on me, seriously talented and determined women. I am filled with love and appreciation at seeing the piece. Doesn't resolve it's reception in a broader sense and I would have to dwell on the idea of my name and a cartoon weiner likeness being used in a similar manner, AND ESPECIALLY IF THE ARTIST TROLLED MY NAME FROM A LIST WITHOUT KNOWING ME, but I guess that is a possible risk one takes when they HAVE an audience. I think I would have more issue with my name and work described incorrectly (materially or its intentions which has and happens all the time online) than I would with a bathroom stall tag that pushes me into a few pen strokes. Anyways, miss you ladies ;)
Oh yeah, it's Derrick Jefferies btw.

As a Man Artist, I cannot imagine making a piece like this- its just too creepy and adolescent. I realize artists get rich and famous by being creepy and adolescent- Chris Burden, Jeff Koons, et al, but really- how could you ever talk to a woman after you drew cartoon tits and put her name on em?
I sure couldnt.

More to the point, WHY would any of these artists ever talk to Ben Beres again? I mean, how can this not hover over any interchange?

I dont know Ben, maybe he is a really sweet, smart, cool guy- but I am sorry, if I was a woman, and he drew tits and put my name on em, I would consider him one step above, or maybe sideways from, a stalker.

Another possibility no one will like.

Graves says little about the art in Elles, which is odd as the Ils Disent show is supposed to consist of responses to it. Elles includes work in which artists with conventionally attractive (to the average male viewer, imho) bodies appear naked. Perhaps the bodies rather than the content of those works were what moved Beres the most, so he made a piece that presented many local female artists in that context as a comment on what he felt was a strength (or a weakness) of Elles. That is, he made a shorthand local version of it, or reviewed it in a piece of his own. His piece would then be about Elles, as called for by the curator, not about the artists whose names appear in the print.
Did I miss any mention of Judy Chicago's "Dinner Party" in this discussion?
While I detest using the word in a derogatory manner, I must say no one who has played in Death Cab For Cutie has any authority to use the word "pussy"
Judy Chicago. Dinner Party. Discuss please.
The bottom line is, If I showed up to work one day and there was a picture of a dick on the wall with my name under it, I would say "What the fuck is this?" It is my legal right to have my request for the piece to be removed honored.

That is the law. The problem and the reason the work was censored was the context of the piece and how it was shown in the workplace. It was not censored because of its content.

Honor the workplace. Wholeheartedly support and stand behind these two women for exercising their civil legal right to a safe and harassment free workplace.
If anyone thinks that I am in any way bigoted, racist, sexist, anti-Feminist, or unsympathetic to the women who were adversely affected by the presence of the piece in their workplace; they are not paying attention to what I am saying. Not only in response to the SLOG post and the Stranger article, but in the scope of my career. If Feminists need to demonstrate their beliefs through their work, I believe I have done so repeatedly, not only in my public advocacy of women's equality but in my curatorial practice, my writing, lectures I have given, and papers I have written.

I feel extremely misrepresented by this article on this issue - at the end of the day, how could I possibly want to infringe on the comfort of the women who felt harassed by this piece? Of course I could not. As a woman, I have stated publicly and privately, I understand the choice that Cornish has made. This issue is/has been incredibly complex. At the end of the day, let's not forget that there is an entire show to see outside of Ben Beres' piece. I'd love for you all to see it. Whether or not you agree with the premise of the show is of no interest; whether or not you have something to talk about after you see it, is.
Very, very good article Jen.

It is true that anger so often is directed at the women in such a controversy because it is societally easier and safer to direct it at the party with less power in the system as is evidenced by the Horse's Ass who actually imagines that one should be fired for pointing out that they would rather not be publicly ostracized and degraded in their workplace. After all, they are women and should be used to humiliation. Clearly they don't "understand" art (and you do?)

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.

This whole thing is sophomoric and really should not get this much attention except that some of the butthead things people are saying must not stand unaddressed. Not really much of a curatorial statement here except one more opportunity for Ms. Arnold to get attention and ingratiate herself in the great favor bank in in the sky in hopes of some future withdrawal.

I can't help but wonder why this curator, herself an artist of some potential, would waste her time with this when she could be working in her own studio? Women are no longer relegated to being salon hostesses promoting and discussing the work of men, so wouldn't it make more sense to make something of your own instead of endorsing this horseshit?
Why so testy?

I think one point the article makes is that the culture itself presumes a particular posture in all this. Saying you are a feminist does not make you one If you fail to question the presumption of the male viewing subject and the inherent violence and power politics of language.
If Beres, and how much of a "genius' can he be based on this, puts this image out there based on a cursory web surf as if he is somehow above all that man stuff casting a blind unconsidered eye to the fact that here he is, a "genius" male artist with a permanent fill time gig recognition gallery etc. Putting naughty scrawls of his coworkers breasts up at his place of work he is no feminist that is for sure. The curator could not be too aware of the lense of the culture and how it plays a part in her choices
All of Judy Chicago's subjects were dead, if I remember right, except O'Keefe, who did not much like The Dinner Party. But,you know, Chicago being a woman makes it all okay. No male gaze involved.
What is in question is not whether Arnold supports the decision Cornish made but why she puts this dumb piece in at all.
As one of the artists portrayed, I was a lot more offended when I thought I WASN'T included than when I found out I was. Like all of his work, Ben uses humour & creativity to make a point. And he did it again, & also hopefully a lot more people might hear about & attend the show, though I doubt that was his or Sharon's intent.
And yes, to restate the obvious, had he drawn it w/ penises it probably would have been pulled/censored even faster. Rather, odds are it then would not have been included in the first place, in order to be pulled. But does that make the censorship right?
With all this grey & rain, this town needs to lighten up! Thanks for another laugh, Ben...
Harassment is not protected speech.
@50 "I was a lot more offended when I thought I WASN'T included than when I found out I was"...

This underscores a fascinating dynamic I've observed of all these women cloying to be included in the print, which as we all know is made by a recognized male artist... Who is this dude and why are all these women holding their breath waiting for him to validate their identities as artists?

What the fuck ever, I acknowledge myself, I own myself. My accomplishments are mine and they stand whether some dude recognizes them or not.

Goes back to what I was saying about the broader community and reinforcements... really these who's who lists are a bit unhealthy for the whole when considered from a broader perspective and are bizarrely insular when viewed beyond Seattle.
I support Ben and this piece, while recognizing its potential for offense. Since the work HAS caused offense and the organization responsible took steps to respond to concerns, that matter seems beyond debate. Yes, let's support the those offended sincerely, but let's also recognize that, if nothing else, Ben was attempting to pay homage to the esteemed women artists in this town. We may hold varying opinions, as seemingly evident, but if discourse, honest and intelligent thoughts on the complexities of gender relations and privilege, is the product of this work, then it seems to me that the piece is necessary. The work is successful, not in a superficial way, but in revealing some deep emotions and projections folks have on the matter. The eloquence of Mandy, Britta, Jen, Sharon, and others are a testament to the strength of the art community to elevate conversations about art and its potential to relevance and regard. It's fine to dismiss and say nasty stuff but let's at least try to do better.
Dear Ms. Arnold,

"personally, I'm struggling with it being actual, literal, sexual harassment in any context."

That is a quote from your facebook page. You wrote that November 8th. It is directly under the quote Ms. Graves pulled from Mr. Schorr calling the employees of Cornish who are at the heart of this issue "Pussies." A comment that as Ms. Graves notes you "liked" on facebook and have not in the interim "unliked." So when you say you are not "unsympathetic to the women who were adversely affected by the presence of the piece in their workplace." It seems a bit disingenuous.

Mallery Avidon
(because anonymity is boring but I don't want to change my settings for this thing)

I sense the need for Cornish to have an intra-campus discussion on the topic of Ethics in Art: Legal and Moral. Is all campus office space intended and available for use as exhibition, gallery, and performance space? The expectations of visitors to administrative spaces could be assumed to be quite different from the expectations of knowingly entering a gallery space. If all these spaces are used for exhibition, consider the consequences of visitors to Cornish office areas being "ambushed" by a guerrilla-theatre performance troupe. The absence of "reasonable expectation" resulting in psychological shock could induce a heart attack on the unsuspecting visitor. Is it art? Sure, but is it unreasonable and potentially actionable by the unprepared recipient of the effects of the art? Maybe. Perhaps it is reasonable if a conspicuous warning poster is positioned at all points of campus access: "Danger! All forms of art––shocking, offensive, aesthetically pleasing––may be in progress at any time or place on this campus. Consider yourself warned. You are Inspector Clouseau, and we are Cato Fong."

And don't forget the multi-lingual warning audio loop and Braiile embossment on the floors of entrances, and signed waivers from all who wish to enter the campus.
@55 I recognize you as a troll, but this isn't about art, censorship, feminism, or any complex topic like that.

It's just about one man being an asshole in the conext of his profession, and an insitution's choice of whether or not to stand behind his behavior.
@54: you are taking a piece of a larger comment out of context so this is a non-comment. *one* comment on Facebook is not at all an accurate measure of the larger response a person has. My "actions" as a Feminist are quite public, including papers, lecture series, and lest we forget, Red Current - a survey of contemporary Seattle artists, all who were women, the point of the show being that artists were presented first as artists and the discovery that they were women second. It was important for me as an artist to present women this way, but I have already explained this in another comment elsewhere.

Hitchcock: I believe I address my support in my comment right before yours. Cornish did what it had to do to protect its employees' sense of safety. How could I possibly argue against that? I would want the same, if I were them. The larger decision of whether to pull the piece was not one I felt I could make as the curator. I was too fascinated by the questions and conversation the piece raised.

My studio practice is quite healthy, thank you for the compliment - truly. But why do I curate? Because I am compelled to do so. I find joy in asking questions, drawing lines between artists, presenting new as well as established people, and investigation/conversation. For me it's an extension of my studio practice. Also, I am starting a gallery to continue this practice. Why? Because recently I’ve come to understand better the importance of having a free, public space for us to experience the contemporary art in our city and rather than witness its demise (in light of several gallery closings), I want to help facilitate its revival.

Have you ever written a check for an artist? I have. It's the most gratifying experience, ever.
Cornish did absolutely the right thing in removing the piece. It is ridiculous that people are trying to pull the "censorship" card here.

If members of your community are made uncomfortable by seeing their names next to implied depictions of their naked bodies, it is absolutely the right thing to remove that depiction.

Actual feminists trust and respect that women tell the truth about feeling threatened or uncomfortable in their workplaces and affirm that women have a right to react according to their own feelings. The, "I'm not offended, so you shouldn't be offended"-line is incredibly anti-feminist. And yeah: "pussies" as an insult is hate speech.
@59, I agree. One more thing.

It is dangerous to limit what is offensive to only certain circumstances. It does not matter if the image was a pair of boobs or a flower. We all have different triggers due to unique lives lived and therefore different boundaries. One is not more valid than another and therefore the reason for consent should not be judged.

Yes, as you said (and I also agree) we may not understand another's boundaries but they damned well need to be respected once made clear. The women were not given the opportunity to give or pull their consent.

In addition I do not believe this is harassment because I do not believe there was an intent to harass. I think this was simply a case of stepping into a mess. In our age of social media I've watched boundaries get muddled. As we quickly share information, we've come to assume it is okay to grab and pass.

But…as I wrote to Jen in an email yesterday:

"Art is glorious and we can do so much.  But I still believe we have a personal responsibility as humans to each other and so creating freely with the intent of public exhibit and/or sales is a balancing act."

Marie Gagnon
Looks like something the weird boy with greasy hair who picked his nose and sat in the back of class doodled in his notebook during 6th grade history class.
Duchampian fart jokes ARE more generally popular than Judy Chicago's Dinner Party. The latter was a collaboration that managed to alienate many of the woman artists involved, in part because JC allegedly was a totalitarian who showed no sense of humor. I appreciate a Beres sense of humor; it hints at sophistication and makes light of the sacrosanct, in a white bad boy way we have all adjusted to by now, in order to survive Western Civilization. A real collaboration WITH the women involved would have been interesting, maybe titillating for all.
But in the current climate, I vote for a hassle-free workplace.
Excellent article Jen Graves, you are a civic treasure. Thanks for digging deep into the complexity of this and for leading the public conversation.

I'm also overjoyed to live in a city where a female art critic can publicly say "fuck you" when when she hears anti-woman hate speech. (Actually, that's not a tribute to this city as much as it's a tribute to the courage of said art critic.)

If we want to preserve a "protected" space for art while also recognizing that art can't claim both to have a meaningful impact on the world and also be free of any portion of responsibility/accountability for those impacts, we need a nuanced range of responses to art and its impacts. Saying, "In my work place? Not so much..." is another response, a fair and good and just one, and is different than censorship. That women have enough personal and social power now that they can be successful in those kind of actions is deeply encouraging to me.

@59, @44 Yes. Thank you.

@60 There doesn't have to be "intent" for it to have been harassment.

Another note:
The thought experiment "what if it were men's names and pictures of penises" fails, because the socio-historic relationship between a man and his sexual parts is VERY DIFFERENT from the relationship between a woman and her sexual parts. Not quite inverse, but nearly. A man's male body is not the location of and historic justification for and symbolic repository of everything used to oppress, control, silence and diminish him. He is not vulnerable in nearly the same way.
This is news in the Seattle art scene? Who gives a shit. Seattle's art scene is . . . .

Grow a pair and do something relevant again "pussies." Wah wah wah
@59, 62, 63, 64 YES!!!!!! I am SO GLAD this conversation got so much richer-- it's thanks to your article Jen. (Incidentally, your "Fuck you" to the liberated enlightened "feminist" calling us pussies made you my hero.)
I think in discussing this we need to define employment from the perspective of an employee. Obviously every person is an individual and each person will have vastly different inner and emotional responses to the same object/experience. Art couldn't "push" boundaries or even be interesting if we didn't all have such diverse responses to art and to the world. The thing about employment is that our ability to support ourselves, our families, and even our art depends upon our employment. If a piece of artwork has the ability to effect someone's job performance, to hurt them in their place of employment then i believe it needs to be removed. There is simply too much at stake for those individuals who are hurt. This doesn't reflect on the art or the artist or even those who respond with discomfort to the art. It reflects on the tremendous power that employers have over their employee that extends even to their employee's families and loved ones. I respect this. I don't want to persecute or judge those that experience discomfort in response to the art. They are individuals and entitled to have unique experiences. i know what it is like to fear for your job, to be mistreated by your employer and i won't ever judge someone for speaking up about discomfort in their workplace. In fact i celebrate employer's that have the insight to recognize the power they have over their employees and to take action not to hurt them. -Karre
Don't we all find that dissent an integral component of good conversation, the foundation upon which the most interesting and constructive 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. This show has presented an opportunity for a multitude of people to ask really hard questions - not only of myself and of Cornish; but of the artists and of our society about what is and is not acceptable. I have welcomed each and every one of these conversations and questions because in a sense I feel it is my responsibility to engage in them as the curator who presented them. Agree with me on the premise or not - you have to admit that you are glad to be airing out all of this information. I know I am.
The real question raised by this is whether Beres is behind the SPRING BREAK saggy boob tags that were all over Seattle. The resemblance is uncanny.
Well Kids this suggests to me that our dear little planet has become overcrowded.
Seattle's liberal arts community harbours some fascism?
Art is not motel furniture?
Is art a weapon?
"Dont get your tits in a ringer." Seems to me some sort of calming voice might unfurrow the creative brow, but that would not be my voice.
Clearly the Seattle art scene is too crowded. There have in the past been brief moments of solidarity, but now name-naming and mudslinging.... mayhaps some nice little titties would cheer things up! No? Mayhaps some bloodletting can finally unfurrow the brow. Yesssss!
Feminists are anti everybody and, for my money, humanists are just too fucking nice to break the eggs necessary to make the art omelette that is "not furniture." But let us not underestimate the role of the deadly "humorist."
Art IS a weapon, lets 'bust' a couple heads with it. The sensitive groups are the low hanging fruits? Hey look at the melons on that peach!
Had enough pun ishment? Learn to play nice!!!
Duke Ellington said: "Art is dangerous." I hope to agree.

V V V V V V V V V V V V V V V V v V V

Drawing of vulvas or Pilates class? You decide.
My gut response to this is as follows:

"Wah wah, another cisgendered dude makes a 'provocative' piece and gets called out for being a shithead, then whines up a storm about it, wah wah."

I am so completely thrilled to no longer be an Artist by any definable metric in this town. This is the stupidest controversy in the history of stupid controversies. People are hungry, and beaten, and homeless, and forgotten. You should all be ashamed of yourselves.
^ Bingo.
Is it worth asking all the men involved in this conversation for permission to make a poster with imagined or just stereotyped depictions of their genitalia with their names attached? And, when you think about that please tell us how you think it would feel to see such a poster which was displayed either with or without your consent. thanks, and, Please, sign up.
=>3 ^3
ben ben
beres beres

(these are the best penis emoticons I could come up with, sorry)
asl;dfow;eifn;aowfinodinc c.,f;asfids--over
my wife, my daughter, and my girlfriend are all outraged that they were not included in this wonderful expression of femininity. Where are the applications for participation? Will there be addendum editions? How much of a contribution has to be made to correct the grievous omissions? With all the much lauded artistic talent in this burg, why can't an artist with real talent be hired to do a decent rendition of breasts?
Honestly this piece seems immature like that of a prepubescent boy giggling and sketching something on the middle school bathroom wall. I'm all for "pushing boundaries" and breaking the rules, however when you are already in the dominant group you have no right to reduce artists that most likely have devoted their life to getting their art seen, simply to body parts. The piece is tacky and disrespectful. I realize some of the artists included in this piece don't mind it, but perhaps they never have experienced fully what it is like to be targeted because of your gender and discriminated against first hand. Because, let's face it, some women, nowadays are lucky and perhaps don't ever experience how painful it is to be discriminated against and treated differently because you are a woman. I find the idea of this piece snickering and throwing punches and I'm proud of the teachers who came forward to have it removed from the school.
@81: I'm on that piece. I'm the curator of the show. Initially, my kneejerk reaction was in response to being the curator of the show and in that piece. In that moment, I realised it was subversive; Pollock pissing in Peggy Guggenheim's fireplace.

Please do not make assumptions about the women who are "represented" who don't mind - in the same way that I will not draw assumptions about the women or persons who object to the piece (and yes they are allowed to, of course!); I do not feel it's appropriate for anyone to draw assumptions about the rest of us.

I worked in an extremely male-dominated industry for 16 years, in Seattle and NYC. I'd be hard pressed to find the level of rampant discrimination, sexism, and harassment I endured in that industry, in New York, anywhere near Seattle. That discrimination was at such a level that I literally had to work twice as hard for less than my male counterparts and fight every step of the way. I know very well what exists out there. I'm sure I'm not alone.

Every woman has a scale by which she measures her interactions in the world every day. We are all approached by men, hit on, proposed to, joked with, and generally buffeted from all sides not only from individuals but from industries and ads and even our own kind. BUT. It is not up to any of us to determine whether or not that scale is calibrated "accurately". This piece has brought to light the fact that we are often inclined to do just that.

THAT. is also interesting.

I can only hope - and noone else has actually brought this up - that those individuals who objected to the piece in their workplace are getting through this storm ok, because in a way this thing blowing up may have made things even worse for them.

Still, at the end of the day, to jump on the right or wrong of this piece is also a misguided attack. The location of the piece, not its content, are a larger part of this debate than its intent or its portrayal. If this had been in a gallery, not someone's workplace, the weight it would have carried would have been vastly different.
I'll say one thing for this piece, it's certainly flushed out everyone who is happy to deride sexually harassed women in the interest of getting more attention for an already-famous artist. Brilliant trolling, Ben Beres.
“To oppose something is to maintain it... You must go somewhere else; you must have another goal; then you walk a different road.” Ursula K. Le Guin

@75, thanks. As I read this largely self-indulgent, pontificating, quasi-philosophical thread, one thought just keeps coming to my mind: This is soooo stupid.
mtnlion: I agree, and I think that the one thing that was really missing from this discussion was someone stopping by exclusively to declare the discussion to be "soooo stupid". Your input, and the input of seanmichaelhurley, truly made this comment thread worthwhile. Thank you for sharing your wit, wisdom and keen insight with us all, and for making both Slog and the art world as a whole a better place.
First off, the comment about PEOPLE being pussies was just that, about ANY person offended by this being a pussy. Man or woman, and not targeted specifically at the two women who objected. So clearly your entire problem is with that word, no matter what context it's being used in, because almost every single comment has not referenced it in the actual manner it was used. Where would your outrage over "hate speech" be if he called "people who object to this are wimps"?

I agree that the item should be pulled if women who worked there felt uncomfortable with it. I also feel then that it is a place that absolutely should not be used for shows. Find suitable artwork, buy it, put it up as permanent displays, just like a real business in the real world does, so that neither customers nor workers are offended. Was it insensitive to display the piece where these two women work, sure. Was it harassment? No. As one person pointed out, they could have been offended by anything put up with their name attached, such as a daisy, which still makes it insensitive but not harassment.

Lastly, the amount of people on here whining about people having their names used without permission is laughable.
Really? Does anybody ask a President for permission before drawing a caricature of him in the daily newspaper? Donald Trump before a "humorous" drawing of his hair as a badger? No? I guess all paintings of historical figures must stop, since by being dead you can't ask them for permission. Are the women on the art not artists? Have they not had public works shown and their name talked about in polite conversations under pink florescent lights while folks sip fancy cocktails? Are they not recognized within the community at large? Then yes they are public figures, especially when it concerns art about them as artists. Nobody should feel the need to ask them permission to be in an art piece about them and their place as artists. Again though, said piece should be removed from a place they work at if it makes them uncomfortable. It doesn't give them the right to ask for it to be taken down from some random gallery or place a burqa over their name and caricature boobs while on display in same random gallery.

Also, Charles, just because you see the art one way doesn't mean that is the only, or even correct way for it to be seen. If you were any kind of artist you would know this.
@86 mtnlion & @87 Scalpel: I agree--it IS soooo stupid.
This whole ridiculously overblown "debate" has a particularly nasty
far-right wingnut extremist stench to it.

Maybe someone should switch the images of breasts to Rush Limbaugh's 216 rolls of fat. Now, THAT'S offensive!
It seems to me that the women in the female only art show, choosing to participate publicly in a show that focused so much on their gender, should understand when a response piece points out the reduction of their work to their gender (which is how I understood the piece).

That being said, it is their workplace, and they should have every right to request it be removed (and, upon request, SHOULD be removed or censored from their workplace, because it is their workplace). But given the circumstances, I don't think any of them SHOULD have requested it. Even if it offended them.

Basically, Cornish was right to respond to the complaints as they did, Beres was right to make the piece, but the two women were wrong to request it be removed. I don't mean that as a "blame the victim" type thing, I mean that as a "they put themselves out as artists reduced to their gender, so somebody pointing that out in a response piece shouldn't have them pulling administration in to silence it."
I agree with feeling uncomfortable about 'telling anyone else what to think' etc statements. I too feel a bit confused as to how I feel on this topic. Overall I think it should not have been removed. Same time- it raises the discussion as to what we censor to what level simply because it offends or makes some one uncomfortable. We had to break those barriers with much of our media and art in my experience typically had the fewest when it came to nudity, offensive or vulger imagery etc.
Many forms of art or self expression are offensive to many people. Hell- election time campaigns enraged me half the time, but its within everyones rights to represent themselves. Would I allow my name or face to be on an anti gay marriage campain or below a hand drawn picture of tits? Is one better or worse? Again this is different for every person.
Living in this world trying to coexhist peacefully we are faced with these dilemas judgement, agrivation, pain, joy, agreement, disagreement in reaction to all that comes are way. I find it a good excercise regaurdless.
And it seems as though too often these days the topic comes to blows on either side and is simply a battle of opinions. If I go to church and feel bothered by something one says, well that was my choice to be there. It is unfortunate that my experienced differed. But that's life and unless we censor everything that starts bothering everyone or being "WRONG" well there would be nothing left.
Art galleries are a great example of entering an experience that may have many different outcomes. Good and bad. I'd like to assume most of us attend hoping for good. If that wasn't the result of this peice again, unfortunate. I am self concious about my breasts to a large degree and may also have felt uncomfortable. However, some may have related, enjoyed, or simply been inspired by the peice. It's removal has obviously gained more attention than it may have got at the gallery without the controversy but that's not the point. The point is we all get to express ourselves. Inculding the guy who called those women "pussies", and the article's author who told him to "fuck off" for it. One in the same, now a battle. Let's enjoy this world and try to get along. Or revel in the disagreement and your heavy stance on issues. (really not sarcastic) Keep it all tied in.
all is one
"our" not are and many others- bleh i quickly typed, edited had to make an acount to post and my edits apparently weren't updated in the post. I'm only initially a complete moron. Never the less you get it...
@82 I realized after I wrote that that I was indeed making assumptions - and you are right that is the point, that I shouldn't make assumptions about who was ok with the piece and who isn't - point is it is bringing up some good topics for discussion so in that case it is successful. Also I agree with you that the larger debate is the appropriateness of where and when to show the piece. Me personally I find the piece mocking and painful. But as someone who has also made subversive art I understand the intent behind it. It's hard for me to separate my personal feelings however because I have experienced extreme discrimination as a designer/artist for being a woman to the point where it has negatively impacted me on a deep level. That being said, overall I find the whole idea of the show a little backwards. No offense intended, you are entitled to your opinion and to curate as you wish as am entitled to mine. But what is the point of giving the already dominant group a show like this? The point of the feminist show at the SAM is to give voice to woman who throughout history have been excluded from everything, including the art world. If you study art history, rarely do you learn about woman artists, not because they weren't making art, but because they have classically been excluded from being shown. Perhaps times have changed a bit but I don't think they've changed on such a massive level to then start reducing artists simply to their breasts. Seems highly disrespectful. I just don't get the irony. However to end on a positive note, kudos for taking the time to read the comments and make a personal response.
@ 57
What a punk!

A troll would post incendiary stuff to deliberately cause needless controversy for its own sake. That is NOT the point of my post. I asserted that it would be worthwhile for the Cornish community to have an INTRA-CAMPUS discussion about where on the campus art should be exhibited or performed, and in what context it would be reasonably expected. If you consider that to be "trolling", you are definitely in the wrong fucking thread.

(continued from above as I found some interesting articles to share on this topic for those who wish to ponder it more google: women excluded from art history)

"For the most part, however, traditional art history has systematically excluded or masked women’s participation in the visual arts." From: Women in Visual Art - Oxford Art Online

(and sadly it isn't just the visual arts.)

I don't find that funny, in fact, it pisses me off on a very large level. Sometimes I think people think it's ok to take stabs at topics like these, because they think it's ok for the topic to be "re-claimed" and that the particular culture or social issue is resolved, when in fact, the person is only naive to the fact of how deeply painful these topics still are for some and that they are actually indeed, a very real problem. Along the same line, recent occurrences of cultural appropriation by Victoria Secret of Native American headdresses, or Gwen Stefani music video including Native American depictions. The reason why this is wrong, is that neither of these entities are a part of this culture, which is still around, but just repressed, therefore it is not their topic to represent. So like that, to make a male response, to the feminist exhibit at the SAM, and then include pieces depicting women in this manner is wrong, because it is not this male artist's right to do this. You may feel as though Seattle is more of a safe zone compared to New York City, after all it is a progressive area, but dig in deep and you'll find sexism alive and well in many aspects of this town.
@84 you got it. let us go there. thanks. please friend me.I would like to continue this conversation..
Just wanna say "thanks" to Cable, Jen and everybody else who's approached this subject reasonably and with some degree of sensitivity. The only real issue here, so far as I can see, is that two women, unsurprisingly, didn't want a crude cartoon of saggy boobs attached to their names in the lobby of their friggin' workplace! How hard can it possibly be to grasp that, in this context, Beres' piece might constitute an invasive, thoughtless and rather creepy form of sexual harassment - regardless of artistic intent?

I can't believe that any compassionate and even semi-progressive adult would downplay that in favor of the opportunity to cry "censorship!". The piece isn't being scrubbed from the world. The artist isn't being legally censured. Cornish has merely decided that this venue isn't appropriate for this particular piece - which, come on, is patently obvious. They're right. Their employees deserve at least that much consideration.

It's a cheap rhetorical device, but if you disagree, I want you to imagine your mom, sister or daughter being asked to endure a piece of art consisting of just their name accompanied by of a crude rendering of a vagina (just to up the stakes a little) every morning when they show up at work. Art should be free to express itself, sure, but at the same time, men need to be a hell of a lot more aware of the world they create in flexing their privilege.
Just wanna say "thanks" to Cable, Jen and everybody else who's approached this subject reasonably and with some degree of sensitivity. The only real issue here, so far as I can see, is that two women, unsurprisingly, didn't want a crude cartoon of saggy boobs attached to their names in the lobby of their friggin' workplace. How hard can it possibly be to grasp that, in this context, Beres' piece might constitute an invasive, thoughtless and rather creepy form of sexual harassment - regardless of artistic intent?

I can't believe that any compassionate and even semi-progressive adult would downplay that in favor of the easy opportunity to cry "censorship!". The piece isn't being scrubbed from the world. The artist isn't being legally censured. Cornish has merely decided that this venue isn't appropriate for this particular piece - which, come on, is patently obvious. They're right. Their employees deserve at least that much consideration.

It's a cheap rhetorical device, but if you disagree, I want you to imagine your mom, sister or daughter being asked to endure a piece of art consisting of just their name accompanied by of a crude rendering of a vagina (just to up the stakes a little) in the lobby every morning when they show up at work. Art should be free to express itself, sure, but at the same time, men need to be a hell of a lot more aware of the world they create in flexing their unearned privilege.
At the core of the argument is the question: "Whose world is it?" A line drawing of female breasts repeated hundreds of times with the names of prominent artists underneath each rendering is surely offensive, and, I dare say, hostile, because it reduces those artists to pairs of breasts. They are not pairs of breasts, they are humans, artists, members of complex communities. No one would even think to make a comparable piece with penises. Should it be censored? Certainly not. Should it be honestly assessed as an expression of our condition? Yes.
@87, you're welcome!
There are two issues here: (1) the piece itself and its merits, and (2) it's place of display.

The first issue: as to the piece itself, it's the artist's right to make it as s/he sees fit. This piece says a lot about how Beres sees women, artists, and women who are artists. Our reaction to it says a lot about us. Sounds just about how it should be.

As to the second issue: Cornish, while being an art school full of ideas and learning, is also a workplace. Thinking that it's a neutral space is a mistake. The people who work there have actual real legal rights to a harassment-free workplace. The piece has every right to be displayed - just not at Cornish.

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