Do Unnatural Acts have a Place in The arts?

Nude Drawing

Nude Drawing by Hitler

This echoes an age-old conundrum from the world of art. Can you value work produced by someone whose private life and acts you find appalling? Do the proclivities of those responsible for artistic or intellectual works have to be taken into account in their appreciation?
BBC NEWS | Magazine | Can the art of a paedophile be celebrated?:

I don’t know the answer to this, it’s something I’ve pondered at length over the years. This article starts with the debate over whether to ban textbooks written by a paedophile and examine other controversial works by reprehensible artists. this is an eternal question in the arts, part of what we are drawn to is the mystique and danger of these renegade artists, but when is it too much? when does it step beyond mystique to horrifying – and does the art itself change with the knowledge of the depravities that artists or capable of?

it’s been said that one of the marks of genius is unnatural sex drives, I can’t help but think of this when I consider these cases. it isn’t an excuse but I do think it might be a ..symptom, I guess. I think there is something in creative drives that can cause an instability that can easily slip over. for some artists it’s merely a depression or frustration and for others it can lead to horrible acts, violence and even murder. again, this is not an excuse for the acts that many artists have committed over the years (Hirst’s for the love of God not withstanding). Hitler was actually an accomplished artist, and Caravaggio was an accomplished murderer. I try to divorce my feelings about the artist and their lives from the works. It’s very difficult sometimes (especially with Hirst), but I think individual works need to be taken on their own merits and not upon the artist’s. critically anyway, individually I do admit to a very unartistic squeamishness.

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4 thoughts on “Do Unnatural Acts have a Place in The arts?

  1. There’s been a similar debate about using the results from unethical scientific experiments – from information gained during the atrocities the Nazis committed with their “experiments”, we know people lost at sea should be extricated lying flat rather than being pulled out vertically.

    It’s a slightly different principle with art – the above altered rescue technique resulted in fewer deaths – but I don’t believe something should be disregarded simply because of its source. I’m oversimplifying it horrendously, I know, but you get the drift …

  2. I think people are frightened to attribute any value to the works of horrible people, especially when those works are partly the product of their horrible act, because it feels like you’re acknowledging that the end in some way justified the means, or that you’re memorialising someone who should be struck from the record.
    I disagree with both of these stances:
    In the first instance, I reserve the right to apprecite the inherent value in something that has it, despite its origins or its price. I love present-day Australian society and the works of Lewis Carroll. This does not mean I condone Carroll’s probable paedophelia nor that I think there was anything justified about the systematic obliteration of the aboriginal society by european settlers.
    As for the other line; striking out the record of atrocity and evil is a powerfully evil thing to do in itself. You can only learn from mistakes you remember. Examination of Hitler’s art is a wonderful thing if it helps us to remember and fully understand what Hitler was, and thus more easily recognise the next one.

  3. …and I have to add, in direct reaction to the post title, Jennie: I’ve seen you dance to closer. Trent Reznor’s art is all about unnatural acts, and it’s some of my favourite. ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. ๐Ÿ˜† I like to think that my unnatural tendencies mean something about me as an artist – just conceit I guess but hey, we all need a hobby ๐Ÿ˜‰ a lot of my favorite artists were delightfully devious!

    I think you are both right though, being able to learn from the things they left us helps us to understand and possibly prevent further tragedies from occurring. if these discoveries can help save lives then at least some good has come out as well. it doesn’t mitigate the issue, but it does assist our understanding and in some small way stick it to them. that’s the way I think about it at least.

    it’s easier to think of these people as sub human but I think it is important to remember that these atrocities came from real people. by acknowledging their works we are acknowledging that they were human beings who went wrong somewhere along the way. if we can learn about that and learn where and why they snapped, the value could be far reaching. not to the people they harmed, but maybe to prevent others from sharing their fate.

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