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(en) France, Alternative Libertaire AL #281 - Violence: Art or pigs ? (fr, it, pt) [machine translation]

Date Fri, 6 Apr 2018 08:00:46 +0300

Awareness of the violence suffered by women (mainly in their professional environment) has started in recent months. Since the actresses dared to raise the silence on Weinstein, the women have denounced sexist acts of violence, harassment, aggression on the part of public figures including a good number of artists. What to do with pigs and their works ? ---- The place of works and their authors in public, cultural or educational spheres is a debate that remains legitimate beyond the hiding place of freedom of expression. Indeed, how can we fight violence against women, against sexism and more broadly against patriarchy, and at the same time assume works that make these oppressions models ? Do we need " the past to make a clean sweep " ?

No forgiveness, no forgetting

These questions resurface with each new case, each new appearance, diffusion, defense of a sexist work, or whose author committed a sexist crime. We will try to develop here certain possibilities of answers. Many male actors and personalities in the arts have engaged in sexist behavior, violence, harassment and aggression against women. Some have been fired from projects they had underway, some have been sentenced and others are being whitened as default.

Should we then systematically boycott all artists who have or have had violent behavior towards women ? So useful that a boycott is, the steadily growing size of the list makes the task difficult ; but it remains intolerable that those men who have broken the lives of women can benefit from impunity. This would amount to legitimizing these behaviors. So what to do ?

Can one dissociate the man from his art, works in which he participated ? Or should we outright forbid the diffusion of the works of these artists ?

It is not a question of restoring censorship. But we can not agree to protect by freedom of expression, those who by their behavior and practices alienate life, the freedom of women. In addition, a work exceeds its author: one can despise the artist and recognize an interest in the work.

John Waterhouse's painting Hylias and Nymphs (1896) was taken from the Manchester Gallery by artist Sonia Boyce as she represents a man among six nude women.
Is destruction creation ?
The most pragmatic seems to simply refuse to be posed as models, heroes or innovators to be honored, whether by a festival selection, a magazine or a retrospective. The question is a little different when the work itself is the problem. Certainly the vast majority of works are sexist: a work is the product of its time, of the society in which it was thought. But some are more violent than others. A uniform treatment of the question seems impossible to us, case by case is necessary.

Take the example of the rewrite of the end of Bizet's opera Carmen for the public of Florence. The original libretto illustrates the violence of the male domination and proposes for end a feminicide: the heroine, a free woman, is killed by Don Jose, a lover whose Carmen no longer wants. The director thought that in the current context of liberating women's words about the violence they endure, it would be: " inconceivable that we applaud the murder of one of them ".In this new version Carmen kills Don José in a state of self-defense, facing his violent insistence. Message: Carmen remains free, and has the strength to defend herself, she can get by on her own. Rewritings are common but is the solution to rewrite all the parts that have violent passages ?

In England, a woman stands against Sleeping Beauty and wants to ban the story in schools. Belle is immersed in a 100-year-old sleep and is kissed by the prince. Physically, she can not give her consent. This tale traditionally read to children shows and normalizes, even idealizes, violent sexual behavior. It reproduces the culture of rape. According to Bettelheim, this tale serves as a training for the life of a woman: the rules are a curse from which a withdrawal into oneself ; while the prince is turned towards the world and can fight. Through these tales, gendered models are portrayed to children. To fight against sexism, would it not be to read other tales which would make it possible to be constructed differently ?

At the Manchester Gallery, Sonia Boyce performed a performance to question the image and representation of women: she removed a painting representing a man in the middle of six naked women, exposed in a room named, to crown it, " Search for Beauty ", where are hung only paintings painted by men representing women's bodies. In the place of the painting is a note that explains the approach of the performer.

The director of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam undertook in 2015 to rid, if possible with prior agreement of the artists, the names of works of 23 discriminatory words (sexist, racist) according to complaints from visitors ( " negro ", " dwarf "). " Wild ", etc.). If she renames these works, the director does not erase history because the names given by collectors will remain in the database and those given by the artist will be mentioned above the new name.

Contextualize the Works
Our current sexist society still has some way to go, and our story is one of successive struggles against discrimination. Knowing these possible struggles has allowed us to move forward. So erasing, modifying, or prohibiting these works would not have the detrimental effect of erasing the existence of the possibility of struggle ? To make society believe that male domination and patriarchy would have totally and permanently disappeared. If it seems absurd to judge the works of yesterday according to today's socio-political criteria, it is necessary to draw up a critique of values and that everyone can understand it. By means of education, explanatory notes at the beginning of a book, a film, an exhibition ... to contextualize the works but also to make known the struggles that made it possible to go beyond what they convey.

AL Alsace

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