Faster Family Art Factory, Jill Is Great, Collection of Spinster HQ, Gift of the Faster Nieces, 2010. The idea is legitimized by the frame!
When rape apologists and misogynist pervs defend their crap-ass pornography as art, I say let’em. Well, first I say fuck’em, because they’re sociopaths. But then I say let’em. Let’em have that splintery old bone of contention. So what if Paddy the Pornographer calls his deviantART voyeurfest “art”? What’s the big whoop? Fine, it’s art already. You’re still a fucking perv exploiter motherfucker.
That’s right, I’m saying pornography is art. Take a Xanax. It’s not like art is God or something. The way I see it, art has no problem sinking to the level of pornography.
Now that that’s out of the way, we can get down to the business of radical feminist critique of that shit. We can get on with the case against art of violence, art of oppression, art of human suffering, art of titillation. If pornographers don’t have to defend pornography as art, we can force’em to defend it as good art. Which is of course impossible! Good art is informed by Truth ‘n’ Beauty, not by violence, oppression, human suffering, and titillation.
A feminist critique of art calls for a demystification of the academic canon of Great Dude Masters Through the Ages anyway, and of the creative process in general. Get Art down off its high horse. Give women and people of color their due. Legitimize once and for all those traditionally undervalued, non-white-dude art forms: pottery, tapestry, embroidery, quilting, illuminated manuscripts, potholders made out of poodle hair on Etsy.
Art, art, art. Art isn’t holy. It doesn’t float on gossamer truth-wings in a rarefied aether of absolute beauty. Art is merely the graphic representation of ideas, presented from a point of view. Good ideas, bad ideas, medium ideas, ideas that other people have had already, ideas that initially seem clever but get kind of old once the novelty wears off, startling ideas, political ideas, glorious ideas, ideas that fucking stink.
A few ideas typical of those that find their way into art:
God Can Kick Your Ass
War Is Bad
Flowers Are Pretty
Less Is More
Women Are Whores
The State Is Glorious
Dudes Are Great!
Whoring Is Great, Too!
Look At These Fucking Naked Chicks Taking A Bath In The Woods!
Like I said, not all ideas are good ideas, and not all representations are philosophically legitimate representations. Artifying an idea doesn’t automatically legitimize it. Some ideas, such as “the male gaze reigns supreme” and “women enjoy oppression,” not only suck, they are so violent and antisocial that it is impossible to represent them without harming innocents.
Some art — this is the rarest kind — enbiggens its audience. I allude to the sort of crap that, when you look at it, seamlessly transmits to you its philosophic value. Suddenly you yearn to get off your ass and foment unrest, or wish to do good works in the community, or vow to start eating better, or sign up for a class, or experience something grave, excellent and out of the ordinary, or go “ha!”, or regard the status quo with renewed suspicion.
Certainly lots of art, such as advertising graphics, or Koons’ “Michael Jackson and Bubbles”, which is the graphic representation of vacuous excess, ensmallens its audience. Some art merely has a null value, like the framed poster of Monet’s water lilies hanging in your dentist’s office. Most public art is created for money and/or propaganda; both money and propaganda, it is widely agreed, ensmallen those caught in their respective vorteces of evil.
Pornography does not merely ensmallen, however; it actively devours Truth ‘n’ Beauty. Pornography is the graphic representation of rape, presented from the point of view that rape is awesome.
Like everything else, all art proceeds from the auspices of patriarchy, and the vast majority of it replicates patriarchal mores. “Pure” art, that is, art that is unsullied by commerce, oppression, or patriarchal hegemony, may exist, but I doubt it. For that to happen, post-patriarchal conditions would have to obtain, at which point art itself would, paradoxically, be irrelevant and meaningless.