Jul 04 2010

No Art Week would be complete without Yoko

On the other hand, here is a film script excerpted from our girl Yoko Ono’s 1964 arty book Grapefruit. In Grapefruit, Yoko writes poetical instructions for arty stuff, theoretically for the reader’s own lobes to complete. Like “go sit out in the sun and eat a tuna sandwich.”

What a lazy artist. Trying to oil out of making the tuna sandwich herself.

“Burn this book after you’ve read it!” Yoko writes in the overleaf. I suppose that seemed pretty subversive in 1964.

“The best book I’ve ever burned!” witty Beatle John Lennon adds in the 1970 edition.

But back to the script. Oops! Feminism Fail. To wit:

Film No. 5 (Rape, or Chase)

Rape with camera. One and a half hours, colour, synchronized sound.

A cameraman will chase a girl on a street with a camera persistently until he corners her in an alley, and, if possible, until she is in a falling position.

The cameraman will be taking a risk of offending the girl as the girl is somebody he picks up arbitrarily on the street, but there is a way to get around this.

Depending on the budget, the chase should be made with girls of different age, etc. May chase boys and men as well.

As the film progresses, and as it goes towards the end, the chase and the running should become slower and slower like in a dream, using a high-speed camera.

I have a cameraman who’s prepared to do this successfully.*

Something’s just a tad awry with the scenario. Something churns just slightly the viscera of the Spinster Aunt of the New Millennium. It gives her auntly nostrils a wee enwrinklement. What could it be?

Gosh, I wonder if it’s that the script proposes a fucking snuff film? A dude hired by the artist to randomly select women on the street and run them to earth, filming them the whole time? And Ono thinks there’s a “risk” that the victims of this predation might be “offended” by what she has no problem calling “rape,” yet proposes there’s a “way around” it? What way would that be? After the terrified victims are cornered “in a falling position” in the alley, does the dude chirp “Smile! You’re on Candid Rape Camera!” and everybody has a good laugh? Or does Yoko simply pay her off with John’s dough?

I bet she’s got a cameraman who’s “prepared to do this successfully.” Pervy motherfuckers with cameras aimed at victimized women are never in short supply now, and I doubt it was any different in 1964. That she’s using footage of actual victims shot from the point of view of one of these predatory knobs puts this feminist statement pretty unequivocally in Bogus Town.

This film, now titled more succinctly “Rape”, actually got made in 1969, co-directed by good old John Lennon. Coincidence? I think not. It featured a young undocumented, non-English-speaking immigrant woman chased through the streets of London by Yoko’s willing camera dude. The apparent randomness of the victim’s selection by the camera dude was bogus; the woman’s own sister colluded with Yoko to set her up (nice). The 77-minute film ends, according to this essay, with the woman “curled up on the floor, shielding her face from the intruder.”

The aforementioned critique (written by a dude) excuses the Ono-Lennons from this pretty creepy ethical lapse by suggesting that the importance of the film as a fucking pomo “Truth-Event” supersedes the right of a woman not to be chased by a predator through London for the sake of an art fling or for anything else. The author alludes to the film “Rape” as a “feminist masterpiece.”

Check this fucking pomo violence-rationalizing shit out (I swear I didn’t get it from the PoMo Generator):

However, if we are to submit “Rape” to examination under Badiou’s framework of the Truth-Event, then questions of moral knowledge suddenly become less relevant (perhaps even completely irrelevant if we consider that the Truth-Event shatters the preceding positive ontological order of Being) […] “Badiou calls the language that endeavours to name the Truth-Event the ‘subject-language’. This language is meaningless from the standpoint of Knowledge, which judges propositions with regard to their referent within the domain of positive being.”

What’s one more woman sacrifice? Jesus in a jello mold, this fucking analysis is even more problematic than the film. For one thing, no “feminist masterpiece” can exist, pretty much by definition.

Furthermore, for a spot of art to be considered feminist, it should, at the very least, refrain from inflicting actual terror on actual women.

Iy yi yi.

* Excerpted from Art and Feminism by Helena Reckitt and Peggy Phelan. Yoko Ono, ‘Film No. 5 (Rape, or Chase)’, Grapefruit (Tokyo: Wunternaum Press, 1964).


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  1. liberality

    Great, I liked Yoko Ono and John Lennon but now I feel disillusioned. There is no way in hell the victimization of someone is art.

    And isn’t this rape by camera what happens to famous people anyway? Maybe this rape by camera is what happened to John and Yoko too? Why do people who are victimized turn around and victimize others the same way?

  2. Triste

    Liberality – to compare the figurative “rape” of rich celebrities by their occasionally spiteful fans (who nevertheless give them tons of money, sex, worship, etc.) to the actual physical rape of innocent human beings is sort of like comparing working a 9 to 5 to the Holocaust.

    As for John Lennon – I can’t hear the song Imagine without snickering a bit, at this point.

  3. Jill

    The Ono-Lennons were warped by extreme celebrity, yes, but Yoko originally conceived this little number several years before her sphere collided with the Beatles, when she was still a minor and mostly unknown avant-gardist. Little doubt that John made it all about him in 1969, though.

  4. Ashley

    John made it all about him, too true.

    I love Yoko but she has some, er. Issues. Plus the only thing that can probably explain why it seemed like a good idea to make that film was the amount of heroin at play in the scenario. Also, with her personality it was probably supposed to be a feminist statement but she wasn’t able to see how sexist it was. Those two were a little short on irony at times.

  5. Catherine Martell

    Triste: I’ve never been able to listen to Imagine without snarling, even before I found out John & Yoko used to keep a “storage apartment” near theirs in the Dakota Building at refrigerator-temperature to keep their fur coats in tip-top condition.

    But imagine no possessions!

  6. Comrade PhysioProf

    Badiou’s framework of the Truth-Event

    What the fuck? Now this is wackadoodle fucked-up french gibberish week?

  7. SageCrane

    As we are still on Art Week, I want to recommend this ‘old’ book, (1990), which I read while taking Art and Women Study courses in a local college. The title is: “Naked by the Window” author Robert Katz. It is an excellent telling of what happens to Feminist women artists who marry dude artists.
    From Library Journal
    “On September 8, 1985, Soho artist Ana Mendieta fell 34 floors to her death. After slow progress through the judicial system, Ana’s husband, renowned minimalist artist Carl Andre, was tried for murder and found not guilty. Katz takes the often-told story of love and marriage gone wrong and makes it fascinating by vividly describing the New York art scene of which Andre and Mendieta were an integral part. Soon after Mendieta’s death, this world split into two warrings camps, and Katz, whose sympathy lies with the Mendieta camp, essentially accuses Andre’s followers of closing ranks, protecting him at all costs, and making it impossible for the prosecution to prove its case. A gripping story, very well told. Highly recommended.”
    If I recall correctly, the dude was jealous because his wife was suddenly getting more attention for her Feminist art works than he was for his ‘Art’, which consisted of moving large boulders into different positions in a big empty field. I also believe he received a grant for that work shortly after he snuffed her.
    As I was into making Art myself at the time, I vowed to never get near any dude, or near any high open window; especially not naked. Checking Amazon.com, I see you can buy a new copy of this great story for $2,000! Wow. I’m not sure why it’s priced so high…maybe the dude got real famous.

  8. Solniger

    I hate Art Week

  9. Sylvie

    Any why not – bring on the badinage. Anywho (is it time for an anywho?) seems like La Yoko got a critic to formulate her intentions and a judge to hand out a “nice try”.

  10. Mujery Legs

    Like I’m sure the nice girl said after being chased down to the ground by a stranger in a foreign land whose political and social institutions routinely treated her as subhuman: that was fun.

    Now that art week is complete, can we do liberalism? Or at least have a neat bubble-diagram of how Firestone fits in the modern Western feminist tradition, and perhaps a tasteful cartoon of her beating Okin and Nussbaum in a pseudo-sumo cage match?

  11. SelinaK

    I have a great idea for Yoko’s next project: Lynch. Get a couple of white guys to chase an unsuspecting black man or woman in full KKK garb carrying a noose for 77 minutes. Then see all the liberal art critics come out and call it a daring anti-racist masterpiece.

  12. humanbein

    What would interest me even more would be a split screen with this, the other screen being a random dude chased by a woman with a camera. The reaction of a dude having his privilege infringed upon by a member of the oppressed majority would be much more enlightening and instructive when paired with what is now pretty much a status quo idea.

    Since I do video for a living, I’m often stricken by the need for feminist voices in video. In my job, moderators interview people – mostly women, but with a decent ratio of men in there, too – in their homes about their lives, with the intention of defining how certain segments of the population are attracted to different product benefits. I have many hours of almost heartbreaking video of women openly admitting how oppressed they are by the men in their lives, without the slightest hint of feminist cant, and often with very anti-feminist rhetoric to support their own misery.

    Finally, after ten years of this, last month I interviewed a young woman who was not only a self-avowed feminist, but also worked at a woman’s shelter with abused women and was a knitter! I loved her so much it was impossible to hide the esteem in which I held her. Since I never say anything during these interviews, it was kind of sad not to be able to tell her much more than how thankful I was to her for doing the very very difficult work of caring for abused women in our world.

    While I’m at it, thank you to all the women who do this sad and emotionally draining work who may be on this list. You are all heroes.

  13. mearl

    Don’t forget, kids: as long as you’ve got ovaries, you can abuse yourself and other ovaried humans all you want in the name of art, sex or porn and it ain’t Patriarchy, it’s Avant-Garde.

  14. sargassosea

    Jill said, Iy, yi, yi!

    I’m awash in artistic gifts today it seems.

  15. Ma'Whis'Ki

    My Reverie (A Daydream In One Act)

    In my daydream, the woman– a student-type, wearing a capacious backpack– who is being pursued by the cameraman is in fact armed with a concealed flame-thrower. She draws her pursuer into a convenient alley, and then fries him on the spot. After the cameraman has been nicely seared, she puts out the remaining flames with a couple of buckets of chipotle-mesquite barbecue sauce, and then texts Ms. Ono to let her know her order of ribs is ready.

    Seriously, if Yoko Ono is allowed to *imagine* dreamy little dreams of tuna sandwiches and camera-rapes for public consumption, the very least I can do to return the favor is to *imagine* her wondering whatever became of her photographer over a bucket of long-pig cracklings…

  16. sargassosea

    To clarify: thanks for the Iy, yi, yi which was most welcome.

    The Ono bit, no.

  17. Ashley

    @Catherine Martell: word? That’s disgusting.

  18. wiggles

    I fuckin hate artsy-fartsy pomo speak! It’s a whole lot of yammering about nothing. Transparently.

  19. Jezebella

    Fun Fact about Murderous Asshole Carl Andre: Most of his museum-owned works are floor pieces – they are squares of various metals, arranged in rows or patterns. And they are meant to be walked upon. This is part of Andre’s *thing*. I thoroughly enjoy walking all over his art whenever given the opportunity. I think of Ana Mendieta when I do it, and imagine that I am walking all over Carl on her behalf. I suggest you all do so, as well. I always ask the guard first, and they have, so far, every one, been informed that walking on the Andre is a-okay.

    They won’t let you do it barefoot, though.

    Wiggles, I’m sorry you hate art historical jargon, but it’s not about “nothing”. Those words do have meaning to some people, though only people versed in the stuff. That’s why it’s called “jargon”.

    Finally, this would have been a completely different post if Jill had opted to highlight Ono’s Cut Piece, which is one of the most moving and visceral performances I have ever witnessed (albeit on video). Ono is complicated, and “Rape” is clearly way out of bounds, and I wonder what she has had to say about it as she has matured.

  20. Carpenter

    How exactly does the
    “Truth-Event shatters the preceding positive ontological order of Being’

    Seems to me the truth event just reproduces the order of Being we all know about far too well. This reminds me of when I was in college the academic buzzword was ‘transgressive’. The problem with trangressive stuff was that only the media was actually new or different, the message was the same old shit.

  21. Carpenter

    Wow Jill, your essay really is by a PoMo generator, its got Zizek in it and everything. Why not Philosophy Week next?

  22. veganrampage

    “This language is meaningless from the standpoint of Knowledge, which judges propositions with regard to their referent within the domain of positive being.”

    Is not there a more simple and clear way of stating this? If there is not, shoot me now, or maybe wait until we get home. Naw, now is good.

    Lennon and Ono did write and perform the song “Woman is the N* of the World. Most people have never heard of it. It did not make the top 40 list.

    * I swear like an wounded menopausal Amazon warrior on crystal meth, but this is one word too filthy and fulsome for my taste. As a Caucasian appearing person,(but Jewish enough to go to the gas chamber on the first round-up according to the Nuremberg Laws), this is the one word too execrable even for me and one that I have no right to use.

    The lyrics are copied and pasted below, unexpurgated. If I should have censored them, then I am in the wrong. I debated this issue with myself for a lengthy period of time.
    I lost.
    I am still not sure. Apologies in advance if I chose incorrectly. Feel free to tell me that anew anyway.

    “Woman is the Nigger of the World” Lyrics

    Woman is the nigger of the world
    Yes she is…think about it
    Woman is the nigger of the world
    Think about it…do something about it

    We make her paint her face and dance
    If she won’t be a slave, we say that she don’t love us
    If she’s real, we say she’s trying to be a man
    While putting her down, we pretend that she’s above us

    Woman is the nigger of the world…yes she is
    If you don’t believe me, take a look at the one you’re with
    Woman is the slave of the slaves
    Ah, yeah…better scream about it

    We make her bear and raise our children
    And then we leave her flat for being a fat old mother hen
    We tell her home is the only place she should be
    Then we complain that she’s too unworldly to be our friend

    Woman is the nigger of the world…yes she is
    If you don’t believe me, take a look at the one you’re with
    Woman is the slave to the slaves
    Yeah…alright…hit it!

    We insult her every day on TV
    And wonder why she has no guts or confidence
    When she’s young we kill her will to be free
    While telling her not to be so smart we put her down for being so dumb

    Woman is the nigger of the world
    Yes she is…if you don’t believe me, take a look at the one you’re with
    Woman is the slave to the slaves
    Yes she is…if you believe me, you better scream about it

    We make her paint her face and dance
    We make her paint her face and dance
    We make her paint her face and dance
    We make her paint her face and dance
    We make her paint her face and dance
    We make her paint her face and dance

  23. Ashley

    This blew my fucking mind. I had no idea this even existed…I’m horrified to that lennon was involved (like many others, I always want to believe that lennon was always a legit dude)
    How sad.

  24. Ashley

    Yeah, that song is ugly but they’re using n* in the sense of how people treat African Americans, not referring to African Americans as such-they are making a comparison. Like when someone says “I’m not your bitch.” I’m not backing up John Lennon but I think you’re deliberately misreading their intention. However, I get that it’s like the c-word art installation.

  25. yttik

    It would be a real work of art if the girl simply turned around and tasered the crap out of the cameraman.

  26. Earnest O'Nest

    Hey, she does qualify: “May chase boys and men as well.” & as we talk about men chasing boys, what about Sports Week?

  27. JenniferRuth

    Cara over at The Curvature did a number of posts about Yoko Ono:


    They’re very good.

    I had not heard about this film before and am terribly disappointed that Yoko conceived of such a thing. I’m not surprised though. Call me jaded if you will! I wonder what Yoko would have to say about it now.

  28. rootlesscosmo

    In the old Hollywood studio days, Harry Cohn, the much-loathed head of Columbia Pictures, used to demand that anybody pitching a script idea be able to state it in three sentences (“and no cheating,” by way of using semicolons or parentheses.) If he liked the idea, he would buy the project for his studio; then a budget would be allocated and a producer chosen, a director and writer (or team of writers) assigned, a cast and crew selected from the studio payroll, and the three-sentence idea would eventually emerge as a movie. It might be “On the Waterfront,” it might be “Fireman, Save my Choo Choo,” but it would be distributed to theaters, moviegoers would buy tickets, and at length the picture would be retired, in S.J. Perelman’s eloquent phrase, to be cut up into mandolin picks.

    Under the rules of Conceptual Art, there’s no three-sentence rule, and the pitch isn’t the beginning of the process but the end; Ono’s repellent “Rape” project got made, but mostly conceptual artists just seem to have ideas, often banal or cruel ideas, and galleries and museums and collectors acquire them. As my grandma would have said: “And from this they make a living?”

  29. MarilynJean

    Thanks for the share veganrampage. I understand the sentiments and intention. Maybe if they said, “White woman is the new nigger of the world”, it’d make more sense to me. Maybe not.

    What about women who are niggers? The constant comparison of sex-based oppression to race-based oppression often overlooks the fact that women of color, especially Black women, *are* being treated like niggers while also being treated like women. That’s oversight on their part with this song, but perhaps I am biased because I never liked Lennon and I never liked Ono.

    This also makes me wonder what Ms. Ono thought about race (I’m too lazy to look it up, so if anyone knows and wants to clarify, feel free).

  30. Scott

    Maybe what Yoko had in mind was to expose the creepiness of constant visual ogling that happens every day to women by men. Perhaps she felt violated every day in the street by the gaze of strange men, and her art was to take this everyday experience to the extreme. This “screenplay” doesn’t call for a rape scene but it suggests that the actions of ogling, coveting, and pursuing are a form of mental abuse that is akin to rape.

  31. mearl

    If Ono wanted to expose the constant visual ogling that happens every day to women by men, she could have easily turned the tables and chased down an unsuspecting dude. But then she’d get beaten up, raped, arrested, etc. Much easier to get a camera MAN to chase down some young girl (already beaten down by the Patriarchy and unlikely to do anything besides run and cry) to make ONO’S point.

    Too bad that girl wasn’t a fan of Valerie Solanis and carrying a gun. Or at least a large rock.

  32. Gayle

    “Woman is the slave of the slaves”

    Why am I supposed to have a problem with the song again? I’d say it rings pretty damn true.

  33. Andrea

    Indeed, MarilynJean.

    The most recent book I’ve read is The Women’s History of the World by Rosalind Miles, published in 1988. I slogged through a lot of citing white 1950s anthropologists on the topic of “natives,” and gave her the benefit of the doubt over the words “savage” and “primitive.” Tongue-in-cheek, right? Right? Please?

    But finally, on page 234, this little gem made me heave the book against a wall:

    “The radical politics of the 1960s attracted many strong and committed young women to the fight against racism and the Vietnam war. Inside every “revolutionary” movement, however, they found that “men led the marches and made the speeches and expected their female comrades to lick the envelopes and listen.” When the black leader Stokely Carmichael was heard to say that the only place for women in the movement was “prone,” activist women saw that their was a subject class more in need of liberating than the occupied Vietnamese, nearer to them in oppression than the blacks — themselves.”

    Emboldening mine.

    I was honestly confused for a moment until I remembered that “women” are “white women.” What other kind of woman could there possibly be?

    Hell, I might have even gone so far as to imagine that women of color were involved in power movements. Or that there are women in Vietnam. How silly of me!

  34. Gayle

    How is the song about white women in particular? The slave of the slave line I referenced above would indicate the song is more specifically about women of color.

  35. SelinaK

    The lyrics are spot on, I think it’s the choice of the N-word that is considered a problem. If you look up old interviews of John and Yoko on youtube they explain why they chose to use it. If they called it something like Woman is the Bitch of the World I don’t believe it would have had quite the same impact.

  36. Ma'Whis'Ki

    [Fun Fact about Murderous Asshole Carl Andre: Most of his museum-owned works are floor pieces – they are squares of various metals, arranged in rows or patterns. And they are meant to be walked upon. This is part of Andre’s *thing*.]

    Yes, the walking on his art is part of his sick little game– women walking on his work *only symbolically* walk all over him, while the actual reality is that he pushes real women out of real windows, and never faces any meaningful consequences for it. By putting his art on the floor, and *allowing* women to walk on it (with certain conditions: no bare feet, the oils and body acids from which would actually etch real footprints into his ‘perfect’ metal), he is in fact, 1) maintaining control of the ‘walking participant’, and 2) advertising his ‘untouchability’ by said walkers, to whom he dictates walking conditions, via the oppressive institution of the museum/museum guard, as well as by the admission price to get into the museum in the first place.

    The only way I think any woman should ever be in close proximity to this asswipe’s ‘art’ is with intent to destroy and a powder-actuated nail gun, with which the words HE MURDERED ANA MENDIETA could be shot into the metal of his so-called ‘work’ and/or the museum floor.

  37. yttik

    Agreed Ma’Whis’Ki, Carl Andre is engaged in a sick game, one in which he maintains complete control.

    On thing that’s interesting to ponder is the confidence Yoko felt in making that film. She had no fear of getting expensive camera equipment smashed up, or of the camera guy getting injured, or of the cops showing up. She knows her victim is a female, which means vulnerable and unlikely to offer any resistance. Worse, likely to question whether she even has the right to.

  38. Ma'Whis'Ki


    [On thing that’s interesting to ponder is the confidence Yoko felt in making that film. She had no fear of getting expensive camera equipment smashed up, or of the camera guy getting injured, or of the cops showing up. She knows her victim is a female, which means vulnerable and unlikely to offer any resistance.]

    Right on!!!

    And the fact that she colluded with the victim’s *sister* to set the victim up is a prime example of patriarchy turning women– both La Ono and the girl’s sister– as token torturers that further the patriarchal ‘keep the slaves cowed’ agendas.

  39. Saphire

    ‘Woman is the nigger of the world.’

    I read this like we’re equally as oppressed as black men, but our oppression is much more accepted and ingrained, seen as natural and because of its worldwide stronghold, an overlooked problem.

    Why aren’t songs like this made today? When the problem (‘we make her paint her face and dance’) is much worse?

    The way I see it, our oppression is always the last to be taken seriously. We need revolutionary times like the 60s for people to even begrudgingly get on board with acknowledging it. Otherwise women are screwed. I’m willing to bet generations are hesitant to be too left wing and revolutionary, because it means looking at the one oppression that stares them straight into the eye.

  40. Ashley

    Not sure what Ono’s position on racism is, she seems to admit that it was a factor for her in being Lennon’s partner but doesn’t talk it up. She focuses more on the gender part of her experience and others. Part of her shtick and his was to provoke, which incidentally is probably why they chose n* in that song-they wanted to piss people off, probably mostly the “progressive” set that they hung around with. I find it interesting that she has been pretty conspicuously silent on her experience as a Japanese-American woman being not only outspoken about controversial beliefs and also in an interracial relationship. I’ve literally never heard or read anything from her about that. It makes you wonder. Even if she seems to have been aware of the black/white racial issue in America during the 70s, not so much outspoken on the Asian American one.

  41. Vinia Bright

    Here is what Ono said about the film in a 1989 interview.

    “A lot of my works have been a projection of my future fate. It frightens me. It simply frightens me. I don’t want to see Rape now. I haven’t seen the Rape film in a long time, but just thinking about the concept of it frightens me because now I’m in that position, the position of the woman in the film.”

    Because it’s all about Yoko, right?

    Here is a link to a 2009 article about the woman victimized in the film. Be warned; it’s extremely upsetting.


    Same article, different link:

  42. Veraswami

    How could Sandhu explicitly describe Eva’s horror and then immediately perform an art analysis on the film? Surely Rape is too blatantly exploitative and meritless for that? Surely there was room for Sandhu to critique it in a way that didn’t validate it? Even a little?
    Sometimes I’m ashamed that I still have any expectations.

  43. Jezebella

    Ma’Whis’Ki, that is a completely ahistorical interpretation of Andre. He was doing floor pieces long before he murdered Mendieta, and people of all genders are welcome to walk on those floor pieces. Nice try, but you’re way off base.

  44. Jezebella

    No, Vinia, it’s not “all about Yoko”. It’s all about growing up and realizing that she could be a victim of rape, too. I think many of us, the ones fortunate enough to survive childhood without being assaulted, have thought it never happen to us. It’s all distant and theoretical until it happens to you, or someone you love, or a bunch of someones you love, and then you go: Oh. I was young and stupid and I thought those bad things happened to other people.

  45. allhellsloose

    Thanks for the link Vinia Bright. A very harrowing account of the film and also upsetting. Of particular interest are the words by ‘critic’ J Hoberman. I hesitate to reprint those words as they could trigger given what has gone beforehand.

    I’ve never liked the Beatles. Especially dislike faux socialists (don’t make me laugh) John Lennon and Yoko Ono. ‘Imagine’ is the most boring, dull, insipid, hypocritical crap ever, and I’ve never understood it’s popularity in a world obsessed with possessions. The irony of its success wounds me deeply. Don’t get me started on McCartney…

  46. Laurie

    Art Week got me thinking about the Keane debacle as a classic example of patriarchal domination/appropriation. You may remember those creepy big-eyed paintings in the 60s. Margaret painted them all, but her husband Walter took the credit. It finally took a divorce and paint-off in the courtroom (he cried off due to a “sore shoulder”! while she produced a classic big-eye canvas in minutes) to expose the charade.

    Also wondering about your take on my hero Kate Millett. Now she’s running a women’s art retreat that sounds intriguing.

  47. Cycles

    From the Telegraph article in Vinia Bright’s comment: “Rape, described by critic J. Hoberman as ‘one of the most violent and sexually charged movies ever made – even if flesh never touches flesh'”

    There you have it, folks. Famous film critic says: Woman running in terror, almost getting hit by traffic, tears streaming down her face = HOT!

  48. SelinaK

    Vinia Bright,
    That article is just too much, I feel like my heart just broke in two.
    This poor woman probably suffered severe post traumatic stress from Yoko’s ‘art project’, and people are still ‘not sure’ how she felt about it??

    But like the article says, we’ll never know because she was horrifically murdered while she was just trying to go back home to Hungary and use her life savings to create a sanctuary for animals. You know, Yoko and John, something peaceful, nurturing for other living creatures? Imagine that.

    If Twisty doesn’t mind, I call on blamers to post in the comments section of the article Vinia Bright linked the true facts of the Yoko film (like how Eva was set up unbeknownst to her to be terrorized and chased by Yoko and her own sister, the original script by Yoko.)

    This article needs a blaming brigade to tell the truth in memory of Eva.

  49. Jane Q Public

    Yoko Ono sucks my ass. Around the time I had my daughter she was selling a line of baby gear. Bedding sets for the crib and the like. Gah. Artist? Really? Opportunist is more like it.

  50. nails

    People say that sexism isn’t taken as seriously as racism, I think what they mean is sexism isn’t taken as seriously by liberal dudes. It is really really annoying and I agree, but racism isn’t taken very seriously by a large number of people. Arizona is a good example.

  51. Jezebella

    JQP: There is no contradiction between being an artist and being an opportunist.

  52. Rachel

    In 1994 interviewer Robert Enright asked her, while discussing one of her films, “Did you think of yourself as a proto-feminist?” She responded: “I didn’t have any notion of feminism. When I went to London and got together with John that was the biggest macho scene imaginable. That’s when I made the statement ‘Woman is the Nigger of the World.’”


    Her intentions may have been good, but she didn’t think through the racist implications of that statement.

  53. yttik

    One problem is that art is deified, so it becomes more important then the people harmed in the making of it. Yoko’s film is so important, the woman hurt by it is just collateral damage necessary in the pursuit of art. Carl Andre’s art is so important the woman he murdered is just more collateral damage. And Sue Williams, she herself is collateral damage. (Witty and a survivor, but damaged just the same.)

    In a perfect world, this kind of art would not exist, much like porn would not exist, because the product does not justify or trump the harm it causes real live women.

  54. Violet

    Reading the comments, presumably noone reading this blog has heard of one of the most important art works of the Yoko/Lennon era? The one involving the noted conceptual artist Mark David Chapman, who, in 1980, simply took the whole “innocent victim of street violence who has little knowledge of their aggressor and no acceptable defence” motif to its furthest, most post-modern and deconstructed edge.

    In my ignorance I am not aware of any work Badiou has done on this – please, anyone, don’t hesitate to enlighten me if any radical artistic deconstruction of this act has taken place. Obviously the physical, mental, social, and artistic experiences of Eva Rhodes (and her like) have dominated the pop-cultural and social milieu of the last 30 years; I would hate for a rich, famous, white male like Lennon to not be subjected to the same proper cultural analysis.

  55. Hedgepig

    Hey, I completely agree with nails at 1:36pm!

  56. CrazyQuilter

    the amount of garbage-speak (‘Truth-Event’ and ‘Being’, from the second referred article) and written frills necessary to ‘legitimize’ that horror ought to make its true nature obvious.

    if someone is holding a gun to someone else’s head, all the while explaining in the most florid language they can think of that it is NOT a gun, but an extremely advanced bullet-propulsion device, AND CERTAINLY NOT A GUN, then there might be a few things to consider.

  57. Comrade Svilova

    I’m with Hedgepig and Nails. Exhibit B, Rand Paul.

  58. Jill

    The jaw-droppingly racist Arizona deal is jaw-dropping, but I refrain from characterizing all Arizonians as racists. As a Texan who had to weather the Bush Years deflecting suspicions that I am a gun-totin’ evangelical moron, I’m a little sensitive on this point. I’m sure there are Arizona citizens who aren’t entirely evil.

  59. Jane Q Public

    Jezebella- Maybe not, but Ono isn’t an artist. She’s just an opportunist.

  60. Jill

    Because you can’t define “art” you can’t define “artist” so you have no way of determining that Yoko isn’t one.

  61. Kelsey

    Has anyone else considered that it was satire?

  62. Kelsey

    Bah, never mind. Picking on Ono though is just so… I dunno. Everyone does it any it doesn’t always add up.

  63. Dilly

    I rented that movie once. Much of the pursuit happens in a busy metropolitan area. There is a lot of pedestrian traffic around them. She goes into a boutique and sees acquaintances and tells them about this creepy dude that’s followed her into the shop. It’s disturbing how long it goes on without anyone questioning that scene. And it’s frightening to imagine feeling so helpless. I don’t know what was edited out, but she is never shown asking anyone to help her shake the jerk. If a man were relentlessly following me with a camera all morning, I believe I’d interpret this as a threat to my safety and find a police station. They might not take the complaint seriously, but it’s worth a shot. Her lack of efforts to stop the guy (beyond asking him and begging him and trying to flee from him, and eventually raising her voice) is maybe what disturbed me the most. Was she reluctant to take her own discomfort seriously enough to approach someone for help or sock him in the balls? It’s hard to remember what it was like when video phones weren’t ubiquitous. Nowadays every asshole has one and everyone knows that a woman with the nerve to leave her house is just asking to be documented. I pretty much equate that shit with violence. But maybe it was such a foreign concept at the time that she didn’t really know how to interpret it. When did tabloid photographers start getting so persistent and vicious? This movie reminded me a lot of that. I had no background on the movie when I saw it and thought it might have been a performance because it really did go way too far.

  64. speedbudget


    Explain how it being satire rather than art excuses the fact that Eva was, truly, harassed and stalked and attacked and made to feel fear and horror and desperation.

    I will never understand why people feel the need to defend violence and hatred just ’cause some “artiste” made it, and use the fact that people “pick on” the artist as some kind of justification for why the Art is more important than fucking human decency.

  65. Comrade Svilova

    What was it satirizing? Rape culture? By traumatizing someone who is underprivileged in that culture? You’d have to work hard to convince me on that one. Satire should be directed up not down — at power, not at the powerless!

  66. ivyleaves

    Yes, it really is annoying to have a critique of media PRODUCTION justified by the media PRODUCT. I guess “the ends justifies the means” is the motto of the day.

    Anyway, I was born in Arizona and raised to be an evangelical moron (gun-totin’ optional), and I hope I’m not entirely evil. Of course, I can’t stand the place and don’t live there anymore, so there’s that. One of my sisters is gritting her teeth and bearing it, most of the rest of the family, sigh, are wrong, wrong, wrong!

  67. humanbein


    An art piece in which we get to learn all about the evil, male chauvinist tendency to keep “Struttin’ that ass.”

  68. yttik

    That’s pretty darn funny, humanbein. Between that and “pants on the ground” we could have an entire art exhibit that makes absolutely no sense, but oddly, still speaks to you.

  69. Jodie

    Humanbein, that makes about as much sense to me as a lot of what is labeled “art”.

  70. Ma'Whis'Ki

    [He was doing floor pieces long before he murdered Mendieta, and people of all genders are welcome to walk on those floor pieces.]

    When I made my remarks, I was sure that was the case, and I am not at all surprised to hear that confirmed. That fact still doesn’t change things. He *is* telling people ‘walk on me (but only on *my* terms) with his so-called ‘Art’: it’s the ‘rules and regulations’ aspect of it that gives it away– it’s inside a museum, no bare feet allowed, etc. Make no mistake, Andre Is In Control. Here is how one can know this–

    If he really *wanted* to cooperate with the walkers-on in an evolving mutual work (thus leaving his work truly open to change by said walkers-on), he would have put the walking pieces out on the sidewalk, where everyone could walk (and drunk-vomit and spit and drop spare change and gum-wrappers) *freely* on it, and pigeons could walk (and crap) on it, and Nature could rain on, freeze and bake it. The process would probably yield some visually interesting results, too. (But, of course, then the end result would not be ‘Carl Andre [TM]’ ego-brandable/collectible, so that would mean no money for his ‘I-push-women-out-of-windows-but-I’m-still-a-genius’ lifestyle.)

    Even the idea of walk-on art isn’t new (much less his)– women and men have been producing all sorts of ‘walk-on-able’ art for thousands of years– such pieces are called various names: stone and/or tile mosaics, Persian carpets, wood inlays, parquet floors, pictorial terrazzo, hooked/braided/rag/felt rugs, etc., so all he’s doing is a not-so-hot ‘exclusive’ rehash of a very old (public works) idea.

    I also want to be real clear here that I am *not* leveling any criticism at anyone who decides to walk on Andre’s stuff. The worst I could say about that is that people are being swindled out of good money by paying museum admittance, because they do not understand the con being run on them by both the (big-A-) Artist and museum.

    I reserve my real contempt for completely unoriginal metal-rug-makers who shove their creative betters out of windows, and for the patriarchal institutions that set this kind of criminality/unoriginality up as ‘heroic cultural endeavor by an Artistic Icon worthy of preservation/emulation’. I don’t see copy-cat bore-floors and murder as deserving of support in any way, shape or form.

    I also do not consider random rock-moving for the purpose of ego-gratification worth any kind of monetary subsidy, nor is it creatively original. Compared with the builders of Stonehenge, the Neolithic Goddess-shaped cyst-tombs on Malta, and the Egyptian Pyramids, Andre is a complete no-hoper. He gives his stuff a fancy-schmantzy ‘minimalist’ label to disguise the fact that he has no real creative talent for rock-arrangement, much less any real masonry or stone-working skills. This empty concept-marketing of label-only/no substance (i.e., ‘minimalist’ work) has only one real purpose– to convince complete idiots to give him money for *nothing*. If that isn’t the perfect con-job, then I don’t know what is.

  71. Saphire

    Art in a post- patriarchal society is meaningless, because it’s meaningless and senseless anyway.

    You can have pretty sculptures, people who are skilled at art, but then there’s Art which lets little girls get raped and asks us to interpret the act.

    Ok, so art is just worshipping mainly white men and their talents, same old same old. But the whole idea is based on the premise of ‘value’, with anything from beans to a dumpsite being ascribed great value from nowhere. What a crock of shit and dangerous ground for the patriarchy – especially as the edgier the better.

    As for Yoko’s film, why should any feminist try to painfully remind us of our oppression? We get the picture already! Can we kick Ps ass now instead of damaging women further? We need action, not Art with a capital A to step in.

  72. Jezebella

    I note with interest that a number of people use the word “artiste” with a sneer. Adding that extra “e” feminizes the word, you know, and simply participates in and perpetuates a long history of the homophobic, misogynistic trope that artists are a bunch of girly homosexuals. Is this the kind of rhetoric feminists want to be using? I think not.

  73. Saurs

    Jezebella, speedbudget is the only commenter here who used the word “artiste,” and that was in reference, presumably, to Ono herself.

  74. Saurs

    Also, “artiste,” amongst heaps of Anglophones outside the US, is a gender-neutral term (yes, derived from the French) simply describing somebody who sings or dances for a living.

  75. Mar Iguana

    In today’s NYTimes:


    From the article:

    But one part of the archive, which was purchased from the Larry Rivers Foundation for an undisclosed price, includes films and videos of his two adolescent daughters, naked or topless, being interviewed by their father about their developing breasts.

    One daughter, who said she was pressured to participate, beginning when she was 11, is demanding that the material be removed from the archive and returned to her and her sister.

    “I kind of think that a lot of people would be very uptight, or at least a little bit concerned, wondering whether they have in their archives child pornography,” said the daughter, Emma Tamburlini, now 43.

    Ms. Tamburlini said the filming contributed to her becoming anorexic at 16. “It wrecked a lot of my life actually,” she said.


    Ms. Tamburlini said her father filmed his daughters every six months over at least five years for a body of work he titled “Growing.” If she objected, she said, she was called uptight and a bad daughter. When she confronted her father as a teenager about the films, she said he told her “my intellectual development had been arrested.”

  76. Jezebella

    Saurs, fine. When *Americans* say “artiste” they are perpetuating a stereotype of artists as effeminate European nancy-boys.

  77. yttik

    No we’re not, Jezebella. Artiste is a non gender specific word that means a pretentious artist, someone consumed by their own self importance. It has nothing to do with homosexuality or being effeminate, in fact, the exact opposite. An artiste is generally the epitome of masculine arrogance.

    Here is what The Columbia Guide to Standard English says:
    “To describe someone as an artiste may once have been a compliment, but applied today to a man or woman, it is facetious, deliberately overblown, and uncomplimentary. It’s conventional use as a French feminine form for artist is obsolescent in English today, enduring only the obvious sexist uses in advertising of strippers.”

  78. Jane Q Public

    Art, to me, is something pleasing to look at. I have no problem defining it, my definition just isn’t broad, probably because I’m unsophisticated. Art is a hobby. It’s something one does in their free time. Anyone who says they’re an artist as their primary vocation gets a narrowed eye from me. It seems to me the people who have the most time to create art are the ones who turn out the stuff I am likely to describe as crap rather than art, at least where modern art is concerned. Moreover, I want to know where they got all this time to muse and create. If I had that kind of time, even for one day, I’d sleep or catch up on some reading. Maybe I’d even go eat a tuna sandwich in the sun.

    Whenever artist or artiste is said with a sneer it’s because instead of enshrining a vacuum cleaner in gold, that person is relegated to actually using the vacuum cleaner. And they’re not getting rich doing it. Art is the profession of a privileged few. It is best understood when you have the money to create it or buy it.

    It makes me especially scornful that since art is apparently undefinable anybody at all is getting recognized for art and profiting from it. Under unknowable guidelines, we’re all artists, including Yoko Ono. She’s an artist because she says so. Or maybe because someone else said so. Who can tell?

    Ask a working class person about Jackson Pollack. They’ll tell you their kid made something just like that and it’s hanging on the fridge and if you give them a million dollars, they’ll sell it to you. Or they’ll tell you for a million bucks they’ll make you something similar.

    Jill asked just how classist the discussions on art week were. The answer is “very”.

  79. speedbudget

    Jezebella: I in no way meant to imply feminine with my use of the word “artiste.” Not coming from a French background (I took Spanish), I was not aware that an -e ending is the feminine in French. I will be more careful with my -e endings in future.

    I used the word “artiste” in scare quotes up there because it is true that in the United States, there is a long history of people using the word in a derogatory way to describe someone whose work is marginal or questionable, or at least that’s been my experience, and so I chose that word carefully because I feel that Ono doing that video was questionable as far as art or artistic value goes, and definitely an assault on the woman in the video, and yet we are supposed to consume it and think about it and watch it and in some cases get boners from it because it was sold to us as Art.

    I personally don’t think of artists as effeminate nancy-boys, and I bridle at being accused of such. That said, I understand that it was not the best choice of words, and I should pick my derogatory nouns with more research into foreign languages in future.

  80. Susan

    Re: the Rivers article, Salon has a piece on that today as well:


    If I’ve learned the correct lesson from art week, his work was art, but very bad art. Therefore, it should die.

  81. Bushfire

    Um, this Rivers dude is without a doubt a child molestor. Why a university would even consider protecting evidence of incest instead of turning it in to either the victims or the police is beyond me. Until today I thought people went to jail for creating or purchasing child pornography. The patriarchy breaks me a little more every day.

  82. Jezebella

    Actually, most of Rivers’ art is pretty good. Rivers’ treatment of his daughters and that particular body of work, NOT GOOD. It seems like no one here grasps the concept that an artist can make, you know, some GOOD STUFF, and some BAD STUFF, right? And so, therefore, when an artist does something shitty in hir professional or personal life, it does not automatically render all things done by that person shitty. So, Susan, no, you have not learned the correct lesson at all. Also, art can’t die.

    Seriously, if we all had to live by this ridiculous formulation, no one past the incredibly shitty-acting age of 12 would be considered a worthwhile human being. Everything we did henceforth after being a sulky, self-absorbed, hormone-controlled brat would be rendered moot because we were obnoxious for a couple of years. Throw the first stone, ye who did not drive every adult within hearing range batshit insane for months on end. Even as adults, I suspect all of us have had assy moments we regret. The world ain’t black and white, y’all.

  83. Comrade Svilova

    As I see Susan’s argument, the film as A Film And Work Of Art does need to “die” (i.e., be returned to Rivers’ daughter as she requested for her to destroy or not as she sees fit, rather than being exhibited/preserved in an archive after her death).

    I agree with you, Jezebella, that a bad act does not make the artist’s entire body of work objectively “bad.” However, a good piece of art doesn’t make any of the artist’s other works (and certainly not hir acts) good or even acceptable. We are all entitled to be utterly disinterested in an artist whose behavior is offensive to us, even if we risk missing out on some great work by said artist. Everyone will do hir own cost/benefit analysis of the value of exploring the creative psyche of someone ze thinks might have had some deeply questionable ethics.

    I also have a bit of a quibble with your comparison of moody twelve year old behavior to the behavior of a man who sexually abused his twelve year old daughters, but I’m not interested in getting into a debate about what kind of behavior is acceptable or not and where the line should be drawn.

    I think I understand and agree with your point that “ze who is without sin should cast the first stone” but how do we critique behavior that is beyond the pale (in this case, child molestation) if we don’t criticize the people who engage in such behavior? For some people, that criticism may extend to rejecting the artist’s entire body of work. Why not? Why compel oneself to share the point of view of a person one finds to be ethically beyond the pale?

  84. Saphire

    Jezebella, you’re arguing for bad behaviour to be excused, as for some reason talent cancels out bad deeds. I’m sure Emma Thompson larked the same about Polanski the Pedo. Sure it’s ok for us to excuse behaviour, but what about the victims of bad Art? The cruelty these women are dealt lasts a lifetime, the girl Polanski raped: ask yourself whether she considers his talent? Ask yourself how blinded we are by his ‘genius’. If we truly empathised, Art wouldn’t enter the equation.

    The world isn’t black and white my dear, but we don’t excuse rapists/ pedophiles/ other snakes because people have bad days. The world isn’t black and white, and we can’t seperate good deeds from bad.

    It’s always personal whether one bad deed negates a genius’s work, one can only hope it does for the sake of the victim. For me bad deeds resonate. I’d heard Stephen Hawking frequents lap dance clubs; I can’t stand the man now. But, the personal grudge is mine to bear, I can only hope others are similar – using heart/ morals to judge people intead of admiration. Genius takes a lot of practice, so is the result of a combination of luck in the genepool, a whopping ego and desire to be the best and privilege. Oh and being white and male helps too. The social reverence is already there. What’s to respect exactly?! One bad deed and that does it for me.

  85. Melanie

    Re: Woman is the Nigger of the World, and why it is, in fact, not very cool (apologies in advance for my profuse usage of the term):

    1. The word “nigger” is not a vague metaphor for oppression but instead refers to actual, real people.
    2. Yoko and John are co-opting something that they have never experienced.
    3. In stating that women are treated like black people the song is completely ignoring women who are non-metaphorically black, and
    4. assuming that all oppression is the same, which has been a problem in the feminist movement (as evidenced by the huge amounts of white privilege among middle class western feminists.)
    5. It questions sexism but not racism—what’s wrong is not that the classification “nigger” exists, but that people who aren’t niggers are being treated like they are. The song questions the listener as to why women deserve to be treated so, but it never questions why the people that the word actually refers to deserve it.
    6. The word “nigger” is used entirely for its shock value, ala liberal dudes who “only meant it ironically.”
    7. “We make her bear and raise our children / And then we leave her flat for being a fat old mother hen” Which is kind of like what John did to his first wife.
    8. “We make her paint her face and dance” “Just like Africans! Get it?! LOL!”

  86. yttik

    The sexual abuse of children is not an assy moment.

  87. ivyleaves

    Maybe I’m just old, but I never heard of a gender-feminine connotation to “artiste” in the US. Pejorative indicator of someone who is arrogant and thinks their work is more important than thou, yes; effeminate, no.

  88. Nolabelfits

    The filming abuse went on for FIVE frickin years. Thats hardly what I would call a “moment.”

  89. AileenWuornos

    The Beatles and Yoko Ono always seemed hideously over-rated to me, and now I realise why. Holy cow, what a load of womon-hating, pretentious wank.

  90. rootlesscosmo

    @ Jezebella:

    when an artist does something shitty in hir professional or personal life, it does not automatically render all things done by that person shitty.

    But doesn’t our awareness of the act influence our response to the work? Can we make ourselves temporarily forget Rivers’ rape or Wagner’s anti-Semitism or Pound’s enthusiasm for Mussolini? There’s a difference between the producer and the product, sure enough, but the product comes with a history and a politics, so the question is, can we–should we–suppress our politics in order to make a categorical separation that exists only in the abstract but not in real life? This isn’t a rhetorical question; I don’t know the answer, and I’m not sure there is a single answer that applies in every case. But I’ll never look at Rivers’ work in the same way again–how can I?

  91. Ma'Whis'Ki

    I’d like to draw attention to the portion of the N.Y. Times article in brackets below–

    [N.Y.U. has agreed to discuss the matter and has already, at the urging of the foundation, pledged to keep the material off limits during the daughters’ lifetimes. Two years ago Ms. Tamburlini asked the foundation to destroy the tapes, but it declined.

    The Rivers Foundation’s director, David Joel, said that he sympathized with Ms. Tamburlini but that he could not agree to destroy the tapes.

    “I can’t be the person who says this stays and this goes,” he said. “My job is to protect the material.”]

    So, not only does Ms. Tamburlini’s rapist father trash and abuse her *for public consumption* over a five-year period, then self-righteous prick-culture guard-dog David ‘My Job Is’ Joel comes along and *also abuses her* by pompously ignoring the wrong done to her, and for the absolute rock-bottom tawdriest of reasons– financial gain. I am sure that ‘the material’ in question is the *one thing* the Rivers Foundation would really like to publicize (hence the article), because as we all know, porn (a.k.a violence against women) is a hot-ticket item in a rapeocracy, and it will bring the fan-boyz running, whereas the rest of Rivers’ oeuvre doesn’t ‘pull’ as well as the Foundation would like.

    As far as Rivers the man goes, he was a cesspit on two legs, and I’m glad he’s dead. Hopefully, the Rivers Foundation will shortly follow suit. Separating ‘the man’ from ‘his work’ is a patriarchal mind-fuck that protects abusers under the aegis of a spurious ‘intellectual/creative detachment’ that does not in fact actually exist. Rivers was hot to violate his daughters, knew it was wrong, and with supremely twisted phallocentric-rapist ‘logic’, made it ‘internally OK’ for himself by doing it with a camera for the general public and calling it ‘Art’. Remember, too, that Auguste Renoir admitted openly that ‘he painted all his work with his prick’, which *absolutely should* give the viewer pause when looking at ‘Girl With A Watering Can’…

  92. Comrade Svilova

    What rootlesscosmo said. The artist’s other work might be good, but that doesn’t mean anyone has to appreciate it separate from its politics and history. For some, it might be harder to separate the work from the creator; personally, I’m disinclined to explore the point of view of someone whose ethics I find deeply troubling (hence I haven’t seen that many Polanski films). It’s all art, but not necessarily good art to me, and good or bad in art is largely subjective.

  93. tinfoil hattie

    Everything we did henceforth after being a sulky, self-absorbed, hormone-controlled brat would be rendered moot because we were obnoxious for a couple of years.

    You’re conflating Rivers’s sexual abuse of his daughters with the behavior of a self-absorbed 12-year-old? And excusing the abuse because “most of his art is pretty good”?

    I’m a lot more concerned with your rape apology here than I am with people’s using the word “artiste” with a sneer.

    I’m boggled.

  94. speedbudget

    I used the word “b*ner” in my reply post and it got all mangled into the moderation machine. Gonna repost without.

    Jezebella: I in no way meant to imply feminine with my use of the word “artiste.” Not coming from a French background (I took Spanish), I was not aware that an -e ending is the feminine in French. I will be more careful with my -e endings in future.

    I used the word “artiste” in scare quotes up there because it is true that in the United States, there is a long history of people using the word in a derogatory way to describe someone whose work is marginal or questionable, or at least that’s been my experience, and so I chose that word carefully because I feel that Ono doing that video was questionable as far as art or artistic value goes, and definitely an assault on the woman in the video, and yet we are supposed to consume it and think about it and watch it and in some cases get turgid appendages from it because it was sold to us as Art.

    I personally don’t think of artists as effeminate nancy-boys, and I bridle at being accused of such. That said, I understand that it was not the best choice of words, and I should pick my derogatory nouns with more research into foreign languages in future.

  95. speedbudget

    Well, shoot. Every time I try to reply, it ends up in moderation. I don’t know what word I’m using. Eventually, there will be two reply posts from me showing up. Sorry about that in advance!

  96. Ginjoint

    Jezebella, did you read that article in the NYT? Rivers’s filming of his daughters including close-up shots of their genitals as well as their breasts. In his forties, he had an “affair” (snort) with a fifteen-year-old.

    It seems like no one here grasps the concept that an artist can make, you know, some GOOD STUFF, and some BAD STUFF, right?

    The world ain’t black and white, y’all.

    My god, how have I managed to live 43 years without your tutelage?

  97. Jill

    Yeah, this question of interpreting art within contexts has been problematic since forever. Which contexts are legit, which aren’t, etc. My old art history prof Norris K Smith, for example, said that the historical and political context of a work are wholly irrelevant. Art, he said, isn’t “reportorial,” but rather conveys some kinda universal ideology. He would’ve shit a brick at the suggestion that the biography of the artist should be introduced into an analysis. But of course Norris K had the luxury of being a medievalist. Not a lot of biographical detail, savory or un, is to be had about the “masters” who sculpted the god-dudes on the cathedral at Amiens. I bet some of’em were wife-beaters and rapists, though.

    But as Rootless suggests, you can’t put the genie back in the bottle. Once you know that Chuck Berry had hidden cameras installed in the women’s john at his Missouri restaurant, and that he kept pee-pee tapes of little girls in his house, you never hear “Sweet Little Sixteen” the same way again.

    Fun fact: back before that Chuck Berry story broke, and I was a young blonde thang, I danced with Chuck Berry at a party, and he fucking groped me!

  98. Barbara P

    If someone does something ethically egregious enough, why not keep their “good” art, but no longer give them credit? So Roman Polanski stuff becomes public domain, as does the art from this Larry guy. And their names are removed.

    If we really cared about “art for art’s sake”, why would we care about crediting anyone?

  99. humanbein

    Getting groped by Chuck Berry would have scared the living shit out of me. He is HUGE. And he has an aura of evil about him, too. I have a friend who never referred to him as anything but “that fucking rapist.”

  100. Laughingrat

    My old art history prof Norris K Smith, for example, said that the historical and political context of a work are wholly irrelevant.

    This is a point of view frequently expressed by people for whom the prevailing political and historical contexts are akin to a comforting eiderdown, that is, dudes. That and “It doesn’t matter what effect this painting/film/book has on the audience, or who it exploits.” Easily said by people for whom “exploitation” is just a confusing jumble of syllables.

  101. yttik

    “My old art history prof Norris K Smith, for example, said that the historical and political context of a work are wholly irrelevant.”

    The political equivalent of this is, “don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”

    I don’t think either of these philosophies have served us well, but the patriarchy has sure reaped some benefits.

  102. Jezebella

    You know what? I didn’t read the article about Rivers, and I wasn’t excusing his behavior. If you were to READ the actual words I wrote, you might understand that. Christ.

  103. Jezebella

    Let me clarify.

    Q: Can a bad man make good art?
    A: Yes.

  104. AlienNumber

    And the reason this
    “Q: Can a bad man make good art?
    A: Yes.”

    is relevant/has merit/is of interest to radical feminists right now is…? Please explain.

    Polanski’s Pianist is “good art” (maybe) and he is obviously a bad man. But going on and on about this issue only contributes to Polanski. Instead we should just switch the focus completely to good women (good people) who make good art. For the simple reason that there is simply Not Enough Time in the Day to keep yankering about bad men making good art. Plus that’s what they do in art history departments around the world all the time. It’s old news, it’s boring, and it’s patriarchy-enhancing.

  105. ivyleaves

    Well, more to the point, the art that is bad here is photos of the sexual organs of underage girls, which makes this art no better than Girls Gone Wild, and in fact, worse. I just hope the women take the foundation to court and finally get those photos of themselves, which lack proper consent/model’s releases, and finally have the satisfaction of burning them themselves.

  106. Jill

    Hey, Jezebella’s on our side, group. Calling her a “rape apologist” is goin’ too far.

    All she’s sayin is that idea can exist independently of the person who idea-ed it, and can be a good idea even if the character of its originator is smelly.

    Meanwhile, if you discuss art, you discuss patriarchy. And, like everything else peculiar to human culture, feminist critiques don’t exist in a patriarchy-free zone (not least because, without the context of patriarchy, feminism makes no sense). If patriarchy’s old news bores you, foment revolution.

  107. Jezebella

    Sigh. I was responding to one specific poster, who said: “If I’ve learned the correct lesson from art week, his work was art, but very bad art. Therefore, it should die.”

    And my argument, in re: this particular comment, was that all of Rivers’ work is not bad art. Only the bad art is bad art. The other stuff isn’t. THAT WAS MY FRAKKING POINT. It was a singular response to a singular comment, and I did not at any time

    a. defend Rivers’ behavior

    b. claim that Rivers’ bad art (the pornography) was good art.

    I really don’t know how to be any clearer. And AlienNumber, it’s relevant because it’s what we’re talking about here, now, on a radical feminist blog. That’s how. Duh.

  108. Jane Q Public

    This film that Rivers made is a good example of what Simone de Beauvoir meant when she said “Art is an attempt to integrate evil.”

    The air of scumbag entitlement surrounding art like this and its defenders makes me realize it’s not the art that I dislike, it really is culture.

    I love it here. I learn something new every time I visit.

  109. yttik

    Josef Mengele was probably a really good scientist, but I don’t care. His “science” needs to die with him. The ends do not justify the means.

  110. Alexa


    ‘all of Rivers’ work is not bad art.’

    So what you’re saying is his art and ultimately *he* still commands respect? I can see you probably do respect all gifted artists cos of your job, but I agree with others – I think credit should be taken from these pervs.

  111. Jill

    Josef Mengele […]

    Pretty much, when Mengele gets invoked on a post about Yoko Ono, the thread is over.

  112. Frumious B

    In the “Proving Jill’s points for her” category, I give you:


    Art, phart. It should be burned.

  113. Vinia Bright

    July 9, 2010 at 2:46 pm
    “Josef Mengele was probably a really good scientist, but I don’t care. His “science” needs to die with him. The ends do not justify the means.”

    I’m not so sure the scientific discoveries of an individual miscreant can die with him, and I’m not so sure they should. Even if it were possible, which I’m about to demonstrate it’s not.

    Because I’m slightly more familiar with it, I’ll use an example analogous to the Nazi doctors.

    Here’s the inscription from a monument to pioneering gynecologist J. Marion Sims:

    “J. Marion Sims M.D. 1813-1883. Surgeon and philanthropist, founder of the Women’s Hospital, State of New York. His brilliant achievement carried the fame of American surgery throughout the entire world. In recognition of his services in the cause of science and mankind. Awarded highest honors by his countrymen and decorations from the governments of Belgium, France, Italy, Spain, and Portugal.”

    This inscription is absolutely true. It’s just not the whole truth. The good Doctor Sims performed most of his gynecological research on American slaves. As a scientist, he understood that that was the most humane choice, because Africans, being subhuman, don’t experience pain the way real people do.

    The field of gynecology is built on this man’s discoveries; even if we threw out everything he did, we can’t throw out all the innovations based on his insights. And the usual dodge of allowing a person the ignorance of his times doesn’t work; from what I’ve read, he was a bigot even by 19th-century slave-owner standards.

    So what to do? Erase everything he did and start again, while the medical profession instates a moratorium on the practice of gynecology? How, exactly, would that work?

    Never go to the OB/GYN again? Even if you say you won’t today, you sure as hell will the day your feminist GP says, “That indigestion you’re having? And the urinary frequency? You know, those could be symptoms of ovarian cancer. We’d better have a specialist check it out.” So that’s not an answer, either.

    Avoidance is rarely the best answer, even when it’s possible. I think one solution is to publicize the evilness of people like him; the inscriptions I’d write for his monuments would be very different from the unmitigated praise he usually receives.

    I don’t think there’s any getting away from the fact that the worst, most actively evil — even murderous– sociopaths can have brilliant minds and make contributions that benefit humanity.

  114. AlienNumber

    (@Jezebella) Right, we’re on a radical feminist blog. The “bad men can make good art” just strikes me as a completely simplistic defense of something that should not be defended, especially on a radical feminist blog. Even good men are bad, no, by virtue of being male therefore sexist so what’s your greater point? Maybe I’m misreading you, but it seems like a repeat of the science week, and you’re defending here the “artistic method” (Art equivalent of the scientific method). Except I’m just not sure there is such a thing as artistic method. Is a complete separation between the artist and the work of art even possible?

    And yes, (privileged or privilege-identified) men-artists and their art I find completely and utterly boring, except when analyzed by the giant brain of Twisty/Jill (or some other radical feminist).

    Anyway, is there an artistic method that can be defended no matter what? I don’t think the Ideas Jill is bringing up is cutting it, because ideas themselves are situated and tweaked depending on who is expressing them (the artist, who is already privileged enough to be able to express them as art).

    Sorry if I still don’t understand what the point of “bad men can make good art” is. IBTP that these bad men and their art have defenders even on the radical feminist blog.


  115. nails

    Art week sucks. Its all in the eye of the beholder, and whatnot. Every time I have tried to formulate an argument I have failed. There isn’t any proof, you can only go on truthiness.

  116. Laurie

    People who do bad things can also make good art, yeah. But when you know about the artist’s creepiness, it’s hard to enjoy the good stuff.

    Saying bad folks can make good art suggests this association is illegitimate, doesn’t it? Should (or can) each piece o’ art be experienced for its aesthetic value (however valid that is) alone?

    This post is a perfect example. I used to think Yoko was sorta cool. Reading this post makes me sick, and I doubt I can look at her work the same way again.

    Since we can’t scrub the patriarchy out of art, it’s all carrying a toxic load of varying weights. But what about explicitly feminist artists like Kate Millett or pioneers like Laurie Anderson? And what about high vs. low art and the classism this entails?

    Nails, you’re right. Art Week’s almost over and I’m more confused than ever. But art and especially music still make my heart warm, just like nature crap.

  117. Sylvie

    Is art week over? The terms art and artist are honorifics we all believe we have the power to bestow, even on ourselves.

  118. Comrade Svilova

    If what makes good art good is (largely) subjective, then in some people’s eyes, bad people won’t be able to make good art. Since the artist as a person doesn’t interfere with your enjoyment of the artist’s work, Jezebella, that will give you a larger pool of art to enjoy, I suppose. For others of us, there’s so much art out there to enjoy, that I doubt we’ll realize we missed out on anything if we give a pass to the work of people we find to be ethically reprehensible.

  119. janicen

    If Ono had made the same film using an actor who was aware of the point of being followed by the photographer and allowed to improvise her reaction to the rape, it would have been very interesting and not victimized anyone. As it is, it strikes me as being akin to a snuff film. Ono herself has said she doesn’t think she could watch the film now.

    I wonder what the reaction from NYU would be if Rivers had filmed the development of his sons’ rather than his daughters’ genetalia throughout adolescence? Would they be so keen on preserving this art? What Rivers did to his wife and daughters is horrifying and if, as I have always understood, art is communication between the artist and the viewer, then I for one, know all I want to know about Rivers and don’t care about anymore communication from him.

  120. Ginjoint

    Jezebella, I get your point. While I’m not as quick-witted as many posters here, I am not stupid. What was problematic for me was the second paragraph of your post, which sounded (to me) very dismissive of Rivers’s actions. If that wasn’t how you meant it, well, maybe I am dense. It doesn’t seem as if I’m the only one who read it that way, however. There’s more I’d like to say, but meh. I’m done.

  121. sargassosea

    janicen –

    “I wonder what the reaction from NYU would be if Rivers had filmed the development of his sons’ rather than his daughters’ genetalia throughout adolescence?”

    Excellent question.

    To add to that line of thinking: What if the *Artist* was a woman using her sons as subjects (objects)? Or daughters, even?

  122. yttik

    “Pretty much, when Mengele gets invoked on a post about Yoko Ono, the thread is over.”

    It might be ugly, but Nazis played a horrific role in art, science, and patriarchy, all of which they worshiped. Dina Babbitt, who has now passed away, was forced to paint for Mengele, first gypsies and later his medical experiments. It saved her life and the life of her mother.

    Her work was “good” art in the sense that it saved her life, but “bad” art because of the horror it was forced to document.

    I don’t blame Dina, I blame the Nazis. I don’t blame Yoko, I blame the patriarchy. Art isn’t just about whether people are “good” or “bad” people, it’s about what they are forced to produce given the parameters they are trapped in.

  123. AlienNumber

    yttik, who do you blame for Rivers then?

  124. yttik

    “yttik, who do you blame for Rivers then?”

    The patriarchy. Perps like Rivers are trained to be who they are and constantly rewarded for their assholiness.

    But by “blame” I meant, who’s fault is it? What caused it? Not to be confused with being excused, people still have to take responsibility for their own stuff, no matter who or what caused it.

    I know Dina was tormented her entire life by what she had to do, I suspect Yoko wrestled with the implications of that film, but did River’s lay awake at night grieving over what he’d done to his daughters? I doubt it.

  125. agasaya

    It is unlikely that Rivers or Ono produced their ‘art’ for its own sake. If it weren’t marketable, the thoughts themselves leading to these efforts might not have existed or been translated into film.

    Art-for-profit has to appeal to patriarchy or there is no profit. Many artists die broke until society finds some use or appreciation of it. Sex always sells – its ageless. Love, less so.

  126. Jezebella

    Alexa: “So what you’re saying is his art and ultimately *he* still commands respect?”

    No. That’s not what I’m saying at all.

    I understand that my reductio ad absurdum argument was inelegant at best, and offensive at worst, but I was not making an analogy between pedophilia and bratty teen behavior. Nor was I excusing his behavior. I was trying to say, obviously unclearly, that if you take the argument “Rivers is a bad person, therefore all of his art is bad” to its extreme (absurd) end, then nothing any of us does is of value, because we have all committed at the very least, minor crimes against right-thinking behavior. Therefore, in my view, the original assertion is invalid.

    However, yttik has now Godwinned the whole damn thread so we might as well move on, eh?

  127. yttik

    That wasn’t cool Jezebella. Not only do you insult my intelligence by trying to invoke Godwin’s law, but you trivialize and dehumanize the entire experience of Dina Babbitt by implying she’s nothing but a meaningless straw man argument used on the internet.

    Thank you for defending the pedophile, the rapist, and the murderer, while constantly riding me for just about everything I say.

  128. Alexa

    ‘No. That’s not what I’m saying at all.’

    What else could you be saying by ‘some of it is good art’? You were just being arsy and picking on yttik again. Sad

    yttik, as I may be just your biggest admirer – what books do you read/ what philosophy? I’m thinking about getting into paganism as I’ve thought about it a lot and had experiences that suggest there’s more to life than rationale. I was wondering whether you’re a pagan, what influenced you?

  129. agasaya

    You can’t Godwin a discussion on this list because compulsion rules out voluntary participation or allegiance to any cultural value other than that being ordered by the oppressor. I can’t view Dina’s work as art. It was an act committed under pain of death as are many acts of women under patriarchy. It was another form of rape which is not an artistic experience however expressive the result. Having lost half of my family tree in the Holocaust and raised around elderly folks with tatooed wrists, the term art isn’t anything which comes to mind in terms of the products of those times.

    That doesn’t mean any person isn’t capable of creating art and participating in a broader definition of ‘culture’. Culture is a word derived from the word ‘cultivate’, and also references the process of transmitting learning about one’s society. Raising the young to know society.

    It is not a concept limited to a classist view of ‘humanities’ which is itself limited to the ‘higher’ (gag) consciousness of man‘. I never use the term humanities now, having recognized that oxymoron.

    Culture does incorporate female consciousness of oppression and forums like this transmit that knowledge – and is therefore part of our culture. (or counter-culture but still.)

  130. Comrade Svilova

    Jezebella, would it be fair to say that some of Rivers’ art is good to you despite the obvious problems with other works he created? I certainly agree with you that it’s not logical to dismiss everything by an artist simply because that person is a terrible human being; and that such a policy does risk losing some great art (because where does one draw the line between terrible people and not-so-great people?). However, I wonder if some of the issue here is that what makes art “good” art is, ultimately, subjective.

    While Rivers’ other works appeal to you despite his history, others of us may not be interested in making a distinction between the artist and his self-expression (in this case). To us, then, Rivers’ work (as a whole) isn’t “good,” with “good” of course being a subjective assessment. We each have our own criteria for what makes us consider some art good and other art bad.

    Finally, I think it’s possible to say something is “good art” without simultaneously asserting that it’s so “good” that it makes the existence of its creator justified. I really like the film “Knife in the Water,” but I’d happily give up the existence of the film if it meant that Polanski couldn’t have committed one (or more, probably) rapes. Same with Yoko Ono; it would be better in the grand scheme of things if “Rape” hadn’t been made. However, if I say that “Cut Piece” is really interesting, that isn’t also an argument for the existence of “Rape.”

  131. speedbudget

    I understand Ono was working in a patriarchal paradigm. That doesn’t mean she has to be just as cruel and petty as the next Little Lord Fauntleroy. The difference between Babbitt and Ono is worlds. One was literally on pain of death, the other was not. Ono has a cruel streak, as evidenced by that film. We all live in the same patriarchy, and even before my radical feminism wake-up call, I would never have been so cruel to another human being as Ono was to that woman. I wouldn’t be able to live with myself.

    I understand, Yttk, you were not excusing her. I just disagree with the “we all live under the patriarchy” apologism, as while it’s true, we are still actors with all the sentience and compassion necessary to make humane and decent choices.

  132. Jezebella

    Comrade Svilova: Yes, that’s pretty much it. Thank you for letting me know that I’m being clear enough that at least one person is hearing what I’m saying.

    I will add as a corollary that most “fine” art prior to the 19th century isn’t so much “artist’s self-expression” as “the patron’s expression via the artist”, as most large artworks were commissioned. It is misguided to confuse the artwork with the artist, in my view, no matter what century the artist lived in.

    Artists do not live outside patriarchy any more than feminists do, and we all have to make a living. Artists, like all human beings, range from reprehensible to truly kind and lovable, and their artwork ranges likewise, yet there is rarely a positive correlation between personality and production. This is true of scientists, programmers, artists, architects, et al.

    In sum: I do not believe that respect or admiration for an artwork/idea should EVER automatically convert to respect for the artist/ideator as a human being.

  133. Solniger

    Nobody should make a living from art. A lot of exploitative and horrible art would dissapear under such conditions, as would all the self absorbed, asshole artists, and the patriarchy’s dirty fingerprints from the entire thing. Art should only exist as something the creator of it enjoys making upon returning after-hours from a mind numbing day job *

    *Mind numbing day jobs being a necessity in a capitalistic society.

  134. Solniger

    addendum: I re-read what I wrote and the patriarchy’s dirty fingertips would probably not be completely erased from ‘art’ or ‘Art’ until the revolution comes.

  135. veganrampage

    A very clear example of an artist as criminal is the career of Leni Riefenstahl. At least it is clear to me, as many film “experts” are quick to defend her.
    She directed “Triumph of the Will” and other Nazi movies.
    The film “The Wonderful Horrible Life of Leni Riefenstahl” is well worth watching.
    Yes, she may have broken some film-making ground,used great techniques, but she will always be just another Nazi fuck to me, talent or no talent.
    I can, will and do throw out the good with the bad when the bad is bad enough.

  136. Comrade Svilova

    Solniger, I agree with you, but then I think about all the trust-fund babies who are “artists” in my town, and how freaking annoying it is to constantly run into soulful and creative geniuses who have no understanding of the class system and who treat working-people-who-also-make-art so poorly. They don’t have to make art for money because they’re so extremely wealthy to begin with. And so clueless. (Silly example: One local artist’s 13 year old daughter made fun of me because I don’t have air conditioning and automatic windows in my car when I took the tyke along on a shoot for her “internship.”)

    So yeah, the revolution is the real answer. But making art for money definitely seems to be a risky proposition (in general, not in all cases, of course).

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