means-as-medium

If we were truly the musical people that we think we are, there would be a growing discography based on the notion of a people who gorge themselves endlessly, yet are profoundly undernourished. But invariably, time from time someone leaves a door unlatched and a few bars or whole measure drifts out that is recognizable – how we have conditioned ourselves to think that we’re open to different ideas when that isn’t actually the case at all; that we’re already overtaxed with things to do and think about when we actually ask quite little of ourselves; how ‘the whole thing’ (whatever it is) is just too complicated when it’s often quite simple and only the onus of our choices which we find too troublesome to delve into.

The column this week touched on this idea in a very indirect way, via a coincidental example of an eco-themed art show. It’s greatly true that if you just keep in mind what it is that you’re doing, most situations tend to be navigable, that one included. In a timely NYT follow up (kidding), this article presents much the same take on a coincidental example, a review of a show by the recipient of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum’s Hugo Boss Prize.

When an artist uses her art to advance a political cause, how are we to judge the result? Should we evaluate the project by applying artistic standards or on the basis of its political or moral argument?

Consider Emily Jacir, who employs conventional devices of conceptualism and performance art to call attention to the plight of the Palestinian people.

This particular example of her work has a tertiary component that makes it even more suspect, but the point holds that even and especially with sympathetic subject matter, the basic premise of ‘art as means’ remains problematic.

However tragic and deplorable Mr. Zuaiter’s story may be, Ms. Jacir’s exhibition does not bring him to life sufficiently enough to elicit a strong emotional response. You may agree or disagree with her political goals and her use of the art exhibition system to further them. But the problem is with her unexceptional artistry, not her politics.

Just so.

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