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Re : Ethics of Art and Debate (was "Human Binding")
- To: BOOK_ARTS-L@LISTSERV.SYR.EDU
- Subject: Re : Ethics of Art and Debate (was "Human Binding")
- From: Thomas Larque <email@example.com>
- Date: Sun, 19 Apr 1998 21:08:07 +0100
- Message-Id: <199804192007.NAA17804@SUL-Server-2.Stanford.edu>
- Sender: "Book_Arts-L: On the web at http://www.dreamscape.com/pdverhey" <BOOK_ARTS-L@LISTSERV.SYR.EDU>
I was the person who started the "human binding" thread - although I
expected it to stop at my single posting, and certainly didn't foresee the
length and depth of the following debate - which I found very interesting.
Personally I would agree that the debate should be stopped if it is
upsetting List members, and in particular since we have been asked to stop
by Peter, who runs this list.
I think that the Ethical debate which is starting up is another thing,
however, and would like to make a contribution to this. Although I would
like to continue a disucssion of some of the issues that Richard has brought
up (with reference to the use of "shock-tactics" or "controversy" in art),
this will be my last-posting, on-list, to deal directly with the
"human-binding" subject, which Peter has asked us to bring to an end.
>From a personal point of view I have found nothing offensive or upsetting in
the recent debates. Perhaps this has something to do with my historical
interests. I am used to reading about, analysing and discussing, much less
pleasant subjects in much greater detail without feeling that I have been
"tainted" by the subject discussed. Because this is a public forum, which
was not set up for moral or historical debates, then it does not seem an
appropriate place to continue discussions of this kind in such graphic
detail, this doesn't mean that the subject should not be discussed at all -
but if we want to continue in this form, we should find another place to do
I agree with Richard Mimsky that there is no direct link between most parts
of this discussion and the events in the death camps (there is a world of
difference between mass murder and the voluntary donation of body parts ...
how many of us are intending to donate organs for transplant or medical
research?) - and in any case the neo-Nazi site that I blundered across would
like nothing better than for everybody to refuse to discuss, and thereby
fail to remember, what happened in those terrible years. If we forget
history, we run the risk of repeating it.
I have spoken to victims of other more recent wars, and have read the
accounts of Jewish survivors of the Holocaust, and the view that I have come
across has always been that these things *must* be discussed, and known
about. And that the best way to honour the victims is to remember what was
done to them. Of course, those who hold the opposite view are less likely
to make their opinions known - but in my mind there is no disrespect to the
victims of human barbarity if we discuss their sufferings. The disrespect
lies in ignoring them.
Unlike Richard, I do not think that shock for shock's sake is likely to open
the eyes of the easily offended. Instead, it seems more likely that it will
drive them away, and cause them to instinctively turn against the views that
they consider to have been pushed upon them against their will. To be
genuinely effective, and change minds, these shocks must be administered -
but, if possible, in a more subtle way, so as to cut under the defences
which we find so easy to build when total rejection is an option. And these
"shocks" are usually most appreciated by those who are not genuinely shocked
by them - preaching is always most successful when we are preaching to the
Any art, historical writing, or anything else which deals with serious
subjects is likely to provoke this reaction from some. But there is little
point in pretending that these are the people on whom it has any real
effect. Those who do not want to see will remain blind, whatever you put
before them. Those who truly reconsider their views when affected by shocks
of this kind are not those who have chosen to close their eyes, but those
who are not aware of having done so.
So - as to the sort of discussion which we should be having on this group -
I would personally like to see a wider discussion of the many interesting
points that Richard has raised, without continuing the highly detailed and
graphical description of the "human binding" topic which is obviously
upsetting other members of the group.