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Re: Ethics of Art and Debate
- To: BOOK_ARTS-L@LISTSERV.SYR.EDU
- Subject: Re: Ethics of Art and Debate
- From: Richard Minsky <minsky@MINSKY.COM>
- Date: Sun, 19 Apr 1998 22:34:22 -0400
- Message-Id: <199804200216.TAA17848@SUL-Server-2.Stanford.edu>
- Sender: "Book_Arts-L: On the web at http://www.dreamscape.com/pdverhey" <BOOK_ARTS-L@LISTSERV.SYR.EDU>
Thomas Larque said:
>Unlike Richard, I do not think that shock for shock's sake is likely to open
>the eyes of the easily offended.
I don't think I said that. I said "To use a material in one's work which in
itself startles the viewer is significant if (and perhaps only if) the
material is requisite in communicating the intended metaphor." This is not
shock for shock's sake.
The Patti Smith _Babel_, for example, in alum tawed rat and sumac tanned
goat with safety pin clasps and a safety pin through one of the rat's ears,
is a Punk binding made from materials which I felt essential and appropriate
to a binding, executed in 1979, on the literary work of an artist whom I
regarded as the Queen of Punk Rock (though let's not start a discussion of
the musicalogical aspects of what that means).
_The Birds of North America_ binding (1975) wasn't even intended to be
shocking, but was so radical it was pulled from a GBW exhibit. For those who
don't know that story, it's at <http://www.minsky.com/birdstxt.htm>. Today
this binding looks conservative, but all the other bindings then were tooled
and inlaid leather.
Which gets to the issues of intention and thought in the creative process. I
am very glad that Thomas got so much out of the small jpegs at my website.
Sometimes I think about the kinds of things he saw in my work, and sometimes
I just see an image in my mind and it feels right, so I make it real. I
don't always know what it is that I'm doing. People will get from a work of
art what they bring to it.
There are a few comments I can make about the works mentioned. _Holy Terror
(Inside the World of Islamic Terrorism)_ by Amir Taheri
<http://www.minsky.com/26.htm> is a book I first bound almost by accident. I
had recently (1988) bound a book of the same title, but with a different
subject: _Holy Terror (The Fundamentalist War on America's Freedoms in
Politics, Religion and Our Private Lives)_ by Flo Conway and Jim Siegelman,
and made several variants on the leather case binding. When I went to the
bookstore to get another copy, I asked for "Holy Terror" and they brought me
the Taheri book by mistake.
I believe the Divine Creator works like that, so I accepted the assignment
and created a binding, but not the one you saw on the website. The first
version was in purple vellum with text from the Koran in gold on the cover:
"The unbelievers follow falsehood while the believers follow the Truth. When
you meet the unbeliever strike off his head, and when you have laid him low,
bind him firmly." This is the part of the Koran which enables the Jihad, or
Holy War. The vellum was ripped open under the text, and in the hole was a
picture of a dead Arab baby from the front page of the NY Times the day I
bought the book.
But it got me thinking about Islamic bookbinding, and I thought that there
must be something in the design of the bindings on the Koran which would
make a strong comment on the underlying philosophy which gives rise to that
sort of thinking (religious terrorism) without being so literal. The
Brooklyn Museum has several excellent 15th c. lacquer examples, so I studied
them, and realized that they are covered in patterns which are entirely
filled. There is no room for any other elements. This struck me as the same
concept which fills a belief structure so there is no room for any other
beliefs. So I bought another copy of Taheri's book and designed a "Pop"
Islamic lacquer binding for it, using the purple vellum/gold text as a flyleaf.
So I am happy to report that Thomas got more from the binding than I had
thought about in creating it, which is better than I could have hoped for.
On the Rushdie Reliquary: Thomas has got it, and points out that what is
lacking on the web page is the text of the First Amendment for viewers
abroad. I must correct this when I have time. It is the freedoms of Speech,
Religion, the Press and Peaceable Assembly.
As far as the Second Amendment goes, Thomas also is on target. I would
mention, though it has no bearing on the work's meaning or impact, that I
had never held a firearm before creating this work, but purchased and
utilized them as tools of art specifically to make these bindings, and for
their metaphoric impact. In this country the issues surrounding firearms
ownership are very complex. The web pages on this work are not yet complete.
I still have to add higher resolution images of the covers to the pages so
the gold texts on all the covers are legible. Reading all the texts is
essential to understanding the work.