Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Art of the Artless

It sure seems like everything qualifies as art these days, from the eclectic to the exclusive, the pleasing to the nauseating. Nothing is sacred anymore.

Has the world become a stage full of perverts masquerading under the guise of arts and culturalism to promote sleaze? Going by what we see around us, that statement is not very far off its mark.

Human excreta, the genitalia, dead foetuses, live mutilation of animals, nudity, even sexual acts; you name it and chances are it is being exhibited in a museum or gallery somewhere to the delight of some and revulsion of others.

Take Musee De L'Erotisme in Paris, touted as the perfect stop for those with a penchant for sex and erotica, with its collection of erotic objects from around the world, displays on the history of Parisian prostitution and modern erotic arts.

Yet another is Venustempel in Amsterdam, arguably the world's oldest sex museum, where one can 'savour' the rich stock of erotic paintings, sculptures, manuscripts, recordings and even private interactive viewing booths.

And then there is the Icelandic Phallological Museum, the "Museum of Pricks" if you will. Located in Husavik, Iceland, it is dedicated to phallic specimens belonging to all the various types of mammal found in Iceland.

On display are 100 specimens belonging to 36 different kinds of mammal. Interestingly enough, the museum has also received a pledge of a future specimen belonging to homo sapiens.

I say kudos to the fellow game enough to donate his prick and balls upon his death in order to complete the exhibit!

Not to be outdone, even India has a museum aimed to disgust. True to its name, Sulabh International Museum of Toilets in New Delhi showcases all things, well, toilet.

It traces the history of the toilet from 3000 BC and offers fun facts (Louis XIV purportedly used to relieve himself while holding court), examines toilet customs from around the world, and toilets in relation to arts and literature, from poems to chamber pots, apparently.

And as recent as November 2007, Sulabh created doors and window planks made of human faeces and put them on display at the Lisson Art Gallery of London. I can understand cowdung (as cooking fuel), but human excreta as doors? Urgggh!

In the realm of mass nude photography, there is Spencer Tunick, from Brooklyn, New York, who has become famous for photographing thousands of naked people in public settings worldwide.

Calling himself a contemporary artist, Tunick set a record for naked photography with a photo of 18,000 people in the buff in Mexico City on May 6, 2007.

And just a week back, a Sydney art gallery was forced to suspend an exhibition featuring nude pictures of pre-pubescent boys and girls by photographer Bill Henson. Henson himself is now facing possible obscenity prosecution.

Whilst the art community in Australia defended his action, calling his public censure a blow to "artistic expressions", Australians in general strongly condemned what they saw as child pornography, with Prime Minister Kevin Rudd calling the photos "revolting."

Hoi polloi that I am, unschooled in the 'finer points of art appreciation' unlike Bill Henson and his arty-farty bunch, I certainly feel this is the kind of "art" we can darn well do without.

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