Ethics for Creative Practice - Ann Shelton, March 29
Although virtues like veracity, beneficence and general 'good will' seem obvious and ubiquitous to the kiwi way of life, Ann's examples of the three artists who 'crossed the line' provided me with an opportunity to commence a very heated internal, perpetual game of ethics tennis inside my head and it's been playing out continuously all week. On team 'Amygdala' we have John 'You-gotta-be-f*kn-kidding-me' MacEnroe and Avram Noam 'Pick-up-a-shovel-to-move-a-mountain' Chomsky, with the opposing Team 'Hippocampus' being made up of Moana 'E-Tu-Tātou' Maniapoto and Don 'Some-of-my-friends-are-mowri' Brash - this is going to be a long blog/tennis match... Despite the obvious, what I am enjoying most about these imaginary rallies is the energy created from the internalised seemingly schizophrenic discourse (Ko te kai o ngā Rangatira, he korero, he korero - The food of chiefs is conversation).
MacEnroe serves up the observation that Dana Schutz used the motherhood connection as permission to exploit Emmett Tills mutilated corpse as a pro-black or anti-injustice statement. But then Maniapoto returns with the smashing forehand reminding Team Amygdala that no consultation or consideration for potential harm to the family was taken into account. Immediately, Chomsky returns the thought with Dana's rationale "An artists should not self censor". Brash races to the net, pauses in agreement with Noam and lets the ball ricochet off the asphalt at his own team-mate's feet; 15-0. MacEnroe serves - "here we are again with a white artist benefitting from a blatant, discriminatory black tragedy based on the lie of another white woman." Brash - "Yes but here we are on the other side of the planet being reminded of the tragedy of what happened to Emmett and his family 63 years ago!" 15-15 and on they go..and go...and go.
While no jury is in session, nor sentences being accorded, I am enjoying the rich exploration of ethical, moral and legal considerations. And although I acknowledge the tenacity and gumption of the artists and curators, I also recognise the hurt inadvertently generated by the consumption and interpretation of the 'victims'. If I am to apply this session and these virtues to my own work, I feel relatively lite-weight as an artist. Musically my material is not controversial at all, I'm not the kind of artist that wants to shock anyone - actually the opposite where my hope is to connect audiences through commonalities and simple subtle themes. I have never been antagonistic for the sake of infamy and at the risk of inciting my own vomit, currently I prefer to use the phenomenological moment of experience to connect consumers...cue "Naaawwww" .
Historically I have endeavoured to use political lyricism combined with psychedelic trance rhythms and chaos in some hope of audience subscription. But I find myself extricating or un-subscribing from my own formula and looking externally. I find more peace and tranqulity in the ngāhere than I do amidst anthro-spheres. I am finding the politics and agenda's of the western status-quo to be complicating and reliant on capitalist religions.
I do find myself agreeing with Dana in regards to not censoring ourselves, but then my own process of composition has elements of limitations and visceral censorship. I would never compose a piece of music to knowingly offend anyone. But I guess thats the point - because of her own context, Dana did not even consider that she would offend anyone. My interpretation of this scenario is that she felt like she was doing a good thing or the right thing by her memorialising the brutal murder of Emmett. I wonder what would have happened if Dana was a black artist? Would there have been the same outcry? Reverse racism? Maybe the fact that an African American artist/mother has NOT re-imagined Emmetts mutilated body says it all - because an African American artist/mother is constantly living with the fear of a tragic possibility ... and not just the memory of a horrific and shameful injustice.