Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Cattelan's perverted victory

Of course, it's not his fault. He simply made the art. And if someone interpreted it wrong, well, they interpreted it wrong.
As many of you know, in 2004 the Italian sculptor Maurizio Cattelan hung three plastic dolls of children from Milan's oldest tree.
Shortly after being officially "open", the exhibition came to a sudden end: Franco De Benedetto, a Milenese man, decided to cut the children off. He cut two ropes, but swayed and fell when cutting the third one. He was injured and taken to hospital.
Cattelan graciously didn't press charges, but the city of Milan did. And won. De Benedetto will be spending three months in prison for destroying a work of art. Mind you, it took them nearly two years to establish this was indeed a work of art, as that was the prosecution's main argument.

Some say he simply misinterpreted the nature of the work:
Maybe, as the ambulance blared through the Milan streets, di Benedetto was moved to reflect on the violent collision of two types of judgment: civic and aesthetic. He seemed to have mistaken one for the other; or rather, he’d disallowed the second as soon as he set out on his hapless clamber.
I quite disagree. I think the whole work was based on the game between a work of art and a "natural" surrounding. As it is often the case with Cattelan, it was supposed to create uncertainty about the exact role of the work. Only here, it could easily bring uncertainty as to whether the sculptures were real or not.
In places where guns are illegal it is also a crime to pretend one has a gun. Even if you said it was a work of art, you would still be inciting a certain type of behaviour, suggesting a certain reality. I believe this is exactly the case here. This is not to say Cattelan is a criminal, case closed. Not at all. But since he plays in the real world, he should accept the real world's rules. And he does - by neither accusing De Benedetto formally, nor insisting on hanging the children again. But he creates a situation and then washes his hands, as if he wasn't its author. De Benedetto hurt himself and wound up in the hospital. This should be enough. The contact between art and reality is made quite explicit in this fall. The score seems so naturally set. Why go further?


Brock Neilson said...

I need to learn more about works of art that create situations, fascinating the way it all plays out with the hanging children.

jungle said...

The attention brought to the piece was greatly hightened by being cut, having a law suit filed, and imprisonment. It's seems that art is finding it's way into the court room more and more.

Hans said...

I start to hate him for this. He is just a spin doctor and a big traitor of art. Using the last what remained a bit holy in this acidized society. Setting this virtual images in our world demands the realization of this happenings in reality. So it will be. Again civilization will hang children, because some dirty virtuouse those image gave birth. It is so close to stupidity and boredom, a relative to the Chapman brothers and to Mueck, but they are so cynical and not taking responsability for their creatures and what follows. "Whuuu, we are just artists and free and so we are not responsible for further implications..." No, you are responsible for the stuff you create and you are aware, you are provoking nightmares for some personal success as emerging bullshit circus clowns. It is an much older discussion with Leni Riefenstahl, with lots of System-artists of the Soviet Empire, it will be a discussion with you on that. Don't forget.

Anonymous said...

If Cattelan engages himself in some real activity to help children in any way, his work would be justified. But he choses the easiest way to gain your attention. I prefere Tsotsi.

no-where-man said...

is 'Art' accountable to personal moral structures?

Hans said...

I think art comes too a great part from personal moral structures because it is based primaly on descision making in its process, what not excludes of course a lot of our half- or unconsious descisions.
We do not talk about a Pollock now, but of this piece in our Media Age, and its full with good planned descisions by its creator. Can and shall we every bullshit call art, or must there be invented or reactivated some new terms ? Bad Kitsch ? Catellan trashes both in the can, art and moral. Trashed and besmeared moral standards even the extended ones of artists ruins this world every day. But please, dont start to tell me now, that this is the intention and sense of C's work.

Art is accountable, because it gets accounted by whom ? By us, and we have, if we want or not the one or the other structure of behavior, values and morals. Thats why I liked the true and just human reaction of this Mayor so much.

It really makes me angry, the cynicism of this artwork. I wish him or better not, that he will never enjoy the joy and warmth of (own or not) children. Go to your sad and dead and cynical Art hell.

no-where-man said...

i am kinda over irony because it is humor at the expense of another.

Sam said...

Quoting Hans "Go to your sad and dead and cynical Art hell".

I find this vitriolic criticism of Cattelan's installation somewhat undeserved.

I see no causal link between Cattelan's installation and the possible emulation of this work, that is, that hanging of living children.

Such an argument presumes that Cattelan's work possesses no moral condemnation of such action. Moreover, it implies that Cattelan's work endorses such barbarous behaviour.

The work does not profer such an argument. Rather, the work suggests itself as a discourse on the aesthetic pleasure of punishment.

Caught oscillating, the spectator finds the installation's content viscerally disgusting. However, at the same time the spectator is called on to look - it is art after all. But the more one looks the more uncomfortable the viewing becomes as the spectator asks him/herself with horror "am I enjoying this barbarity?' And thus the viewing pleasure is an unpleasant, uneasy one - the spectator unsure of what he/she is looking at, whether it is art/punishment/voyeuristic spectacle.

And it is this complication of the spectatorial process that makes Cattelan's work so rewarding.

You take it with you as you watch other seemingly straightforward images and learn to ask yourself 'why am i looking?'


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