Thursday, September 14, 2006

"Cavalier" not very

The ombudsman of the University of Virginia’s The Cavalier Daily, a student newspaper, has determined that art must be limited to what can be understood representationally. Or maybe to what she can understand. (It’s not clear.)

The paper printed two comics last month by student Grant Woolard (this one and this one) that provoked protests by some religious people because they treated religious subjects unfavorably. Actually, ombudsman Lisa Fleisher’s essay doesn’t say what the religious people found objectionable about the cartoons; it only says what she found objectionable about them, which was that she didn’t get them. I’m not exaggerating. Quote:
While I don't think an apology is necessary, the managing board should consider changing its policy to ensure the cartoon has a clear message.
Woolard's two items, unfortunately, were quite inscrutable. […] [T]here needs to be a solid, understandable point or message involved..
A famous art critic (whose famous name I can't remember) said that people at first doubt that abstract art can really represent anything. But when it is shown to them that some abstract works can clearly do so, they then make the corollary mistake of insisting that every work of abstract art is explicitly representational. This is similar to the mistaken assumption that Cavalier ombudsman Fleisher suffers under: If it can't be put into words, it isn't art.

Plenty of recent cartoons in The Cavalier Daily don’t have explicitly editorial points to make: they’re just cute or funny, like comics all over the world. Start here on August 23rd to see the other comics The Cavalier printed with Woolard’s and click forward toward today to see what I mean. Why single out those comics as insufficiently understandable.

On the basis of no evidence presented in her essay other than that some people outside the university said they were angry, Fleisher determines that Woolard’s comics were gratuitously offensive. She says of them, “Offending just for the sake of offending -- or even to get people talking -- is juvenile and unprofessional.” But surely the fact that the religious ideas in question can be so easily ‘offensively’ juxtaposed in this way is a very strong and clear editorial comment. That people were offended by it seems to demonstrate irrefutably that this art is understandable.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The cartoon is being held to a higher standard than all art. The piece is also supposed to be making an editorial point, not just being cute or funny. The failure lies in the fact that the artist's point in a piece that is supposed to be a mass medium artwork in a daily paper is so easily misunderstood, as if an opinion columnist wrote beautifully but nobody could understand the point and somewhere in the middle wrote "F--- Bush."

2/19/2009 9:56 PM  

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