Once more from the peanut gallery

Posted in Art in Canada, Debate by Adele Todd on December 8, 2007

The Toronto Star featured an article on the recent hubbub made by the young student artist, Thorarinn Ingi Jonsson who did a sculpture of a bomb at the entrance to the Royal Ontario Museum, causing it to be closed and him to be detained by the police.The writer Christopher Hume states in his writing, that this latest stunt by an artist, is proof positive that art has lost its power to shock.This is an interesting statement to make about art at this time. Mention is made of Marcel Duchamp and Manet’s Olympia in the piece.But I couldn’t help noticing, that this article made the front page and back page of the Ideas section of the paper. Why would it, if indeed shocking the public is so old hat and last season?However, the writer does make some valid points. He says that today art isn’t taken seriously, with the exception of the Muslim world who are always on the lookout for defilement of the name of Mohammed. In one sense, Hume is right. We are all bored with much of the visual subject matter we see, and it does take an awful lot to get people to look. However the idea that shock is dead is a very premature statement.I remember thinking that I could not be more shocked in Trinidad and Tobago fifteen years ago with the violence and murder going on. Today, what I was shocked at then seems extremely tame, and I continue to be shocked now. I make this comparison to say this, when shock dulls our senses, society collapses in on itself. Shock is a cycle. It has its place. Certainly, nudity, profanity and violence may not shock. But who is to say that love, kindness and joy cannot be the new arbiters of shock? Something to think about.


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