Hello and welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" My name is Anne Johnson, it's on my birth certificate (with an appropriate middle name), and I'm the chief loudmouth on this site.
Today's sermon is about a piece of performance art. You be the judge. Is it appropriate? Is it ethical?
My daughter The Heir is an artist. Over the weekend she agreed to photograph a series of performance artworks in the pedestrian tunnels under City Hall in Philadelphia. These tunnels are part of Philadelphia's subway system.
Heir was particularly perturbed by one of the pieces.
It was a younger woman, slightly older than Heir. This woman had cut a slit in her tight skirt where her butt was. And she wore no underwear. Basically she was strolling around the subway pedestrian tunnels with her derriere on display. She also had a paper bag which contained hard core pornography pictures. Occasionally she would drop the contents of the bag and let passers by help her to pick them up, or just see them.
When Heir caught up to this artist, the artist was not in the main pedestrian tunnel, but instead in a side tunnel that is popular with the city's homeless population. It was a cold day, so there were homeless men in the tunnel.
One of the men noticed the woman's butt and began to comment on it. He took out a sweater and tried to wrap it around the woman. Then he tried to get a feel. At that point, Heir stopped photographing and intervened, telling the woman they ought to move elsewhere. As they started off, the man followed them. When they started walking faster, he yelled at them. Then he got into an argument with another homeless man who also accosted Heir and artist. A policeman appeared and began to argue with the loud homeless man. The last thing Heir heard was the homeless man shout, "I DIDN'T DO ANYTHING!"
I think this performance is unethical and inappropriate. My daughter The Spare says I'm victim-shaming, and that this brave artist was bringing attention to the plight of objectified women.
My ethical dilemma with this piece is not that it was being performed, but that it was being performed in a remote place, and its viewers could face police prosecution for their response to the art. I think the woman did not do the right thing by choosing a tunnel where the homeless congregate for her performance. I wonder, however, if she might have faced charges herself if she chose to perform this piece in a more crowded concourse.
Then there's the bag filled with pornography. I think this is also inappropriate.
Personally, I have to be really careful what I look at, because pictures of starving children and gory violence make me physically ill. I think that some people have the same reaction to pornography, especially people who have been raped or sexually abused as children. And again I'm wondering what sort of charges might occur if this artist dropped her bagful of pictures and a policeman saw them.
What do you think of this piece of performance art? Spare would have me know that performance art is supposed to make the viewer uncomfortable. Heir and I feel that people who view performance art by appointment at an advertised event would indeed be prepared for such a piece, but that people just walking, or basically living, in a pedestrian tunnel under a city are not, nor should they be, prepared to see this artwork. It is, in fact, intrusive beyond appropriate bounds.
I anxiously await your take on this.