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  1. #21
    Jeremy's Avatar
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    Ole,
    your views on Serrano aren't due to cultural relativism ... I would classify your response as apathy

    The odd factor here is that before the cult of saints from Christianity, to convene with the dead was considered an offense punishable by death. The earliest surviving record of Christian hagiography (study of the saints) is the The Martyrdom of St. Polycarp (a letter written in 155 or 166 if I remember correctly--they can't pinpoint it more than that). It records the preservation of the martyr's body as a relic and the celebration which took place on the day of his death in the form of a feast. I'm not versed in Mexican history, but does The Day of the Dead spring from this Catholic tradition?
    Let's see what I've got in the magic trash can for Mateo!

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  2. #22

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    As far as I know....and this is from someone who is not Mexican and simply just lives 100km from the border...it is the same old story as with all the other holidays in the Catholic church...

    It is an adaptation of a Pagan holiday, most likely some sort of autumnal feast day or something. Since people like to have their holidays the church just took the date and adapted it.

    Traditionally the 1st of Sept is All Saints Day and the 2nd is All Souls Day. All Saints Day is supposed to be a day to honor all the saints at once (I mean there are TONS of them....this was literally a catch-all holiday. Otherwise every other day would be Saint Somebody's Day....). All Souls Day is supposed to honor all the dead.

    Of course things change. In some places they have the two seperate days, in others you just honor the dead on All Saints.

    Now, Mexico is not Europe. The indigenous religions (primarily the Aztec religion) had their own ways to honor the dead. And the Aztecs were pretty concerned with the afterlife. So everything got blended together down there. Mexico is a crossroads of a lot of different cultures. Even Spain recieved a lot of Arabic/Moorish influence which was of course brought over too.

    As a result the Dia de los Muertos in Mexico has become a uniquely Mexican tradition. If I am not mistaken the 1st is used to honor dead children, and the 2nd honors adults. And it is a pretty joyous holiday. Children are given sugar skulls (which look a lot like the old Aztec skulls), people make Pan de Muerte (Bread of the Dead) and have picnics at the grave sites of relatives. It is actually an amazingly healthy attitude towards death. Death is seen as a part of life and the dead never really leave you if you remember them every year.

    And like I said before, the best part is the art.
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  3. #23
    Ole
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeremy Moore
    Ole,
    your views on Serrano aren't due to cultural relativism ... I would classify your response as apathy
    No, it's just a lack of ingrained visceral response to seeing a crucifix.

    But the "Morgue" series really turned my stomach - as nothing but violent death can.
    -- Ole Tjugen, Luddite Elitist
    Norway

  4. #24

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    Without even having read any replies to your question I'd say the most immoral art I've seen is that which panders to the lowest common denominator. This is art that requires no thought other than a reactionary "Ooh, that's pretty."

    The worst offender is Thomas Kinkade. Since much of what's sold under his name is mass produced in factories by machines and droids it's hard to even call it art.

    Right now there are hundreds, thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of would-be Kinkades committing the same atrocities in the digital realm. Woe unto them.

    Cezanne said that one of the greatest functions of art is to promote beauty. He was wrong.

    One of the greatest functions of art is to promote thought. When I see such tripe passed off as art I think, "Ooh, that stinks." And so even bad art has served a purpose.
    Three degrees of separation from Kevin Bacon.

  5. #25

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    Awful and immoral acts were practiced by physicians in concentration camps during 2nd war. This doesn't mean the medical SCIENCE is immoral.
    Ok, I know I'm saying the obvious, but just to organize my thinking.
    Photography ART has awful, immoral works and good, beautiful works. Fundamental esthetic and technical rules orient us, but there is a zone of confusion, as in any art, where subjectivity is present. Ansel Adams said that Mortensen had an incredible bad taste in his work. I don't think so and I've learned with both. Brett Weston said that the majority of Imogen work was not good. Imogen said that Edward Weston signed some bad prints, something that Stieglitz would never do. Subjectivity is a permanent ingredient of any art, different opinions will remain forever, but for sure there are works exaggeratedly bad or immoral, which the majority of beholders will agree they are in front of a trash.
    Kennedy, I don't know Witkin, so I can't say anything about that.
    sergio caetano

  6. #26
    Ed Sukach's Avatar
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    I know not what course others may take, but as for me....

    I still do not consider the field we call art as the proper venue for effecting moralistic change.

    Some time ago, PBS had a whole series dealing with the "Holocaust". In it, they aired uncut, unexpurgated anti-semetic - violently - films that we shown as part of Hitler's political scheme. Rather than "turning" any of my attitudes, I could easily recognize them as some of the most bizarre LIES one could - or - possibly more appropriately, could not - imagine. One can only think about - and wonder - how on earth a society - any society - could accept them. Offensive - absolutely. Effective, in their purpose in this day, age, and society? Not in the least.
    The net result of these was to show something of "what might happen - worst case scenario" - and should alert us to the possibility of history repeating itself.

    I have other ways to influence others in their moral judgement ... Political "protests"; I participated in a community play called "In Harms Way" dealing with domestic abuse problems, I WRITE my representatives in the legislature - fortunately, I can talk easily with my State Congressmen - they purposely make themselves available.

    There are many ways to use one's energy in discharging the duties of every citizen to "make things as good as possible", but I really do not believe art is one of them.

    What are we to say of "Art Therapy", where troubled people are using art as a means of catharsis - recognizing the "dark" factors in their own lives, bringing them to consciousness, so they can be dealt with? Why would it be so wrong to recognize some of this universal "darkness" in ourselves and deal with it?

    Not all art is therapy ... or is it? Surely there is something of "healing" value in all of art - where we can release repressed thoughts and energies.

    So some of us a troubled- shocked - by what we perceive as Witkin's DISrespect for the dead. Doesn't that really reinforce our own decisions to be MORE respectful?

    - Anyway - thoughts from the back of an envelope ...
    Carpe erratum!!

    Ed Sukach, FFP.

  7. #27

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    True, but should WItkin profit from a crime? His early work sells for a lot of money and is desired by galleries.

    Should this be allowed? If someone molests a child and takes pictures of it, it is a crime and they can't profit from the act. Why make an exception here?
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  8. #28
    Ed Sukach's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Robert Kennedy
    True, but should WItkin profit from a crime? His early work sells for a lot of money and is desired by galleries.

    Should this be allowed? If someone molests a child and takes pictures of it, it is a crime and they can't profit from the act. Why make an exception here?
    This question is *far* too complex to try for anything like a simple answer.

    Witkin's work certainly can be considered immoral, by some. I don't know if it was 'criminal' under Mexican law. Was he convicted of anything ... or is there such a great state of outrage that the general idea is "Well - He is guilty, because he *should* be guilty."... ?

    I've been thinking - Under the laws and morals of the time, much of Edward Weston's nude work was "immoral" and would be considered to be "pornographic" under the old definition of, "Any photograph that shows pubic hair, or the area where there should be pubic hair is pornography" - and that definition was that of Federal law. Many were tried and convicted and served time in Federal prisons for breaking that law. Should Weston or anyone else have "profited" from these photographs?

    I am a firm believer in two ideas (at least two): that the punishment should FIT the crime, and that man is redeemable, and can change.
    The idea of "Branding" minor criminals with hot irons is especially bad in my book - yet that is exactly what we do with our "Arrest Records".

    Let's expand the idea of "profit from crimes" one step further -- I don't have ANY statistics on this - but it would seem to me that *few* crimes are committed so that the perpetrator could be convicted, serve a good portion of his or her life behind bars, and then look forward to making *big* money from the book. Maybe - but to me, that is a stretch.
    The criminals a certainly NOT "acting alone" if they "profit". There are many more - publishing companies, motion picture studios - so many others - and we can all wonder at the morality questions. And, of course there are the news media...

    What should be done is to try to PREVENT crime. View the crime as the act that it is ... and not try to seek revenge in every way possible after the fact.

    Otherwise - a far more difficult question... Should ANY art be a vehicle for making profit? What if an abstract painting of a mentally disturbed person is considered by a group that is arguably just as whacko - art dealers -, see this as "Great Art" and sell it for a couple of million? Doesn't that encourage and "foster" others to be as "insane"?

    Now ... I don't think one should expect more "rants" on the subject from me (I can hear the sighs of relief from all those reading). I've had a extraordinary photo session with an *unbelievably * **WONDERFUL** model outdoors in brilliant backlit fall foliage. I have fifteen rolls of black and white, color, and infrared to develop and print.

    That is going to be *much* more enjoyable than wrestling with the idea of morality / immorality in art - and struggling NOT to be misinterpreted.
    Carpe erratum!!

    Ed Sukach, FFP.

  9. #29

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    Well, I do think it is somewhat simple.

    First off, comparing nduity and corpse desicration is a bit unfair. Different cultures have different takes on what is obscene when it comes to nudity.

    But EVERY culture has STRICT rules about hwo you treat a corpse. They differ WIDELY, but EVERYONE has rules. Everyone.

    Which is the point. Witkin DID violate the law in Mexico. Yes, Mexico does have laws against this. Every nation pretty much does. He violated them. I mean this is basic stuff.

    We know he did. He has proof. He brags about it. Has he been prosecuted? Sadly, no. That doesn't mean though that WE should accept that. Or that we should encourage it.

    Let me put it this, if Witkin never sold a thing, if NOBODY made a fuss over him, if he was just ignored because of the nature of his work, would he do it?

    Nope.

    As to buying his work - Why is buying child pornography wrong? Because someone was victimized to make it.

    Witkin's work is no different. There was no consent by the subjects. There is no respect. They are objects he uses so HE can get his rocks off and make some cash. Buying his work just encourages more of it and makes the buyer complicit.
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  10. #30
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    Don't have a viewpoint on this one really, except to ponder if a corpse can be a victim?

    Are we victimizing KIng Tut, frozen iceman, etc.doing these autopsies. NAtional Geographic seems to be making money off these programs.

    To add fuel to the fire. Sally Mann's work is, I presume part of many pedophile collections. Since her children never felt victimized by the photographs, does that fact contribute to the fact that they are not illegal to own.

    How do we know which child pornography pictures, victimized the child.

    Does there have to be a victim to make a crime.

    Don't have an answer, just asking.

    MIchael MCBlane

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