Love The Art, Hate The Artist?

Bad Bungle

Tutti but not Frutti.
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I've posted this peculiar image of John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten) before - an entry in an Exhibition of paintings by incarcerated criminals. Don't know what crimes the artist committed, not sure it makes a difference, would still love to own it. If Art is a window to the soul (may have made that up) then he can't be all bad in my eyes.

Lydon_0782.jpg
 

Coal

The Ultimate Skepticus
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If Art is a window to the soul (may have made that up) then he can't be all bad in my eyes.
[I'm not singling out the artist of the above here, for all I know the paintbrush has given them a way to express themselves and so reach some measure of peace with the world]

It's a great picture, but isn't this the nub of the issue - that somehow if one produces 'some great art' the creator must be in some way redeemable? Or merely 'flawed', but otherwise great?

Or is it the concern that if great art can be produced by less than stellar human beings then art is simply a set of rules that can be followed and is less genius and more ‘a creative skill’?

Do we say "Sure he killed a few old ladies but they're a great doctor otherwise?" and let them keep practicing?

Or "Terrific civil engineer, but those two rage killings were just a bad day at the office?" and let them build another bridge?

Generally we disbar the doctor and stop the civil engineer building bridges, but the artist can keep painting/singing etc...sure his mistresses killed themselves, but that's the artistic temperament innit?

Or are they just regular horrible people who can paint/write/sing?

Quite why as a society we treat the arts with this special set of blinkers, when a nurse with an artistic temperament would be fired, I’m not sure. It feels a bit like a sub-set of magical thinking, that art seems ‘magical’ to us non-artists, so we forgive the magician their tantrums and vices. Nah, buggerit, I’m not going to.
 

Coal

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Is it a special set of blinkers or just a matter of how practical it is? Doctors and engineers have a license you can take away, if they misbehave. That doesn't work for painters or musicians.
But you can avoid them because they're brats, prosecute them for crimes and don't buy their product.
 
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I listen to Black Metal, the Norwegian scene (and some others) produced Neo-Nazis or at least far right affiliated types, murderers and arsonists. In fairness, there were some bad people as well (JOKE). It should be said that BM has spread across the World to all manner of far flung places most of us might pay little heed to and have even less knowledge of, it is often a vehicle for expression of an individual's national, regional, tribal or local culture. And many of these culture's are neither white nor Western.

I also read Weird Fiction, Lovecraft had many abhorrent views: abhorrent by the standards of his own time, let alone ours. There are plenty of other writers from the time with a greater deal of cultural standing and acclaim who also had repugnant politics. So it goes.

I've divorced art from the artist. I'm not saying you can do it fully and some may not be able to do it at all. People hating other people for stupid reasons or having views I don't agree with I can tolerate, "it takes all sorts" as it were. I feel rather differently about sexual offences for example but fortunately have yet to come to that bridge with someone whose art I cherish, no doubt it will happen though.
 

eburacum

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Despite the fact that William Burroughs shot and killed his wife while drunk, he was still considered a genius by Norman Mailer and Jack Kerouack, among many others. I can forgive bizarre political and philosophical ideas, if the art is good; but murder is a step too far.
 

EnolaGaia

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Despite the fact that William Burroughs shot and killed his wife while drunk, he was still considered a genius by Norman Mailer and Jack Kerouack, among many others. I can forgive bizarre political and philosophical ideas, if the art is good; but murder is a step too far.

Manslaughter, not murder ... Although the witnesses' accounts vary on the details, they all agreed his second wife was shot in the head during preparation for, or performance of, a "William Tell" stunt (shooting a glass she'd placed on her head).
 

XEPER_

Death to all but metal
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I really struggle with this… one of my favourite ever Arthurian retellings is totally marred since I learned of the allegations of child abuse against the author. And the fact she endorsed her husband’s relationship with an underage boy. I’d love to be able to divorce the two, but just can’t.
I envy those who can.
Oh FFS, I saw this comment and thought it must be about a certain Arthurian novel which I didn't like so I googled it and am very upset to realise it's not that series at all. It's someone else's. Someone whose books I absolutely loved.
I won't be reading or recommending those any more then. I don't have a huge issue listening to Burzum or Dissection but this is different.
 

XEPER_

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Despite the fact that William Burroughs shot and killed his wife while drunk, he was still considered a genius by Norman Mailer and Jack Kerouack, among many others. I can forgive bizarre political and philosophical ideas, if the art is good; but murder is a step too far.
I listen to black metal and some of those bands - Dissection and Burzum for example - murdered people. As long as it's not in the music, or the lyrics or anything like that, I can look past it.
 
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Mrs Migs

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Oh FFS, I saw this comment and thought it must be about a certain Arthurian novel which I didn't like so I googled it and am very upset to realise it's not that series at all. It's someone else's. Someone whose books I absolutely loved.
I won't be reading or recommending those any more then. I don't have a huge issue listening to Burzum or Dissection but this is different.
Wish we still had the sad face emoji…. There are definitely things I can look past, but this one is just… no. And like you, I not only liked the Arthurian novel, but some of the more mainstream sci-fi they wrote. It ruined one of my comfort reads for me.
 

Endlessly Amazed

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I'm interested in how much people can or should divorce the creator from creator.

My particular fortean interests mean that I sometimes want to possess a physical think, or support a concert or whatever, and the creator is someone I really don't want to endorse.

I've recently gone back to listening to a composer having had my enjoyment curtailed by knowing about the politics.

I've got the chance to buy some wood engravings/etchings by an artist where I love the work but the private life is a huge cringe (and then some).

One of the best fortean fiction writers I know (and who helped to get me into it!) is a convicted child abuser.

Anyone else with this quandary? I haven't put names in (all three are firmly dead though) for possible legal reasons.

Ms F - since you started this interesting thread, I was wondering if you had reached any conclusions about buying the prints you liked.
 

Yithian

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Ms F - since you started this interesting thread, I was wondering if you had reached any conclusions about buying the prints you liked.

This might be a nice book-end to the discussion.

We really didn't want to have the list of names and accusations we received above, so it would be nice if that could now cease.
 

Frideswide

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It'll take a while to gell but my position now is

* it's a personal decision for each of us

* while one can suggest heuristics, it comes down to something almost intangible for each case

* it's not to do with "taking offence", it is a very visceral reaction

* I wasn't expecting the links into non-rational reactions of weird places, people not to turn your back on, and objects which should be handled with circumspection

* I still don't know how to tell the dancer from the dance

Having started to process this I'm going to open my mind to the art while still despising aspects of the artist. I know am competent to make these decisions - and to defend them if it ever came to it.

https://forums.forteana.org/index.php?threads/stuff-youve-just-bought.59405/page-199#post-2178953

Thank you every! Very much appreciated. :group:
 

Bad Bungle

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It's a great picture, but isn't this the nub of the issue - that somehow if one produces 'some great art' the creator must be in some way redeemable? Or merely 'flawed', but otherwise great?
Re-reading my post I see how I may have given the impression of redemption through Art - but actually I'm more worried about an assumption that great Art cannot be produced by a bad person. As an artist's reputation suffers then so does the critique of new and existing Work.
 

Coal

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Re-reading my post I see how I may have given the impression of redemption through Art - but actually I'm more worried about an assumption that great Art cannot be produced by a bad person. As an artist's reputation suffers then so does the critique of new and existing Work.
I may have stuffed up, I think (or thought) I was trying to say that great art can be produced by a less than stellar person, but people tend to think the opposite is the case, even in the face of evidence to the contrary. When this happens we call it "artistic temperament". :hoff:
 

Ghost In The Machine

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I'm not even getting to grips with this. I have a favourite opera singer/tenor. Well, several, but this bloke is one of my absolute favourites, Vittorio Grigolo.

Then this happens (he touches the fake pregnant belly of a chorus member, someone intervenes, near fisticuffs, he tells them to F off). The New York Met and London's Covent Garden "let go" of him instantly. (Have since read interviews with other members of this chorus who said "He was a dick, but harmless - all opera stars are dicks" kinda thing).

https://www.gramilano.com/2019/09/v...ldnt-apologise-i-was-sent-home-like-a-killer/

I can't stop loving his voice. Maybe there's a sliding scale of offences involved.

That said, I'd have dropped someone like Michael Jackson like a hot cake for just looking at someone funny. Sliding scale of talent, as well, to calibrate?
 

Fenn Lost

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Love the art, hate the artist.

But only art?

I'm not sure whether it's a peculiarly modern urge to desire a personal link between artist and audience as opposed to one between viewer and artwork.

In the absence of concrete biographical information (I recently posted a bear carved of amber from the Mesolithic—the artist has been lost to prehistory), is the stronger tendency to emotionally connect with the artwork in isolation, or to reconstruct an implied author from the work and its context and foist emotions on the fictional construct? @James_H ?

Certainly, if the inventor of, say, the flush toilet, turned out to be an extreme bastard, most people would feel no compunction to return to pits of soil since we seem not to sense the same moral aspect in the enjoyment of the utility of more functional products as we do artworks.

Is this hypocritical or a by-product of Romanticism? Heroic artists create authentic art, therefore for art to be truly heroic it must have been created by heroes?

Personally, I read a lot of nineteenth and early twentieth century fiction. None of the authors measures up to twenty-first century morals (the twentieth and twenty-first centuries rarely live up to twenty-first century morals!), so I spend very little time fussing over their personal failings unless a) they are huge, b) they are my specific point of enquiry.

The next part of a famous quotation reads:

Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority, still more when you superadd the tendency or the certainty of corruption by authority.

So I work without any assumption that I should find points of moral agreement beyond those that are clearly identifiable in their work. If, by happy coincidence, the creator was an abnormally saintly person, that's a bonus, I suppose, but not really one to which I give much thought; perhaps I feel differently about artists from my own era—they seem to lack a convincing excuse for failing to measure up.

Almost all of us are going to be found wanting by the students of the future. A few of us will be condemned fairly for hideous actions, others will be lauded for our forward-thinking enlightenment, but most average people (not especially good or bad) will be lumped into a mass of unenlightened barbarians who didn't try hard enough by our myopic descendants. Worse, you likely won't even know the reasons why, because many of them haven't been created yet!

In rambling conclusion: don't sweat the small stuff; don't hope to meet your heroes; keep your powder dry for the real monsters, and then do your best to separate the treasures in their caves from their foetid corpses.
Totally agree with you about 21st century morals.

Recently, a lot of my favourite authors have come under attack - not for any personal crime as such - but because their work may be viewed as racist or misogynistic by modern day audiences. This upsets me because it lacks nuance and understanding of the time period they were written in and in most cases, is totally unfounded and mistranslated.

I can think of one very famous Horror author who was, even by the standards of his time, considered racist, but his work is still some of the best horror out there. I don't have to agree with his personal views to love the creativity (provided that creativity is not evidently tainted by those personal views through the medium). As far as I am aware, apart from his racial ignorance on show, he never committed a physical crime.

There's also a very famous Mancunian singer who is known for his outspoken nature and has said some very unsavoury things of late that I totally disagree with but his music still resonates and I can't pretend I don't still love it. I just laugh at his stupidity and celebrate his genius. Both of which he has in abundance.

I'm pretty sure Shakespeare was a man of his time and his views on these topics would not be acceptable today either, but I wouldn't advocate banning him for it - totally silly.

As for more 'serious crimes' where an artist has done something despicable, then it's far more complicated I suppose. Common sense lately seems to have abandoned us, let adults make choices based on what they know and their own moral code. Otherwise, we are in thought police territory and an Orwellian future doesn't have any appeal to me!
 

Fenn Lost

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I'm fine with it most of the time, but where is gets more complicated is when the dodgy aspect of the artist's life becomes a (n essential) component of the artwork.

Case one: a late romantic operatic composer, unusually anti-semitic for his time, wrote amazing music, but some of the characters in his dramas are manifestations of anti-jewish stereotypes.

Case two: seminal 'eldritch' horror writer whose obsession with race and the 'corruption' of 'pure' blood lines formed a central theme in his work.

In both cases, the work wouldn't be the same without the artists' racism, which makes adds more caveats to appreciating the artwork.
Your case two - we name the same author in our posts. Ironically though, on the bloodline topic, I never saw it as a central theme. When I read his work, I gloss over those silly lines about inferior types and focus on the horror. Maybe that is just my filter at work!
 

MrRING

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An interesting reversal question: do some people like mediocre or uninspired art created by beloved creators who share all your values? For example, are there creators who do something positive for the community whose work you follow because you feel compelled to due to their various stands/efforts, but in reality while you read or view the art they make it doesn't stick with you, the art that actually gets you properly intregied and invested comes mostly from the work of people you disagree with?
 
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Fenn Lost

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An interesting reversal question: do some people like mediocre or uninspired art created by beloved creators who share all your values? For example, are there creators who do something positive for the community whose work you follow because you feel compelled to due to their various stands/efforts, but in reality while you read or view the art they make it doesn't stick with you, whereas the art that actually gets you properly intregied and invested comes mostly from the work of people you disagree with?
For me, no. Lovely people though they are, their appeal is their work, not their charity work.

I tend to believe, rightly or wrongly, troubled people tend to make the most interesting art. I've never done a drug trip so never seen 'the other side' and my creative output is bland. I do bugger all for charity as well... :)
 

Vardoger

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Should I stop listening to an artist because I heard he has beaten up his girlfriend? That depends. Sometimes they're so good I can't stop listening anyways.
 

James_H

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Your case two - we name the same author in our posts. Ironically though, on the bloodline topic, I never saw it as a central theme. When I read his work, I gloss over those silly lines about inferior types and focus on the horror. Maybe that is just my filter at work!
I really think for that author it goes beyond 'silly lines' to the centre of his fears. Unfortunately I can't too specific but I really think 'bloodline impurity' was a huge anxiety for him, and forms the backbone to a lot of his most famous stories. This is something I would say goes beyond 'casual racism' (as would be typical of anyone of anyone of his time in a similar social position) and into 'cranky, obsessive racism'.
An interesting reversal question: do some people like mediocre or uninspired art created by beloved creators who share all your values? For example, are there creators who do something positive for the community whose work you follow because you feel compelled to due to their various stands/efforts, but in reality while you read or view the art they make it doesn't stick with you, the art that actually gets you properly intregied and invested comes mostly from the work of people you disagree with?
I tend to resist artwork that deliberately fits into 'acceptable' or fashionable ethics in order that it will be accepted, even if they're the ethics I personally hold. I much prefer it when good artists say what they want to, even if I don't agree with it, because it's much more artistically authentic and interesting.
 

Victory

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It is an imperfect world.

Do we stop buying from Amazon because Jeff Bezos cheated on his wife?

Do we stop watching the England football team because some of them broke English Covid lockdown restrictions to either get haircuts or visit prostitutes?

Do we avoid voting for a political party because it's leader has had affairs?

Do we not watch BBC One because they pandered to the falsehoods of Martin Bashir?

Do we stop buying a certain brand of petrol because it had an oil leak off the coast of Texas?

Do we not book a holiday to the Costa Del Sol because of Spanish colonial and religious violence 500 years ago?

Do we not buy a Sony TV because of how the Japanese treated our POWs roughly 80 years ago?

Do we not listen to Rick James's music because he was found guilty of kidnap and sexual assault?

Do we not buy a Ford car because their new electric Mustang advert has a James Brown soundtrack, a man who took a metal pipe to his wife's head?
Or because Henry Ford was a rabid anti-Semite?

Or Mel Gibson films for a similar reason?
 

blessmycottonsocks

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I must admit that I still listen to and enjoy the entire Pink Floyd back catalogue and not just the post 1985 material, despite an intense dislike for the departed member's politics [DETAILS REMOVED].
None of that detracts from the music he contributed to being magnificent.
 
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Tunn11

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I still think that individuals and society will always apply different standards here.

Not all the crimes will be as bad as others and the circumstances under which they were committed will be different.
Then there is the issue of remorse and serving any sentences handed out and whether that counts towards being rehabilitated into society. If it doesn’t that is a whole different issue for any offender.

Then there is the issue of what the offender contributes, arguably we can do without a talented sportsperson, musician or artist. The issue blurs a bit more with, for instance engineers and surgeons. However, can any of us be sure we are not benefiting from technology ultimately derived from Nazi scientists after WW2? (Operation paperclip)

Supposing some particularly obnoxious individual developed a major medical breakthrough, how many people would have the moral fortitude to choose not to benefit?

In short I think the question can only be answered according to every individual’s conscience, circumstance and even knowledge about circumstance.

There is also the possibility that genius, natural talent, inspiration or whatever are more often tied to a personality that doesn’t “fit” as easily into societal norms as others so there may be a predisposition to unconventional behaviour which may occasionally tip into criminality.

Sorry to state the bleeding obvious, it’s an interesting question but will probably have as many answers as people who are asked.
 

JamesWhitehead

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Such is the power of group-thinking, that anyone will find they need to trim to suit the prevailing winds, now, in any creative endeavour.

Only quotidian and mediocre statements will be risk-free. Authors have known this for a while.

I see it already in so much applauded stuff, which echoes the headlines of our times and adds nothing*.

Worse, I see awful, applauded stuff which supposedly deals with horrible issues of the past in trite ways.

How many striped pyjamas do we need? :thought:

*Well-intentioned really is not good enough. Especially now.
 
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