Art and the Artist
Art is important but is it more important than the safety, security and mental health of the lives destroyed by an abusive artist?
More than 250 powerful people—252 to be exact; 97 from the Arts and Entertainment Industry, 57 from the Media Industry, 16 from Business and Tech, 43 from Politics and 39 from Education, Medical, Food, Sports and several other industries—have been accused of sexual harassment, assault or other misconduct as of October 8, 2018, according to Vox.com. The majority of those accused are actors, musicians, comedians, painters, directors, producers, writers and photographers. With our newsfeeds inundated by almost constant allegations of sexual harassment, we have to ask the question: Should, or rather can, we separate art from the artist?
According to one line of argument, one should judge a piece of art based on its content rather than its creator. However, to assess art solely on the subject matter is problematic since most artists do not separate themselves from their art. Firstly, every creation of art is unique. No two people, given the same materials and opportunities, are likely to create the same piece of art. Secondly, true art is intrinsically intertwined with the creator, who is inspired by his or her surroundings: from the tension between countries to the details of his or her personal life. If art is a result of the various influences in an artists’ life, how can one possibly evaluate it objectively, without considering its creator?
We don’t consume art in a vacuum. By going to a theatre to watch their movies or listening to their music on Spotify, we support allegedly abusive artists monetarily, while also awarding them fame and influence, which they can then use to abuse others without any thought towards the consequences of their bad behaviour. As a society, we actively seek out and eradicate bad behaviour to create a better and safer environment. But by purchasing or supporting their art in any form, we send the message that we’ll accept and promote a person’s art, irrespective of their conduct. If we criticize an artist and claim not to support him or her as a person, but yet continue to support his or her art, then our critiques are hypocritical. Supporting the art is supporting the artist.
“Supporting the art” also indicates that art is more important to the society than the survivors’ mental and sexual harassment, and assault. Weigh your ‘need’ to watch a ‘good movie’ by a sexual offender against the careers of the victims that have been ruined, the women who had to give up their bodies, their dreams and their self-respect. Think about the trauma that they went through, the fear they have lived with, and the hesitation they still have about coming forward. Now think about how much worse this was made by the silence—the decades and decades of silence—which most of them have been forced to endure.
Supporting art created by abusers gives them influence, wealth and fame which they use as weapons against their victims and to coerce others. As an informed consumer, one must choose art that has not resulted in harm or abuse against any person. When you denounce art peddled by an abuser, only the abuser suffers. Art never will.
-Anandha Lekshmi Nair
Image Courtesy: Google