7.10.09

Rape Tunnel/Rape as Fetish

But rape is way more extreme than a punch to the face. Is your intention to ruin people’s lives?

Possibly. I’m not necessarily concerned with the positive or negative effects of this project so long as there is some effect on people’s lives. I’ve merely set up a situation where there is potential to impact people in meaningful ways. Maybe I won’t be able to rape everyone who crawls through the tunnel, but the door is open for all kinds of scenarios; rape, serious injury, maybe even death. I might even get arrested. Right now the installation isn’t even complete, and I’ve riled up a substantial portion of the local population. The installation as an idea is powerful enough itself.

- Richard Whitehurst interviewed by Sheila Zareno for Artlurker

The enigma is that of an object which offers itself up in total transparency, and hence cannot be naturalized by critical or aesthetic discourse. It is that of a superficial, artificial object which succeeds in preserving its artificiality, in shaking free of any natural signification to take on a spectral intensity, empty of meaning, which is that of the fetish. The fetish object has no value, Or rather, it has an absolute value; it lives off the ecstasy of value.

-Baudrillard, "Machinic Snobbery" from The Perfect Crime

This article fills me with so much distaste and anger and resentment on so many levels.
What the fuck is going on with the post-pomo art scene? How does a rape tunnel in any way contribute to art becoming 'meaningful' again within contemporary society? If anything, this kind of..."installation" contributes to the increasing meaningless of contemporary art, which has become a scene of increasingly 'weird' people invested in maintaining identities as 'crazy' artists making as much noise as possible to promote increasingly boring ideas about irony and absurdity and the death of the artist, blah blah blah. I think as soon as art took a turn towards absurdity for its own sake, all of its social purpose or 'meaning' disintegrated except as a vehicle for personal self-promotion, under the guise of the artist as a 'non-entity.' Baudrillard talks about this, it is not new. But I think it is an illusion to say that the artist has disappeared, because I think all that remains is the artist as some stupid laughing asshole throwing shit around and demanding an audience.
Why, if art is indeed meaningless, are we only reinforcing this message by focusing more and more on the absurdity of art? Wouldn't it be more radical at this point to create art with a purpose and some sort of social intent, with values and a particular aesthetic manifesto in mind? How does more shock = a return to meaning? Doesn't this method actually result in the opposite? Art is reduced to publicity stunts for attention that evoke little else but shock value. If you read his interview, he doesn't actually give a shit about what is actually going on here, in terms of interpersonal relationships (if you can call it that), hyperreality, any sort of message, etc. The 'artists intent' is literally "evoke a response." Never mind what kind of response or the irrevocable damage it could cause; any response will do, and apparently, the only thing that even evokes mild discontent or concern within our society currently is a pseudo-staged strategized rape scenario. The really frightening thing is that the public becomes increasingly desensitized as a result, and this phenomena produces shit like this
asshole's 'rape tunnel.' What the fuck is wrong with our society that makes us so fucking numb to everything except the thrilling possibility of "consensual rape"? And doesn't this whole installation trivialize the experiences of actual rape victims? Doesn't this trivialize the experience in general by turning it into a hyperreal simulacrum of violence? Are people so numb and dead and unaffected that they would enter this tunnel knowing full well that it will lead to sexual assault? It is sad the lengths people will go to feel anything, and the associated absurd attitude that all experience is good experience, which corresponds to the whole paradox of more shock = more meaning. Meaning is not a quantitative value; you can't measure meaningful experience according to its severity or, in this case, the degree to which you are possibly psychologically and physically damaged. There seems to be a general attitude of 'fuck it, I'll try anything once, why limit my experiences' hence, 'fuck yeah, sure, I'll enter a rape tunnel.' There is enough sadness and destruction and rape and violence going on in the 'real' world; why the fuck do we seek out simulated hyperreal versions of this in (of all places) the art scene? I thought art was supposed to detract from this, not contribute. Why do people feel that excess is required to achieve any sort of meaningful existence? Our widespread existential groundlessness results in this compulsion to fill ourselves up with 'new' experiences but the irony is that all of these so-called 'authentic' experiences are manufactured for consumption, they are not genuine, authentic or meaningful experiences. Everyone wants to 'live life to the fullest' but no one ever thinks about picking and choosing experiences in terms of their positive or negative effects. For example, I find it incredibly ironic that people feel they are living 'fun and exciting lives' by going out to bars and drinking their asses off every fucking weekend. I mean, really? This is exciting to you? It all just seems very manufactured and simulated and repetitive to me. And so fucking easy. Art and bars and social situations in general are all laid out for us to pick and choose from (for a price, of course). Everything - 'contemporary art' 'live music' 'the bar/club scene' - are designated spaces purchased and purchasable, we can pick and choose pre-fabricated experiences and then pretend like we've earned it and have some free choice in the choosing. And apparently rape is now on the board of possible experiences produced for easy consumption.
When I read early post-modern poetry, poetics are still meaningful, the artist has a method, a system of values that guides their creative process. When I read this kind of poetry I respond strongly, in ways that I never really do when I read most current contemporary poetry. I mean, there are amazing moments when I read something new and think 'fuck yes, this means something' but for the most part, I just feel kind of bored with the cynical post-ironic, blase tone (of some, dare I say most) of the literature being produced by my generation. Call me old-fashioned or romantic, but I'd like to reinvest some real values into art. Some passion, some ethics. Nobody works hard at anything any more, everybody wants everything to come easy. And, voila, it does. It just doesn't mean anything.

10 comments:

  1. "I think as soon as art took a turn towards absurdity for its own sake, all of its social purpose or 'meaning' disintegrated except as a vehicle for personal self-promotion, under the guise of the artist as a 'non-entity.'"

    Amen!

    "Why do people feel that excess is required to achieve any sort of meaningful existence?"

    Because they're dead inside.

    "It just doesn't mean anything."

    It's Hell!!

    "Something kinda sad about
    the way that things have come to be.
    Desensitized to everything.
    What became of subtlety?" - Tool; Stinkfist

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  2. when i read the article about the "rape tunnel"
    i was shocked
    and then angry
    then i laughed uncertainly
    felt like crying
    and am now utterly confused.

    all i know is that my comments are vastly inadequate to your posts.

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  3. and i know little about art.
    I just like things that make me feel certain ways.

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  4. hey, this turned out to be a hoax article:

    http://gawker.com/5370397/rape-tunnel-succeeds-in-sparking-conversation-but-not-rape

    i was freaked out too, though. thank you for writing this.

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  5. interesting, thank you. all hope is not lost, haha.

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  8. http://www.toothpastefordinner.com/100409/crepe-tunnel.gif

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