Friday, July 28, 2006

Michelle Malkin: "Abusing Kids For Art"

Michelle Malkin links to an LA photographer Jill Greenberg who induced crying in children, took their pictures and said their reactions reminded her of how she felt since the presidency of George Bush. Go look at the disturbing images yourself.

You know, I keep thinking that people can't get any crazier and then something like this happens. I think: we're not all that different, it's just the media accentuating and polarizing the populace and then something like this happens.

That a mother would take candy away from children and that their parents would assent to this treatment is unbelievable to me.

As a side note, I do find this "art" revealing, but not for the reasons Ms. Greenberg intends: they demonstrate the Machiavellian lengths some will go to to justify their belief systems.


Perhaps the greatest irony of the work is Greenberg's overlaying of a political message, one preaching compassion and intelligence at that, to a process that involved the willful manipulation of toddlers to break down their toddler-sized psyches and leave them in a pool of their own tears. I agree with the artist and many others in this country in her assessment of the current administration in Washington. But Greenberg's own tactics are a mordant, grotesque "nursery-school version" of the most conspicuous of those same policies and practices. One anonymous commenter on Hawk's blog attempted to reconstruct what happened in Greenberg's studio, using only information she herself has made available regarding how she made "End Times" possible:

Forcibly making a child have an episode of tremendous anguish, as is indicated on their faces (these children are well beyond simply crying) is an act of abuse. She is abusing her power over them, as both an adult and what the child sees as a trusted friend to their parents. I doubt if she sat the children down and said “Ok here is what I am going to do. First, we will take off your clothes, then I will have you sit right over there. Next, my assistant here and I are going to do many things to get you to cry as hard as you have ever cried before. We will do that by having your parent leave the room, giving you some candy or a toy, and then grabbing it from you. We will do this over and over until you are crying good enough for me, and then these bright lights will flash over and over again, until I have a good enough picture. We will do this and there is nothing you can do to stop me. Thank you for your time and understanding, and participating in this historic event that is really a comment on my feelings towards the Bush administration. I am sorry we have to terrorize you like this, but you see, this is for the greater good. These pictures will make that bad man go away and stop hurting other children.”
No, "End Times" is not Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, or even your average episode of 24. But I don't think anyone who has alluded to contemporary torture meant to imply an equivalence so much as a cleaner metaphorical link than the one Greenberg attempted to foist on her own work. Stripped of its purported conceptual framework, "End Times" is, above all else, a detached experiment in bullying, period. This fact makes it almost embarrassing to critique Greenberg's work on a deeper level, because it necessarily involves thinking things through more thoroughly than the "artist" herself seems inclined to do, prefering instead to assume that her instinctual response will hold up without further investigation and elaboration, grimly following her idea to its logical conclusion without recognizing how well she is mimicking her supposed enemy in her expression of concern for children. 1984, this one's for you. [emphasis added, ed.]
That's from Jeremiah McNichol's blog Thinking In Pictures. He gives the most cogent evaluation of Jill Greenberg's "work". He approaches the notion of even giving this "art" an audience as reinforcing the moral depravity of the "artist". He says:

I believe that the moral dimension of "End Times" cannot be ignored, and that an artist need not profit from societal objections to their work if those objections are sound and widely shared. I further believe that Jill Greenberg's work should not be viewed through the art-historical lens of edgy, contemporary art, but is instead a cultural hiccup that should be shelved with divisive cultural artifacts like black minstrelry, art involving the physical abuse of animals, and other works that reflect a sensibility so alien that it is better approached not as art, but as the fractured product of a diseased mind or a necrotic culture.

I think the best response to any travesty of this nature is careful critique supplanted by outright mockery. Someone out there may prove otherwise, but I think that Child Welfare Services has no applicable standard for judging what Greenberg has done, that Paul Kopeikin really believes that hate mail means he has truly arrived, and that any pain Jill Greenberg suffers from your calls and letters could easily be "expressed" in an equally repugnant new series of work. My personal and untested opinion is that the only way to stop this kind of practice is to laugh it off the public stage. The art itself will die without too much help from us.

Let's hope this art will die, but why am I quite sure she'll get rich from her depraved work? Surely George Soros could use a "Greenberg" or two in his mighty gallery. Cindy Sheehan and her vile misuse of her own son, surely will have no problem with another woman violating her child's trust for the sake of art and the "greater good." In fact, Greenberg's art illustrates perfectly the progressive movement's house of horrors. Maybe the art will signify the times more than even she can fathom. The more I think about it, the more I believe it does.

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