Art is certainly not without its innate sense of risk. As an artist of course you are risking your own emotional safeguarding as you put yourself out there for the public to view and judge. You are risking your reputation every time a new piece is unveiled—will it be accepted, will it go over well, what will they think of me as a result of this work…You are also at risk of being “offensive” to some. Certainly everyone has their own sense of what they consider to be “art.” And some artists regularly like to blur that line between being artistic and being risky, or shall we say risqué.
Outlets across the globe picked up on the story of Milo Moire, a performance artist, who, in her zeal for women’s right and equality, was ultimately arrested. Standing on a street in London, Moire had her private areas covered by a mirrored box. The performance part came in when she asked passersby to stop and touch her genitals. In the name of art, Moire let complete strangers essentially feel her up, and this resulted in her arrest. Authorities in London could not see the art intrinsic to the act…was it art?
Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi, another female renegade creating pieces that shame those who would view a woman’s genitalia as anything other than artistic inspiration, was arrested back in 2014 for making a yellow kayak shaped like a vagina. The problem wasn’t as much about the kayak itself, as it was about Igarashi’s followers who had the option of buying miniature versions of this vulva-shaped masterpiece. The artist considered her creation to be a piece of iconic pop art…was she right?
Keith Haring spent a lot of the 1980’s getting himself arrested all in the name artistic democracy. The 80’s in particular marked the emergence of the graffiti artist. Graffiti art has historically inspired that “what is/is not art?” question. Haring was motivated to compose drawings that were considered “worthy of risk.” Getting cut chalking up or painting a subway station wall was certainly risky. And his frequent arrests in many ways incited a cult following. Was Haring’s “risk factor” motivation truly artistic?
South African performance artist Steven Cohen, donning a very eclectic and downright odd bird costume, strutted around the Eiffel Tower back in 2013 with a rooster leading the way, tied to his genitals. Ultimately arrested by French police, Cohen’s rationale behind the performance piece was that it was emblematic of his struggle to fit into any one country or place. Does the meaning match the art? Does it matter in this case?
Art is subjective—this is certainly an understatement. What one person calls a pornographic kayak or a crazy naked man with a chicken waltzing around a national monument, others view as the genius that is artistic creation. Is the burden of the artist to take what may seem to many, as inexplicable risks, or is it to make those risks relevant and explicable…
Article by: Anne