Art and provokation; Lars Vilks, Saved and Lewis Carroll.

31 October, 2011

I’ve
been discussing provocation and violence within art a lot these latest couple
of days. An old topic I know, it keeps coming back as a topic in media though.
I will come to the reason further down the line but first some general ideas on
the subject.

It is not much that schocks us anymore when it comes to violence or sex on
film/theatre/media. Or at least we’d like to think that is the case. What does
an artist need to do these days to really provoke? Religion is still up there
(thinking about the Danish cartoons of the muslim prophet for
example) as is sex and violence. The normal subjects that is. I find it
interesting to see how it has changed within these areas when it comes to what
is provoking. I saw a mother slapping her child in the tube the other day. Me
and my friend found it very disturbing. That kind of behaviour would have seen
as natural just a couple of decades ago. Lewis Carroll’s friendship and
photographs of the young girl Alice is in these modern times seen as weird.
Then it was not something that people would react to in the way we do now.
Children and our relationship with them seem like a sensitive subject. Why? Who
is a child? What is our responsibility towards it? What happens when you mix
children and sexuality or violence for that matter?

The reason why all this has come up lately is that I am going to see Saved by Edward
Bond on the Lyric Hammersmith this week. The play was first staged in 1965 and
became very famous or infamous for a certain scene with a pram. Its set in
London during the 1960’s and describes the empty lives of a group of young working
class people living on an estate. What happens is that the group of young men
it centers on kills a baby in a pram by stoning it to death. Edward Bond called
it “almost irresponsibly optimistic” when it was first staged privately at the
Royal Court Theatre. It was hugely important as it helped with the removal of
theatre censorship and all that but what about the baby? Is it ok to stone a
baby on stage? I don’t know. I have just read the play which is a complete
different thing to seeing it be performed on a stage. I’ll get back to you when
I’ve seen it.

I guess violence as a symbol for something else is ok which is how it is used in
Saved. It shows more than anything how trapped these men are. Is it necessary though?
My friend J thinks it’s not. That one could say the same thing without using
extreme violence against a child in a play. I find it provoking. I find that it
could be done in an interesting way and therefore say something you couldn’t
get through in another way.

Is the provocation worth it? Can art go too far? If you look at Lars Vilks you’ll
find an example of going too far in my book. He uses provocation just for the
sake of provocation itself. He doesn’t really have a message. His art is not
really thought through. It was just a badly put together idea which just pissed
people off.

 I find that if one is to use extreme violence
or sex or religion one has to know what exactly you’re up to. What it can mean
to other people. I’ll try to have that in mind when I go to the theatre on Thursday.
Whish me luck.

(Yes
I did indeed switch language on this blog. Might write in Swedish again if I
come up with an idea which only relates to Sweden. Will have a little
tyranslation to go along with it though. Find it more logical to write in
English now as I live in this country after all.)

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