Posted by: Mish | December 1, 2007

Crack Divides Art and Society

I just finished reading an article from the UK Times about safety concerns for Doris Salcedo’s Shibboleth piece at the Tate Museum. The crack varies in depth and width and runs 548 feet. Although staff are supposed to monitor visitors, who should be using common sense anyway, there have been 15 accidents (a few resulting in minor injuries). In response to possible extra safety precautions, Tate’s head of safety and security said, “higher levels of control of entry, barrier or demarcation lines, Perspex bridging over certain sections or other physical interventions which may become required”.

Barriers and bridges would change and take away from Shibboleth’s symbolism of racism and societal hatred. To me, the piece says be aware, face the fracture, and act. With the safety changes, it could possibly be seen as continuing to ignore and stepping over the problems, to which there are also consequences.

On another level, it comments on how people need to be coddled with safety warnings and guard rails everywhere. Common sense severely lacks today. If adults can’t heed caution signs and be responsible for themselves or their children, they shouldn’t leave the house. If the Tate doesn’t already, it should have visitors sign a liability form. These days, people will sue at the drop of a dime.

Among the number of comments left, a few said Shibboleth is not art. I disagreed and posted the definition of art. It’s a sculpture in a sense, skill and technique were used to create the crack in the middle of the floor, and it conducts human activity- indirectly and directly. I liked what one person said: “The seismic change in the way people appreciate art is a pretty modern phenomenon. It seems the new aged artists have managed to wipe the floor with the traditionalist because recently controversial work of art has succeeded in gaining ground in popularity and acceptance.” Art and society change. Da Vinci was brilliant for his time, but he’s long dead. Monet’s lily paintings are pretty, but he’s dead too. I enjoy old or contemporary pretty art, but I also like art that is ugly and challenging on a personal level or a societal one.

Shibboleth: any language usage indicative of one’s social or regional origin or any practice that identifies members of a group.

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