Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Art of Controversy

Two Thoughts for Tuesday

Thought #1 - Is it Funny or Offensive?

A few posts ago, I was talking about how many fountains are placed around Kansas City.  Our city is also very prolific in it's placement of "art".  Quotes?  Why the quotes, you ask?    If we were talking face to face, I would have done the whole air quotes thing, when I said the the word art as you and I might not consider the following examples of art....  well...as art.

Depends on who you ask, I guess.  As Kansas City leaders have so little to argue about (being sarcastic on a grand scale here) they are in a debate on what to do about the sculpture that presently sits near the police communications building in downtown KC.

Terry Allen's sculpture "Modern Communication" is looking for a new home.  There seems to be a number of citizens that find the "art" objectionable.  They feel that the placement of the piece out in front of the communication building suggests that the police don't listen to the citizens they serve.  In their point of view this sculpture is just a big insult to the police department.

The alternate point of view is that the statue represents a humorous point of view of how difficult it is to communicate in our modern world.

I have no idea why this argument has been so prominent in the news in the last couple of weeks.  This statue has been here for 15 years.  Perhaps, it is a change of subject away  from talking about the high heat or it is giving people a diversion from talking about our bad economy.

Still the art piece is going to be moved and there is the debate of what to do with it.  Some of the piece's detractors lucked-out when the police communications building was slated for an addition that forced the statue to be relocated.  But where is up for discussion.

Three possible options are being discussed. 

A.  Give it back to Terry Allen (the sculptor)
B.  Put it into storage.  Not a particularly popular option as the $78,000 price tag that the city (tax payers) paid for it deems that  option rather wasteful.
C. Find a new spot around town to use it.

With option C. in mind, the more creative Kansas Citians have been pretty vocal in their suggestions as to "Where you can put your statue".

How about on the steps of the federal building as a nod to how effective communication seems to be on the Federal level these days?

More than a few people believe it should go sit on the lawn of the Kansas City Star headquarters. 

Thought #2 Is is Flirty or Filthy?

Comparatively speaking, statue for statue, Chicago has bested us on statue controversy.  Our diminutive "foot in mouth" sculpture is nothing compared to Chicago's new sculpture. At 26 feet tall, the statue of Marilyn Monroe looms over Michigan Avenue. 

The statue is that of Marilyn on one of her most famous poses with white skirt  billowing up to the sky and panties for all to see.The original pose was taken from the 1955 movie "The Seven Year Itch" and has become iconic. Photos of the pose became popular with Marilyn hugging her knees together and providing a small glimpse of her underwear.

So much for small glimpses....

Seems that Marilyn's skirt isn't the only thing  stirring up the air.  Heated debate over the appropriateness of  Marilyn's exposed undies is rippling throughout Chicago. Abraham Ritchie who blogs for ChicagoNow deems the statue as  involving  sexist and downright creepy.  Others have spoken out that the statue objectifies women.

Of course, there are others that are viewing the statue as fun and original.  Men in particular seemed to be honing in on photo ops.

If we look at art as a thing to provoke thought and discussion, both of these statues do that.  What one looks for and appreciates in art is subjective.  Each to his own.

What are your thoughts on either of these statues?  Do you think they are in the appropriate venue?  Are either of them offensive to you?

The Good for the Day...Sometimes statues get placed just in the exact right spot

The Bad for the Day... The disagreements of "what constitutes art?"

The Weird for the day....There are plenty of examples of art that a least some of the population would consider weird.

There is a sculpture in Prague on the grounds of the  Franz Kafka Museum that move via microprocessors so they "write out" quotes with their urine of famous Prague residents. Tourist, however, can interrupt the messages and text their own messages to be "peed" out.   (according to the article the number is displayed next to the sculpture is  +420 724 370 77 )

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Nicky said...

Seems silly to me to make a fuss over a statue that's been around for 15 years, especially when, as you pointed out, there are more pressing things to worry about! Personally, I find the first statue humorous but I admit to having a warped sense of humour. :-)

Liggybee said...

Very interesting, Cheryl...I just don't get what message the artist was trying to convey with the shoe in the mouth and the fingers in the ear. I guess my mind does not think in the same way that the artist (and those that like it) does.

The Marilyn Monroe statue is really nice...but having it that big and in such position for people to stand underneath and taking photos seem kind of degrading to females, in my opinion. Maybe it's funny to see people do that, but it teaches people to find amusement in being perverted.

Loved this post! Click!

Cheryl P. said...

My husband and I both think it is funny too. Very satirical consider it is in front of the building that says "COMMUNICATION" on it. Lot's of people have NO sense of humor. But you are right about the timing of it. Seems people just have to have something to gripe about and that is what is on the list today.

Cheryl P. said...

I think the message basically is a take away of the see no evil, (tie covering eyes) hear no evil (fingers in ears) and speak no evil (shoe in mouth). Not all that offensive in my point of view but certainly there are those that think otherwise.

I initally thought the Marilyn Monroe statue was really fun and whimsical. Who knew that people would start behaving like 12 year olds? The way it is being interacted with is now leaning toward the sexism that people are objecting to. So...of course, now I am conflicted.

Aleta said...

The "foot in mouth" is kind of funny but it should only go on the art museum grounds, not in front of a public office. Because it's very likely to appear insulting.

As for Marilyn - I find the stance and the fact that someone can go under her and take pictures - insulting and gross. It's just plain weird!

Oh, here's another weird one for you.... when I was in Alaska, they moved one of their statues... it was made by some world known artist, but they moved the sculpture elsewhere because it looked like a huge green urinal!

Kimberly Wyatt said...

Cheryl, my first thought when I saw the Modern Communication statue was the "see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil" quote, too. Followed immediately by "oh look, he put his foot in his mouth." Personally, I think it's hysterical that it's placed outside a Communications Center. But that's just me.

I appreciate you finding all of these awesome statues for me to enjoy today. :)

Cheryl P. said...

I think that is a great suggestion about the art museum.

Green urinal?? Isn't it amazing what someone considers art? When I was doing the research for this post there were some really "over the top" sculptures that would have made my post XXX rated for the day.

Cheryl P. said...

Kimberly, you and I seemingly have a lot of the same thoughts. I, too, took it as the see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil, only modernized. I still think it is a clever version of that and people are being too sensitive. Since it has to move for the construction, I hope they find a home for it that people don't assume any ill placed criticism and find the humor in it. From what I have read, I don't think that it was ever intended to have any connection to the police dept.

bodaciousboomer said...

I think the giant Marilyn is fabulous. It reminded me of the giant spread open legs that Patch Adams had the visiting doctors walk through at his medical school.

Life is serious enough on its own. Laugh when and where you can.

Wolfbernz said...

Hi Cheryl,

Great photos! It's funny how people like statues when the first go up and then, after thinking about them decide OMG! That's not right!

The Marilyn Monroe is pretty funny, funnier still is the bachelor party taking pictures.

Wait, those guys pee out messages? That is Weird!


Trina said...

Woman, you never fail to crack me up! I wonder what the artist thought when he put a shoe in the mouth and fingers in the ears.... I'll bet he laughed all the way to the bank with his $78,000

The Marilyn sculpture is pretty awesome... reminds me of that old flick, Attack of the 50 foot Woman. I'll bet those guys wouldn't be taking inappropriate pictures under her skirt if she reached down and smacked them ;)

Your weird for the day.... I'm weirded out. That's art? Two guys Peeing messages? Wonder if people try to read whole messages and just stand there watching those statues pee.... yep, wierded out!

Happy Tuesday!

oldereyes said...

Funny. Flirty. Buthasn't every boy peed out messages at some time or other? Are we all weird? Don't answer. When I lived in Connecticut, a local shopping center took old cars, buried them to various depths in the parking lot, then asphalted them over. Art. In the eye of the beholder. Or not.


Jewell said...

I just don't get it. Any of it. It makes my head hurt. Apparently I have allergic reactions to culture! =)

Cheryl P. said...

Good for you to find humor in life. Not everyone can do that.

I am going to have to go back and look at Patch Adams. I don't remember that part.

Cheryl P. said...

True about first interpretations changing. I think that is true of other things as well. I have written a couple of posts that after I wrote them I didn't feel like they reflected the idea or feelings that I intended to relay.

Really a mixed group on the Marilyn Monroe statue. I am surprised at the controversy. If the intent of art is to get people talking, that one fulfilled it's purpose.

Cheryl P. said...

I bet you are right about the artist laughing on the way to the bank.

That is a funny thought about Marilyn smacking the guys at her legs. Too bad the artist didn't computerize her so she could do that.

I agree that the peeing guy statue is WEIRD. There were some even weirder than that one but a bit more "controversial" than what I was comfortable with putting on my post.

Cheryl P. said...

Can't speak to "if every boy has peed out a message" but I doubt that you all would deserve being called weird.

You are right that art is certainly in the mind of the beholder. Interesting about the parking lot.

Cheryl P. said...

Highly doubtful that anything I write about could be called cultural so tell that smart little brain of yours to not hurt.

My brain is taking a hiatus in this heat.

Junebug said...

Ok as a huge fan of sculptures I always have an opinion of art. My friend and I love taking fun pictures with sculptures.

My problem with #1 is that the govt. always get the prelim drawings and approve them. Some department or council voted on that statue and that large price tag. They should be punished before the statue. I'm not sure I get what the artist was trying to say unless he was doing it tongue and cheek. I'm not offended by the art but by the govt. waste.

Marilyn - Personally it would have been in better taste to have her knees together. However, I would most assuredly be taking a picture with that statue. It screams photo opp.

I am a huge Kafka fan. I can't wait to see that statue and think up a message. My favorite by far!

Cheryl P. said...

I am relatively certain that the artist was looking at modern communication in the humorous vein of the see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil. The fact that this statue has been there 15 years, I have no idea about the financing.

I agree if the taxpayers picked up the entire tab as the KC Star suggested, that isn't right. (I don't necessarily believe everything the Star says though)

You are also right about had the artist duplicated the original photo, it would be WAY less controversial. But as long as she stand there as she does, people will use it as a photo op. I certainly would but not necessarily in the same manner as the boys do.

I wasn't aware of Kafka until I started research for this post. Very avant garde for sure.

Junebug said...

Your explanation actually makes sense to me. Except I would have used communication devices to block the eyes, mouth and ears. Just me. PS I doubt everything a paper, TV station says.

My favorite Kafka piece is translated as "A Hunger Artist" or "The Starvation Artist". It is odd but as an actress I completely identified with it.

Jewell said...

Ugh! My everything is screaming UNCLE with the heat! I should be a sloppy, disgusting puddle by the end of the weekend! Ick!