The Clare Spark Blog

December 22, 2019

Culture Wars

Filed under: Uncategorized — clarelspark @ 7:43 pm

For about twenty years I addressed the arts community and others on “The Sour Apple Tree,” an hour program that I performed on KPFK-FM, a Pacifica program from Los Angeles, in which I questioned all arts institutions, especially their politics ). Of course I covered with great interest the controversy over the art works of Robert Mapplethorpe (a gay man who died of AIDS,) and Andres Serrano, the creator of Piss Christ. This blog is about the issues raised in a collection of documents published by Richard Bolton, entitled Culture Wars that cover the uproar over the “obscene” art produced and exhibited during the period from late 1989-1990 (mostly in 1990).

The dispute raised important cultural problems that remain unresolved, which is why I address it today. First, the fight over the changing meanings of “obscenity”(See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_obscenity_law. It mentions Pacifica, which P lost) The sensitive ears of children must be protected!)

Clearly, leftists both reds and social democrats were pitted against conservatives, a situation which persists today in the hotly contested question of the “impeachment” of President Trump.

Generally, l line up with the classical liberals in this matter (the question of censorship of art or more general ideas of morality such as abortion and divorce).

It was to be expected that Mapplethorpe’s homoerotic photographs would raise a rumpus, as the gay rights movement was relatively new; furthermore the AIDS epidemic was raging. But how to explain the Catholic Serrano’s images of Christ on the crucifix submerged in the artist’s urine? (Although Serrano supposedly interrogated his own Catholicism, was Christian America to take this obscene portrayal of God lying down?)

Again, the unresolved “obscenity”matter. Was Serrano guilty of an act of social irresponsibility? Although the fight seemed to about government funding of the arts (and humanities), it was not about that; rather it was about a matter that is currently roiling the nation: I was a government grantee myself.

Will we have a thoroughgoing pluralism or not?

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