To Love Art, the Artist or Both, That is the Question

Artist turned Assaulter

Hearts have shattered ever since allegations for assault over Kevin Spacey have surfaced. Fans that binge watched House Of Cards as they needed a reality check on the crudely amoral, indifferent and coarse the world will not a see Kevin Spacey in the sixth and final season of their favorite show anymore – and rightly so.

Spacey is the first actor to face sexual assault allegations in the wake of rising #metoo movement and Harvey Weinstein scandal. One such allegation was made by American actor Anthony Rapp, who claimed when he was 14 the 26 year old Kevin Spacey, made a sexual advance to him in 1986. Spacey said he did not remember the encounter but apologised for any “inappropriate drunken behaviour”. Investigations over assault allegations are currently happening in the UK as well as Los Angeles.

Every house has had the “I want to watch House of Cards but…” moment. Watching a stellar series on American politics only to see an a-brilliant-actor-alleged-assaulter usher his way into the compartment of your mind that keeps the names of your most favorite people is definitely a big no. Or is it?

The good, the bad and the art

Aristotle asserted that women were so inferior to men they shouldn’t be allowed to even eat the same food. Thomas Edison tried to prove a rival scientist wrong by murdering puppies with AC voltage. Virginia Woolf once said ‘the working class were inherently stupid’ and was disgusted by her servants. She was also majorly anti-semetic. So was Ezra pound. Henry Ford was so anti-semetic Hitler quoted and used him as an inspiration. Bobby fisher was also a raging anti-semite and had a large collection of Nazi memorabilia. John Lennon was a wife beater. So was Charles Dickens. Out of the 4 women in Picasso’s life 2 went mad and 2 killed themselves. Winston Churchill was a racist who thought Indians were a ‘beastly people’ and was actively responsible for once of the largest famines of the region.

But does that mean we abandon every word of wisdom the ancient Greek philosopher uttered? We don’t abandon the light bulbs because of Edison, nor do we shoot down street lights, energy bulbs or LED lights because they are just a transitory stage in the of evolution of the original bulb. The copies of arguably the greatest work of Virginia Woolf, “Orlando” won’t be burned down because they happen to be a key text in gender studies internationally. Fords, as we see, still run on the streets. Despite beating their wives, Lennon will widely be renowned as a peace activist while Charles Dickens will remain the creator of greatest fictional characters such as Oliver Twist, Sydney Carton and Pip. Picasso’s art, like always, will be preserved in museums only to be admired and adored. Winston Churchill will be quoted in the books of philosophy and self help and cited as the world’s smartest, most courageous leaders.

Art can be personified, but it can not be a person.

To say nothing of all the recent accusations that have come out over the past year. I mean I love house of cards. My loving house of cards doesn’t change the fact that the lead actor is a child molester/rapist. Lots of talented artists, musicians, writers, and scientists were genuinely disgusting human beings. Statistically people are shit. It doesn’t take away from the art or the science or what they achieved in life. It also doesn’t change how depraved, disgusting and morally corrupt they are as human beings. What a person has achieved in their professional career doesn’t make them a good person. How decent a person is to their family does not ensure their good behavior towards other people. All people have families. The abuser has a family and so does the victim. Serial killers also have mothers who love them. The one thing has no connection with the other. And yet our brain draws the connection. It’s never about holding inconsistencies together.

Art – and experiencing it without experiencing artists

It is in fact understanding that all people do things that are both good and evil and nature, and some of them happen to be artists. Some of them people gave birth to, or helped develop or evolve art. Their art is separate from their being. Art can be abstract, intangible and universal unlike the human anatomy. Then why do we judge it by the same standards we’ve set out to judge an individual? As we decided dump our TV series CDs into trash cans because an actor happens to be a potential molester, we also missed a fundamental stage of mentally processing the difference between House of Cards and Kevin Spacey, Orlando and Virginia Woolf, Oliver Twist and Charles Dickens, light bulbs and Edison, Greek philosophy and Aristotle, Fords and Henry Ford, Picasso and “The Weeping Woman”, Winston Churchill and quotes by Winston Churchill. We forget to understand the difference between art and the artist, because we all happen to be naturally biased enough to expect the same perfection from artists that we saw in their art. And while we do that, we also know that nobody’s perfect. Our unwillingness to understand that an artist is another person has caused us to also hate a concept that doesn’t happen to be another person.

Here’s to lighting light bulbs!

So watch House of Cards. Light your light bulbs and study Orlando as you pursue a degree in gender studies. Enjoying art does not mean you agree with an artist’s experience or action. It is not a painting, a car, a book or literally a fictional character that decides to commit an action. It is tangible, documented people and we only seek pleasure from the intangible, the universal concepts we have called art. If you’re self-aware enough to understand that driving a Ford does not mean you believe that racial inequality is natural, or that listening to Lennon’s “Imagine” does not mean endorsing domestic violence, you can enjoy art guilt-free.

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