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Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Continuing Saga of the Mapplethorpe, Part Two

Posted by on Tue, Apr 7, 2009 at 3:40 PM

Did Mapplethorpe ever get that whip out of his ass?
Posted by Stupid White Man on April 7, 2009 at 2:34 PM

Why, Stupid White Man, I'm glad you asked that question in response to this morning's Mapplethorpe Saga Part One.

Because Part Two of our two-part series is about the famous aforementioned ass-whip self-portrait that Mapplethorpe made in 1978.

Here's what I wrote about that photograph in my story this week about new EMP director Christina Orr-Cahall's 1989 decision to cancel a scheduled Mapplethorpe exhibition:

In 1978, when Mapplethorpe photographed himself as a demon with a bullwhip dangling out of his ass like a tail, he was drawing attention to the demonization of the gay man. What he couldn't have known—he died just months before his show, which had already been exhibited without incident in Philadelphia and Chicago, was canceled in D.C.—is that artists were about to join the ranks of the demonized. Artists were an expedient way for right-wingers to get at the real targets: the same uppity women and gays who Moral Majority leader Jerry Falwell would later say brought on September 11.

The 1978 photograph was the ideal image to illustrate my article: difficult, but full of meaning.

After some internal hashing out, we came up with a plan to run the photo both in the paper and online. The plan was to show it full-size online, where a person could choose to click on it or not. But in the paper, to avoid losing distribution spots all over the city, we decided we'd run a ridiculously small thumbnail version in the middle of an expanse of white space on the art page, marked with an explanatory caption, something like this:

fbcd/1239143513-mapplethorpe1.jpg

THIS IMAGE BEST ILLUSTRATES THIS PIECE It’s Mapplethorpe’s 1978 self-portrait. Having trouble seeing it? This is the largest version we are able to print out of consideration for the owners of local businesses that allow us to distribute our papers on their premises. You can see a larger version of this image at at thestranger.com/visualart, and debate whether or not we’re just as guilty of censorship as Christina Orr-Cahall.

I was satisfied with that compromise. I'd originally wanted the piece published normal size, inside the paper, next to the story on the art page (as it was, I later found out, in the Village Voice's arts section at the time of the controversy).

But we cain't always get what we want, and at least this solution was creative, transparent, and would inspire debate in a forum on which you would be able to see the image full-size if you wanted to.

We laid out the page and waited to hear back from the Mapplethorpe Foundation, which controls the rights to the image.

And the answer came back: No.

The reason?

"They are not in agreement with the following asessment, 'In 1978, when Robert Mapplethorpe photographed himself as a demon with a bull whip dangling out of his ass like a tail, he was drawing attention to the demonization of the gay man.' It is not the belief of the Foundation that this was Mapplethorpe’s intention, so they have suggested the attached image which was projected onto the side of the Corcoran and was subsequently memorialized as an ARTFORUM cover."

We ended up using the ARTFORUM image.

But we had to ask: Does the Mapplethorpe Foundation have no sense of irony?

And: Is this what Mapplethorpe would want?

(The reason the foundation knew about my interpretation is that we sent it to them: although we were wary, they said they needed to see what we were writing before they'd consider the request.)

So, who's the worst censor now?

So many options for you to consider.

Here's a link to a nice big glorious version of the image on Christie's web site.

 

Comments (42) RSS

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1
I saw the infamous show in 88...did he ever manage to get that whip out of his ass or was he buried with it still there?
Posted by Stupid White Man on April 7, 2009 at 3:50 PM · Report this
2
"the demonization of the gay man"

Well, this photo certainly helped. Maybe the Log Cabins are onto something.
Posted by Stupid White Man on April 7, 2009 at 3:51 PM · Report this
3
The Christie's link is broken for me
Posted by vooodooo84 on April 7, 2009 at 3:52 PM · Report this
4
This is why copyright law needs to be updated: it's absurd that "estates" and "foundations" control art they did not create (cf. the absurdity of dealing with James Joyce's heirs).
Posted by Simac on April 7, 2009 at 3:59 PM · Report this
5
Link doesn't work.
Posted by Maaplethorpe's proxy on April 7, 2009 at 4:00 PM · Report this
6
Yeah, the Christie's link is broken. Symbolism?
Posted by Jessica on April 7, 2009 at 4:01 PM · Report this
7
Ooooh, try removing the
from the end of the URL. It should show just fine.
Posted by arts&letters on April 7, 2009 at 4:01 PM · Report this
8
Yes Simac, you should be able to get other people's stuff for free, even if they didn't will it to you. Can I have your address and make myself at home to some of your belongings when you die? Not the whip, that you can keep.
Posted by Stupid White Man on April 7, 2009 at 4:01 PM · Report this
9
That is what you get for giving veto power to a source. Why don't you just steal the image off the net like everything else you use?
Posted by bring in the clowns on April 7, 2009 at 4:02 PM · Report this
10
Ha. That didn't work...the comment box read that as HTML.

What I meant to say was, delete the break from the end of the URL. The characters look like "< br / >".

Or better yet, just go here:

http://www.christies.com/LotFinder/lot_d…
Posted by arts&letters on April 7, 2009 at 4:04 PM · Report this
11
Dan looks sort of like Mapplethorpe. Why doesn't he recreate the bullwhip picture for slog?
Posted by maybe the whip will even slow the leakage for awhile on April 7, 2009 at 4:04 PM · Report this
12
The Mapplethorpe Foundation's belief is that the artist wasn't trying to make a statement about the demonization of gay men or any overt political, social or artistic comment on the status of the gay male in our heteronormitive culture; Mapplethorpe was just really, really horny that day and the whip felt damn good up in there, especially when he wriggled it around.
Posted by michael strangeways on April 7, 2009 at 4:06 PM · Report this
13
Apparently Simac has the same view of copyrights that Erica has of wine.

So where do you hang a photo like this? The foyer to greet guests or is this something you save for the master bedroom?
Posted by Stupid White Man on April 7, 2009 at 4:08 PM · Report this
14
Because surely you, more so than the Mapplethorpe Foundation, know his intent...
Posted by You_Gotta_Be_Kidding_Me on April 7, 2009 at 4:12 PM · Report this
15
Yeah, feed the trolls, Jen. Good one.
Posted by elenchos on April 7, 2009 at 4:12 PM · Report this
16
12 Really makes a fellow appreciate being hetero.
Posted by a soft warm woman beats a bullwhip up the ass pal, trust me on April 7, 2009 at 4:14 PM · Report this
17
"more so than the Mapplethorpe Foundation, know his intent"

Well, 1). he willed his work to the Foundation, so his intent was that they decide 2). Mapplethorpe never gave his work away for free to anyone who asked while living. 3). Maybe he could only pay people to hang this stuff?
Posted by Stupid White Man on April 7, 2009 at 4:14 PM · Report this
18
Copyright should expire at death, dammit.

The foundation never did fuck all for Mapplethorpe when he was alive except get him a tax deduction.

As for "taking his stuff", the prints belong to whomever owns them or was willed them. What sucks ass is copyright.
Posted by Fnarf on April 7, 2009 at 4:52 PM · Report this
19
"The foundation never did fuck all for Mapplethorpe when he was alive except get him a tax deduction."

Didn't they help pull the whip out?

"the prints belong to whomever owns them or was willed them"

So just steal them Fnarf. Afterall, private property is obviously only something you and your spawn should enjoy.
Posted by Stupid White Man on April 7, 2009 at 4:59 PM · Report this
20
I'm sorry, Stupid, but you appear to be stupid. I don't want to steal them, and I believe in private property. The prints belong to whomever paid for them. It's the COPYRIGHT that's a joke. But you're stupid, so I guess you'll never get the distinction between the two.
Posted by Fnarf on April 7, 2009 at 5:43 PM · Report this
21
"The prints belong to whomever paid for them. It's the COPYRIGHT that's a joke"

Copyright is a joke? As someone who produces copyrighted work, I can tell you it isn't a joke. I hold onto mine aggressively and will pass the ownership onto my kids. You try and take it from them for free, they'll sue your dumb ass.
Posted by Stupid White Man on April 7, 2009 at 6:03 PM · Report this
22
So now that Cobain is dead, can I take some of his music and sell used cars on TV with it?
Posted by Stupid White Man on April 7, 2009 at 6:07 PM · Report this
23
If you're like most Archie Bunkers (and I'm not detecting anything original here) your kids will work hard to be nothing like you, if for no other reason than spite for having to listen to you bellow their whole childhood.
Posted by elenchos on April 7, 2009 at 6:07 PM · Report this
24
And if you're lucky Elenchos, when you get old, maybe your kids will appoint you a 'public intellectual' instead of embarrassingly having to appoint yourself.
Posted by Stupid White Man on April 7, 2009 at 6:12 PM · Report this
25
21

This is all going on the assumption that you will ever in your life time produce anything that anyone would remotely want to use after your death, right?
Posted by and who are you again? on April 7, 2009 at 6:17 PM · Report this
26
I won't need to die, it happens now with my work, so I'm not too enthused by a bunch of baristas, kinkos employees and other dead enders complaining about how evil copyrights are.
Posted by Stupid White Man on April 7, 2009 at 6:21 PM · Report this
27
I filter all art through beauty/sexual attraction, so -- that is one unappealing ass, bullwhip or no bullwhip.
Posted by Alicia on April 7, 2009 at 6:29 PM · Report this
28
Just to throw this out there - it is my understanding of "Fair Use" concerning copyright material, that a newspaper or journal (such as The Stranger) can publish images if it is within a critical context. So, under "Fair Use" the Stranger does not need the permission of the copyright holder to reproduce the image.
Posted by Sad Comment on April 7, 2009 at 6:30 PM · Report this
29
Didn't mean to get you so angry, Mr. White Man. Sorry.

And I think all us can agree that Public Intellectual is to weighty a title to possibly be given by oneself alone, so I leave it as an exercise for the curious to discover how I obtained it. If it bothers you, regardless of who you think bestowed the honor, then don't feel obligated to use it; I have never complained about whether or not I was addressed by title or rank. No matter who it was addressing me. My calling requires me to be open to everyone, all walks and all creeds and all persuasions, even those who don't -- won't ever -- recognize my status.
Posted by elenchos on April 7, 2009 at 6:50 PM · Report this
30
Cobain's work, such as it is, would better serve humanity selling used cars than enriching Courtney Frigging Love.
Posted by Fnarf on April 7, 2009 at 6:57 PM · Report this
31
Fnarf endorses theft. Pictures at 11 of him wine tasting with Erica B.
Posted by Stupid White Man on April 7, 2009 at 7:08 PM · Report this
32
Someone endorses stealing, you're right Elenchos, I get angry.

"I leave it as an exercise for the curious to discover how I obtained it"

Oh goody, then I'll stop reading my BHK and ponder the wisdom of Ballard's only intellectual.
Posted by Stupid White Man on April 7, 2009 at 7:11 PM · Report this
33
Sorry, "BHL"...typo.

But you're an intellectual Elenchos, so I'm sure you know which of your contemporaries I'm talking about.
Posted by Stupid White Man on April 7, 2009 at 7:14 PM · Report this
34
did the Foundation give any clue as to what they thought his intent was? I always thought he shoved the whip up his ass because he had a thing for sadomasochistic sex. Or is that too obvious?
Posted by ak47 on April 7, 2009 at 7:24 PM · Report this
35
"the whip up his ass because he had a thing for sadomasochistic sex"

Maybe he lost his car keys and was trying to get them back?
Posted by Stupid White Man on April 7, 2009 at 7:47 PM · Report this
36
@32, 33

You're sputtering incoherently, my friend. Take a little break.
Posted by elenchos on April 7, 2009 at 7:47 PM · Report this
37
Next time you need a large scan of a Mapplethorpe photograph, just ask one of us art fags who actually owns the book. Ahem.
Posted by Whippet on April 7, 2009 at 7:53 PM · Report this
38
A gift from your boy scout leader Whippet?
Posted by Stupid White Man on April 7, 2009 at 8:22 PM · Report this
39
The 1978 photograph was the ideal image to illustrate my article: D' Iffi Cult butt full of meaning.
Posted by HuskyQuaker on April 7, 2009 at 11:29 PM · Report this
40
Hey Jen I suggest you go to Guidestar & look at the Mapplethorpe Foundation financial records -- director Michael Stout & the art dealers keep 90 percent of the money for themselves, giving only 10 percent to the artists and the museums that the foundation was set up to help. Now there's a story.

PS -- you can use the photo with or without their permission -- it's called "Fair Use" -- and you'd have little fear that the foundation would sue. You dummies.
Posted by Rembrandt on April 8, 2009 at 6:20 AM · Report this
41
@40 et al: We did consult our lawyer about fair use (duh), and she told us it was a weak fair use case because the story was only tangentially about this single image. She advised us against using it. I've heard from other journalists that we still could have gone with it, but I'm not an attorney and I don't make the calls around here.
Posted by Jen Graves on April 8, 2009 at 12:11 PM · Report this
42
If the foundation disagrees with Jen's interpretation of the art, does anyone provide an alternative version? Did Mapplethorpe say it was about the demonization of the gay man? What does the foundation say?
Posted by curious on April 8, 2009 at 5:14 PM · Report this

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