Slog

Slog Music

Music, Nightlife,
and Drunks

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Taking Whatshertits to Another Level: Ben Beres's Print Is Cut from a Show at Cornish

Posted by on Wed, Nov 7, 2012 at 12:44 PM

This post has been moved up because that's the kind of whatshertits that I am.

Part of a print by Ben Beres. The print features 108 names of women artists in Seattle, each with a pair of breasts.
  • Part of a print by Ben Beres. The print features 108 names of women artists in Seattle, each with a pair of breasts.

Well, it seems we've got a little censorshipgate in Seattle art this week.

Ben Beres made the print you see above. It's 108 names of women artists in Seattle, each one with a pair of breasts. The breasts are basically, but not exactly, the same. None of the women were asked to participate or model; their names, according to curator/artist Sharon Arnold, form instead a relatively comprehensive list of women artists who are active and well-known in the city. In organizing an all-women show several months ago at Roq La Rue Gallery, Arnold "only got in 40. He did better than I did," she said. Beres hasn't responded yet to a request to talk about what's going on or what he intended with the piece.

But what's going on is this: On Monday, Arnold posted Beres's print to her Facebook page, as part of her promotion for the group show she's put together at Cornish (where she went to school). The group show is called Ils Disent, it opens tonight, and it's a series of responses by male artists to the art and issues raised in Elles, the current exhibition of work by women artists at Seattle Art Museum.

By Tuesday afternoon, Arnold wrote on Facebook that the piece had been pulled from the show. I spoke to her around 6 pm, and she told me that a couple of Cornish staffers among the 108 women whose names Beres listed had complained about having the print on display in their workplace.

"It became an HR issue," she said. "I'll never be at liberty to say who, but I did have a chance to talk to them. ... I'm trying to figure out several things. One is that obviously if this were Microsoft, yeah, it would have to be pulled, but this is an art school. Ultimately, I don't really think it's right that the piece isn't in the show."

Arnold and at least one other artist posted their segments of Beres's print as their profile pictures on Facebook. There, a big discussion was underway. Some of it was lighthearted, about the fact that so-and-so's breasts were not to scale. More was serious, about whether female artists do or should want to be part of the piece (and if they do, whether they feel ashamed about that), whether it represents the "male gaze" or some more critical POV on Beres's part, whether Cornish should have given this piece the publicity that comes with censorship, whether the lack of perfect symmetry in the sketched breasts is empowering to the realities of women's bodies, whether it raised the question of the general scarcity of recognition in Seattle whether you're a male or female artist (as opposed to somewhere like, say, New York).

I'd love to hear what Beres has to say. Beres is a printmaker who shows at Davidson and he's also a third of SuttonBeresCuller.

I'd also really love to hear what the two women who would prefer not to have this print be a part of their working day have to say. I'm hoping they will contact me. Even anonymously, their perspectives are invaluable to the conversation.

And while I don't want this one piece by a dude to steal a season about women in art, this episode is presenting a chance for conversation across gender about gender in the art world, which is great.

When I saw Beres's print, what came first to my mind was my Slog series "Good Job, Whatshertits," which is my way of singling out female artists for attention while also pointing out the objectification that comes with being a female artist in the first place.

Of course, different phrases mean differently when they come out of different mouths, and jokes made by women about women are simply different from jokes made by men about women. Is this print a joke? Beres almost always uses humor in his work. I have a hard time believing it's not both a joke and serious, but I'm not sure exactly how on either side, and maybe that's okay, too. By reducing women to their names and their breasts, he's doing the same thing as the lamer sides of Elles—but what does it mean for a male Seattle artist to do this rather than the French national museum or Seattle's largest museum, or a female Seattle artist?

Maybe we shouldn't get sidetracked too much by the censorship. I spoke last night to gallery director Cable Griffith and Cornish interim provost Jenifer Ward, and they both said it was a torturous decision, involving a lot of wrestling between Cornish being an art school that prizes freedom of expression and a workplace that respects the boundaries of its employees, especially in issues of sexual harassment.

So what if a few people can't walk through the gallery and see the piece itself? The Internet has a far bigger audience than any gallery, and the discussion has begun, both about gender in Seattle art and about conflict within institutions. You can't censor that.

 

Comments (55) RSS

Oldest First Unregistered On Registered On Add a comment
Theodore Gorath 1
Does anyone have Amanda Manitach's number by any chance?

Posted by Theodore Gorath on November 7, 2012 at 7:13 AM · Report this
mkyorai 2
Good article, Jen. Not being an art connoisseur myself, I will withhold judgement on the piece, but I do think the difference between Microsoft and an art school is somewhat immaterial; if it makes a working environment uncomfortable, it's probably best to remove it from the working environment.
Posted by mkyorai on November 7, 2012 at 7:35 AM · Report this
3
tortuous = marked by repeated twists, bends, or turns : winding (a tortuous path)

Do you mean torturous?
Posted by capicola on November 7, 2012 at 7:50 AM · Report this
4
You don't write well, in general.
Posted by flan on November 7, 2012 at 8:16 AM · Report this
5
For my part, I laughed at the image and caption alone, taking it as wry commentary on "Elle" and the objectification of women and women artists in general. I don't see it as a "joke," just clever and, clearly, thought-provoking, though I appreciate reading the other points of view. (I'm a woman, btw, and art college grad).

What does offend me is censorship within an arts school, especially coming from (2!!) of its instructors. Even if the universe eventually unanimously agrees that Ben Beres' imagery crossed a line or is offensive to women (god help us), censoring his work in an environment that is designed to nurture and encourage creativity, expression and individuality is a far, far greater crime. The more I think about it the more it pisses me off.

In fact, fuck Cornish. Suppression of individual expression is far worse than terrible teaching. Those instructors should be ashamed of themselves for letting their personal feelings get in the way of the school's mission statement.
Posted by mitten on November 7, 2012 at 8:36 AM · Report this
6
In the interest of efficiency, I'd like to post a brief response of mine to a thread on the show's Facebook event page, complete with typos:

"I'd like to chime in here. In my opinion, to label this issue as "Cornish" censors artists" is far too simple. The Cornish Alumni Gallery exists within an institution and place of employment. Like any other employer, it relies on a trusting relationship with its employees to provide a safe place to work that respects personal boundaries. In this case, the work targeted a number of employees by name, without consent. Example: I work in cubicle A and draw a picture of the person in cubicle B's "parts" with their name on it. If person in cubicle B doesn't appreciate my drawing of them, it comes down. Plain and simple. An art gallery in a public/work space is not a protected enclave from these basic workplace considerations. Hate to get all administrative here, but it comes with the job. Happy to talk more at the opening tonight. Love and respect to all."

I don't expect people to like it, but that's pretty much what the issue comes down to for me. The realities of public/private/institutional space are complex. You can count on Cornish to address these issues in a forum of some kind, TBA. The conversation will continue...
Posted by cablegriffith on November 7, 2012 at 9:12 AM · Report this
7
Also! What's the point of hosting a commentary-themed art show if you're going to oppress the views you don't agree with? Is it only OK to express yourself on this topic if you do not question it, or question it in a way that is not potentially offensive to 1 or 2 people? (This is like that Nina Simone thing all over again.)

Jen writes not to "get sidetracked too much by the censorship." Turning a blind eye to oppression of artistic expression is almost as bad as oppressing it. The message this sends—not just to people as a whole, but to individual groups (minorities, women, men, etc) and their unique viewpoints and expressions of it—is destructive. It's anti-intellectualism at its core.

Posted by mitten on November 7, 2012 at 9:19 AM · Report this
8
For me, this show is now all about the censorship. That's too bad.
Posted by diggum on November 7, 2012 at 9:23 AM · Report this
9
@6 I disagree. An art gallery SHOULD be a protected enclave of expression, whether it's within a school or corporation. Maybe the instructors who can't handle their non-consenting (??) representation by another artist should work at Microsoft or another corporation, with their HR depts, dress codes and other toe-the-line policies. Since when do you need to give consent for an artist create art about you?

This isn't "cubicle art," for crying out loud. What a comparison!
Posted by mitten on November 7, 2012 at 9:28 AM · Report this
alpha unicorn 10
“The male function is to produce sperm. We now have sperm banks.” Valerie Solanas
Posted by alpha unicorn on November 7, 2012 at 10:09 AM · Report this
AirBuddy 11
This is about harassment, plain but unfortunately complicated. While I agree that the piece is intended as a joke, it's still a chauvinism joke that comes off as oddly chauvinistic, what with the metonymic breasts and all. Normally I don't think this would be cause whatsoever to remove an art piece, except for the following key information:

Ben Beres is employed by Cornish in the Printmaking department. This is missing from Jen's report and makes all the difference.

It doesn't matter if it's Microsoft, Cornish, or a hot dog truck, drawing caricatures of co-workers for public display that cause your co-workers discomfort, no matter your good intentions, constitutes harassment.

Cornish has done the right thing by removing the piece, given that it has an obligation to its employees to create a nonthreatening work environment. Besides, given the controversy it will likely be shown at another venue, any of which would be more appropriate than where these female artists have to show up every work day.
Posted by AirBuddy on November 7, 2012 at 10:48 AM · Report this
sharonArnold 12
In defense of my comment about the difference between Microsoft and Cornish, I want to reiterate my statement about that.

What I said was that I had a conflict with how obviously appropriate the removal of the piece would be in a corporate office such as Microsoft, and that it was troublesome and questionable that I somehow felt an art school was different. Ultimately, at the end of the day, as a woman and an employee of an art school; this conflict is personally unresolved but I can intellectually accept that it is no different.

At the risk of being TL;DR, I'd like to include a response I gave to the Internet yesterday:

I should say here that this show doesn't have the immediate intention to provoke, actually. I knew that there would be a reaction to the list of artists, if read before the statement. What it has is the intention to include men in a conversation that I think is as important to men as it is to women. This show also includes elegant nods to Louise Nevelson, Louise Bourgeois, Linda Benglis, and Dora Maar. The only provocative piece in the show is Ben's.

For me, I felt that the questions Ben's piece raise are as valuable to the conversation as anything else. Is Ben Beres really, truly reducing the women of the Seattle art world to boobs, or sexual objects? Or is he pointing at what men think about, in response to any women, let alone Elles? Or is this how Ben Beres celebrates women, which points back to the first question? I think that it's interesting to note that if a woman had made this, there would be little to no outrage but of course a woman making it would change the context. Also I think that it's interesting to see all the women who want to be in it. What does that mean? Questions about who is included and who is not are equally as valid, as part of that conversation.

For me, this piece embodied everything that it means to be a woman right now. The complexity, the internal battle, the damned if I do/damned if I don't.

I think this piece is purposefully minimal and vague - it can and will mean a lot of different things to everyone who looks at it. What it says to the viewer will say more about the viewer than it says about the artist's intention. That is part of its potency, and its volatility.

I imagine that on first glance, it is just boobs. It gave me pause. I saw my name. I thought "huh, subversive" - but then I laughed. It's like Pollock peeing in Guggenheim's fireplace. Then the bigger questions came (listed previously).

I am more fascinated by all the conversations this piece has started than anything that I have ever put on a wall. Am I and other women in this piece being diminished? Is it a backlash against the obvious push to feature women artists in Seattle right now? Is this at its simplest, a piece about appreciation, or does it demonstrate a bounty? There are more artists on this print than what I put in Red Current. I wish I could have demonstrated the bounty of Seattle as effectively! And maybe it simply points at the thing we both want and don't want - to be identified as "an artist, but with boobs" ... in fact I was so blown away by a question I was asked, in regards to whether it's problematic that women state they wanted to be in this piece, that it shifted everything about how I saw this piece into a perspective of our duality as women, both wanting recognition for our merit, and for our beauty and/or womanhood.

At its worst, it is un-examined and written off as a trite and juvenile shock piece, which I argue it is definitely not. But somehow I don't think that's going to happen, if the conversations which have already started continue.

I just can't help but feel this piece is incredibly important to include. To remove it would endanger the value and the importance of all these other conversations that are happening, and would sharpen the focus on a scandal, and not the poignancy of the piece.

if we want to talk about risk, it takes risk to be a woman and put a show of men together at a time when the spotlight is on women. it takes even further risk to be the male artist who points at the very conflict that makes our daily existence so frustrating. and further than that, it takes risk to keep it up on the walls of the institution that claims to make progress.
More...
Posted by sharonArnold http://lengthbywidthbyheight.com on November 7, 2012 at 10:58 AM · Report this
13
@3: Gah, I hate that mistake. Thanks for pointing it out to me. Fixed.
Posted by Jen Graves on November 7, 2012 at 12:05 PM · Report this
14
Employment law and sexual harassment are not exclusive to Microsoft. Freedom of expression should not empower ones employer to dispay cartoon likenesses of one's breasts in your workplace.
Posted by hitchcock on November 7, 2012 at 12:23 PM · Report this
derek_erdman 15
Art: I know it when I see it.
Posted by derek_erdman http://www.derekerdman.com on November 7, 2012 at 12:26 PM · Report this
16
Hi Jen,

Here's the info for an upcoming talk. This one was scheduled months ago and isn't aimed to tackle the recent issue here, but I guarantee that we will be pulling an additional discussion together soon to address it specifically. But it is hard to imagine that the current situation wouldn't come up at the talk listed below. Especially at Cornish, the issue needs to be now looked at as an educational opportunity. I'll give you the details as I have them. Best, Cable

Sustenance presents:

Women and the Visual:
The Influence of John Berger and Laura Mulvey
Friday, November 16
Board Room
1000 Lenora Street, 7th floor
12 - 1 PM

Seattle Art Museum is currently hosting an unprecedented set of exhibitions and programs showcasing women artists. Cornish College of the Arts is joining SAM in this celebration of great art by women with a community discussion: Women and the Visual: TheInfluence of John Berger and Laura Mulvey. Forty years after the publication of seminal works by John Berger and Laura Mulvey, a panel of Seattle artists considers the influence of their thinking on women as both subjects and objects of art. Please join us for this special lunchtime discussion, as part of Cornish’s Sustenance series.

With guests:
Sharon Arnold, artist, curator, and writer
Michelle Dunn Marsh, artist
Amanda Manitach, artist, writer
Steve Sewell, artist
Jenifer Ward, Interim Provost, Cornish College of the Arts

sustenance
noun \səs-tə-nən(t)s\
1 a: means of support, maintenance, or subsistence : living b : food,
provisions; also : nourishment
2: a monthly lunchtime discussion about arts issues, open to the entire Cornish community, from 12 - 1pm.
More...
Posted by cablegriffith on November 7, 2012 at 12:38 PM · Report this
17
@11: Thanks for adding about Ben in the print department. I don't actually know the level of his involvement (whether he's currently working/teaching). I certainly wasn't leaving anything out on purpose.
Posted by Jen Graves on November 7, 2012 at 12:52 PM · Report this
shauniqua 18
ben did not draw anyone's "likeness" here... these are not caricatures.

art is supposed to be open to interpretation, and cornish has decided to say "no, this is what it is." and that's bullshit.
Posted by shauniqua http://www.shaunkardinal.com on November 7, 2012 at 12:59 PM · Report this
19
It's a fascinating conversation that poses more questions. AR 102 DRAWING: BARE BONES tops the Cornish Art curriculum list. Would a drawing of a breast from those classes be removed from the gallery if a model's name was added by the artist? And who would decide? If you're making an argument about discrimation in a place of employment, then I find it odd that staff would effectively consent to having students draw a naked model, and yet protest a fictional drawing of their own breasts, escpecially in a grouping of 108 other female artists. Yet the model gave consent; the staff did not. So the instinct is to stand with the women who want the work removed because you have to wonder why they feel so vulnerable that they view this is an act of discrimination. But what about the rights of the artist, the exhibit curator, all of the other women included in the print (who presumably want the work shown), and the audience? It's a classic moment of moral philosophy, but it seems like the exhibition should be allowed to move forward as planned in good faith.
Posted by Cheryl dos Remedios on November 7, 2012 at 1:50 PM · Report this
20
1. The show concept in itself is flawed. Why do we need a male response a women's show?

2. Ben's piece is creepy, bordering on sexual harassment.

3. Cornish shouldn't have censored the piece.
Posted by whateverwhat on November 7, 2012 at 1:50 PM · Report this
sharonArnold 21
@20: why wouldn't we ask men to respond? the male voice is as important to Feminism as any other. that's the point.
Posted by sharonArnold http://lengthbywidthbyheight.com on November 7, 2012 at 2:13 PM · Report this
Tovirus 22
Yeah Sharon Arnold! I don't even see how this is an issue. The piece is important simply because I the reaction it has caused. I think it would have caused the same reaction had it not been removed. The people who are offended by being included should entertain switching to another career.
Posted by Tovirus on November 7, 2012 at 4:30 PM · Report this
23
It's an important piece regardless of the controversial reaction - it's a statement on the show at SAM - as if to say the requisite for being included in that show can be reduced to the crude distinctions made between men and women, as artists and every other occupation and culture.
Posted by Smittles on November 7, 2012 at 8:50 PM · Report this
24
When I saw posts about this piece initially in my FB feed- prior to any censorship- what struck me was not the depiction of breasts, though of course these were clear. I was struck by the perceptions and reactions surrounding inclusion and acknowledgement. Superficially (observing on FB, before a full-fledged censorship erupted, and supplemented by ardent hopes for inclusion in comments), an aspect of it read as a sort of who's who list.

108 artists is pretty inclusive compared to anything a gallery survey could accommodate. And yet there's many times that number of female artists living/working in Seattle. I wondered who might walk away feeling like shit because they weren't included and who wouldn't, what this said about communities and sub-communities and individual art practices and gender. I don't know those directly involved with the exception of some of the artists featured in the print. If the piece had been made by a woman I absolutely would've had the same same questions about parameters of public/social/artistic validation. If the piece had featured/named male artists, I wonder what the reactions would have been on all levels.

For my part I had a sort of personal epiphany after seeing it online and thinking about it, regarding how it made me feel, what I should be focusing on, what I want from my art practice and from community. Most of us wish to be rewarded/recognized/etc- to me that's a natural part of caring about my work. Yet ultimately acknowledgement is a highly internal conversation. Online I don't as much see that dynamic play out within networks I'm part of in other cities. Maybe it's that everyone's under-recognized in places like NY. Yet I don't think there's a lack of artist-activated community in those particular cities either.

FWIW I think it's a really good piece and a really great curatorial premise. Initially when I saw the curator's comment in a thread, that the piece would no longer be in the show, I thought the artist and curator had more direct voice in that decision. I didn't think it should be pulled because of the questions it raised (for me or others, whether about breasts, names, acknowledgment, gender, etc), yet I thought if it had been pulled, it was because of a decision made by the artist and/or curator.
More...
Posted by ellie_dee on November 8, 2012 at 4:32 AM · Report this
RebeccaBush 25
Total rip off of the "Spring Break" graffiti artist if you ask me.
Posted by RebeccaBush http://www.rebeccabush.com on November 8, 2012 at 6:24 AM · Report this
shauniqua 26
yah, Spring Break really pulled off something unique and unforeseen in drawing cartoony breasts.
Posted by shauniqua http://www.shaunkardinal.com on November 8, 2012 at 9:20 AM · Report this
sharonArnold 27
I just want to say thank you to pretty much everyone here for your thoughtful comments and opinions, including Jen Graves for presenting this issue so well. These conversations are precisely why I think this piece is important.

The show however, is so much bigger than one piece, and one artist. I encourage you to please stop by the Cornish Alumni Gallery, which is in the main entrance of the Lenora Building, and see the rest of the work by these artists:

Adam Boehmer, Chris Buening,Tim Cross, Brian Cypher, Curtis Erlinger, Ollie Glatzer, Sean Johnson, Matt Sellars (AR '93), Mike Simi, and Ian Toms (AR '09) - all whom considered, reflected, referred, portrayed, and executed the curatorial statement beautifully, elegantly, and succinctly.

I'm posting photos on the facebook page, if you are interested in the previews!

http://www.facebook.com/events/167048566…
Posted by sharonArnold http://lengthbywidthbyheight.com on November 8, 2012 at 9:29 AM · Report this
28
#11 is right on the mark. It does not matter if the piece is Good or Bad. It is not being censored because it contains boobs. The content and the context constitutes Sexual Harassment and I hope that Cornish is legal obligated to remove the work. The 2 women who complained have every right to complain. Their names and boobs were put on this art piece in their work place without their permission! Nobody wants to work in an environment that is uncomfortable or hostile.

I am a man and have been sexually harassed on two different occasions in my work place and I was not comfortable or brave enough to come forward and say something about. I simply avoided the work site where the harasser works.

We should congratulate these two women for being brave enough to come forward and we should stand behind their choice. Saying things like "That is Lame!!!" and "This is Bullshit!!!" only perpetuate and support Sexual Harassment in the workplace and make it more difficult for people to come forward in the future.
Posted by Paul Margolis on November 8, 2012 at 9:56 AM · Report this
29
And Thank you to Jen Graves. The article is very well written.
Posted by Paul Margolis on November 8, 2012 at 9:59 AM · Report this
30
Boring, unoriginal, sophomoric, trite. Beres objectifies 108 women, reducing them to their lowest common denominator so they are indistinguishable from each other -- and some of them thank him for it!
Posted by Martha Dunham on November 8, 2012 at 11:35 AM · Report this
31
Sharon, I have to respond to one thing you wrote:

@20: why wouldn't we ask men to respond? the male voice is as important to Feminism as any other. that's the point.

The male voice, to me, is not as important in women's issues as the female voice. It should take a backseat for fucking once. A backseat that's right there one inch behind us, but a backfuckingseat. And I don't want to apologize for that attitude.
Posted by Jen Graves on November 8, 2012 at 1:38 PM · Report this
sharonArnold 32
I don't want this to be mistaken for a statement about men not having a voice; men have quite clearly had their day in history. I'm not shooting myself in the foot, here. I want to be clear that for me, this was about including a voice. Moving forward in history, I'm interested in voices speaking together.

Obviously, I am a Feminist, and I believe in and celebrate this moment in Seattle right now, and applaud the Centre Pompidou for creating such a monumental exhibition. I am presenting an exhibition that points right back at that celebration.

Catharina Manchanda, in a talk at Gage, pointed out the irony that the women artists we know about in history are in part due to the famous male artists they knew. I am enjoying the turnaround in this show of men who are shaped by the female artists they admired.
Posted by sharonArnold http://lengthbywidthbyheight.com on November 8, 2012 at 2:47 PM · Report this
33
As a woman and as an artist there are lots of things in this world that make me angry. Ben Bere's piece is not one of them. I love it. It makes me smile.
Posted by crystalbarbre http://www.crystalbarbre.wordpress.com on November 8, 2012 at 3:31 PM · Report this
34
As a woman and as an artist there are lots of things in this world that make me mad. Ben Bere's print is not one of them. I love this piece. It makes me smile.
Posted by crystalbarbre http://www.crystalbarbre.wordpress.com on November 8, 2012 at 3:36 PM · Report this
35
@32: Maybe what's most interesting of all to reflect on is who jumps to what defense. Obviously, that last comment was me being defensive about art and politics not being divide-able, which I think is both a feminist stance and something complex and fantastic that I don't want to see denied of either art or politics. I'll try to get more coherent thoughts together on this as I'm writing for next week's paper.
Posted by Jen Graves on November 8, 2012 at 4:28 PM · Report this
Maxx_Lexington 36
On the notion that the artwork makes for a hostile work environment, I would ask all to consider that censorship makes for a hostile work environment for artists, students or not. The role of the artist is to help inform as well as shape culture and while my name isn't listed under a set of breasts, as artists I hope the offend parties can understand that censorship is a greater concern then personal discomfort.

Try to think of it this way. I am offend in this society on a daily bases (list upon request), but if I wasn't then I wouldn't be living in a free society. No one asked for my consent and that is fine because it is better for all of us to have the option of being offended, then to not have the option at all.

What is next a harsh art critique becomes a hostile work environment and reviews must be censored? Look out Jen. ;-)

That said I am just a man, so I feel as if I should just take a backseat driver approach on this one.

-cheers
Posted by Maxx_Lexington http://heathheathen.com on November 8, 2012 at 9:42 PM · Report this
37
Had Ben chosen a representational approach I would find the piece objectionable; but in reality, we of the female persuasion do indeed possess breasts (and I look forward to the companion piece, hopefully forthcoming, of male artists in Seattle represented by a uniform penis). Jen's series celebrates artists while acknowledging our city's (temporary) focus on women, using a light-hearted but pointed title to do so. I see Ben's piece as one created in a similar vein.
Posted by Michelle Dunn Marsh on November 8, 2012 at 10:37 PM · Report this
38
What Cornish did is not censorship.

It is women blowing the whistle on the display of their bodies, however symbolic, in a juvenile cartoon to humiliate them in their workplace in a mardi gras style display of breasts.

Transfer it to the men's room wall and its a lawsuit.

And I have seen better drawings.

Makes great publicity for the curator who is, of course, another woman. For every Gloria Steinem, there is always a Phyllis Schlafly. (Look it up, you so called post-feminists.)

Since this kind of reflexive male attempt to subjugate and control women through representation has been a cultural staple for over 500 years, I can't imagine why we care how males respond to Elle's.

What about the students? Wanna bet Cornish has way more females than males in the student body?

The college has done the responsible thing because they have a responsibility toward the young women they are educating. To present this in their place of learning is to throw a wet blanket on a candle.

Posted by hitchcock on November 8, 2012 at 11:03 PM · Report this
39
Interesting. I just noticed that it wasn't until comment #38 that anyone, ANYONE, mentioned the students.
Posted by hitchcock on November 8, 2012 at 11:09 PM · Report this
40
What's the big deal? I have binders full of similar prints.
Posted by Rrrrrrrreommny on November 9, 2012 at 12:31 AM · Report this
41
I think the piece could have made its point, and perhaps in some ways more effectively, if 108 male artist names were paired with the breasts, and avoided the attending controversy.

I respect that Cornish as an institution needs to keep clear boundaries drawn against potential sexual harassment. As an outsider, I don't feel entitled to comment on whether the piece does constitute harassment. This isn't a simple case of censoring nudity.

For whatever it's worth, I viewed Beres' piece as a male confession, and a challenge to examine how the simple classification aspect of the Elle's exhibits reinforces male hegemony and objectification.
Posted by Lynn Schirmer http://www.lynnschirmer.com on November 9, 2012 at 11:53 AM · Report this
42
@31 THANK YOU. That is THE ONE thing that's been missing in this conversation.

The boobs were fine. It's a funny piece that makes you think for like 15 whole minutes. People feeling sexually harassed in their workplace and then having the courage to come forward with it is a good thing. So, taking it down makes sense. All fine. Let's see the whole piece online though soon?

What's not fine with me is having this piece, and this show of male artists (and I like those male artists! I admire their work and they are friends of mine!) take center stage the one month--of, oh, THE CENTURY-- that women have the stage.

Motherfucking backseat it! JUST THIS ONCE!

THANKS.
Posted by susannabluhm http://susanna-bluhm.com on November 9, 2012 at 3:24 PM · Report this
sharonArnold 43
My defense of this show in comment 12 and comment 32 stands, and in no way do I feel apologetic for having presented these artists in this way, for this concept. Rather, I am very proud, and I hope the other artists are too.

I am a woman! Does that not factor into the presentation of this show? Would it be different if this were presented by a male curator?

This is a valid perspective, and interest, to include a part of the conversation that doesn't often get acknowledged. As I have said before, it's fine to have a heavily gendered discussion, but at what point can all genders have that discussion together, in the same room, at the same time? This show does nothing but point back at women, talk about women, pay elegant homage to women. I encourage everyone to go see it. The artists in this show are celebrating the inspiration of women artists through their work, yes, even Ben Beres. If it were not for his piece, would you feel this sense of outrage?

This show has, through the controversy of this piece, done nothing but unearth a dialogue about gender that is as valid and important to the purpose and point of Elles as the simple celebration of women that has been going on throughout the city. And this does not diminish that celebration. Elles will be up through mid- January. Women do and will continue to have this stage. I hope that the exciting conversation that has erupted around all of this is only the beginning of women continuing to take over.
Posted by sharonArnold http://lengthbywidthbyheight.com on November 9, 2012 at 4:06 PM · Report this
44
Sharon, before I say anything else, I want to clarify how very much I think you add to the art community here. I also appreciate that we can have a heated conversation like this without it becoming personal. There are not many people I'd rather have such a conversation with. XO.

Carrying on,

Another thing that nags at me about this show is the title. Ils disent means "They [they being two or more people, at least one of whom is male] say." But the English-speaking eye merely sees the similarity to the English word DISSENT. Titled this way, the show presents itself as a dissent. A protest. Of what? Elles. (As in, the shows.) What else could it be? Ils. Elles. Disent. Dissent.

It is problematic to have a show (of male artists) dissent from the Elles shows.

That said, I don't think the male artists in the show are dissenting; I think YOU are, by curating this show and titling it this way. Rather than curate another all-women show this month you have dissented and curated an all-men show. I don't think you did this because you're anti-feminist. I think you did it because it was subversive.

The result is problematic. But, nonetheless, I'm glad you did it. It's better to take risks and have messy conversations than to stay safe and boring.

Susanna

Posted by susannabluhm http://susanna-bluhm.com on November 9, 2012 at 4:39 PM · Report this
sharonArnold 45
Thank you Susanna, I appreciate everything you've said and I especially appreciate knowing (and trusting) that these opinions flying around are not personal. :)

You're absolutely right. The play on words is obvious if you look closely enough, which you have. In putting together this show, this was actually the argument I expected, rather than the one I got.

Dissent means precisely that - a difference of opinion. When I curated Red Current, I made sure to bring the experience of discovery down to a personal level, because I found the idea of proselytizing a show of "woman artists!!!" distasteful. It left me feeling marginalized. I don't identify as a woman artist - I identify as an artist. I don't wish to have to qualify that all the time. So I presented this show with the intention to promote a bounty of Seattle artists, and allow the discovery of who they were to emerge second. Not first.

So with Elles, it's hard to not jump and say "fuck yeah ladytime!!!!" - believe me. But part of my criticism of Elles (yes, there are others but nothing to do with this issue) has to do with what I foresaw: a city erupting with shows about women. Is that bad? No. What am I getting at? There was potential for men to feel like they didn't get to participate. I knew I could have been wrong about that perception, too. But here we are. My aim was to include these artists in the most exciting conversation to happen in this city in a long time. I wanted to poke at gender politics. I wanted to poke at who gets to talk and when. I wanted to poke at all of these things that have come up.

When I was asked to do a response show at Cornish, I had three choices: create a show of women, create a 'non-gendered' show with equal sexes, or create this one. Out of the three, I imagined that it would be very hard to do better than Red Current, and the show I came up with was what interested me most.

Don't we all find that dissent an integral component of good conversation, the foundation upon which the most interesting and productive dialogue takes place? My opinion is there isn't enough dissent in contemporary society, that we are so afraid of conflict we shy away from things that disagree.

Thank god these conversations are messy. Maybe without the mess they wouldn't be happening.
More...
Posted by sharonArnold http://lengthbywidthbyheight.com on November 9, 2012 at 5:22 PM · Report this
46
You call it dissent, I call it a cheap publicity stunt. Having a boy show that a sophomoric degrading cartoon doesn't dissent anything in the one month in centuries that women are considered with a shred of respect. your discussion of whether the gender of the curator or artist important or what shows a remarkable lack of insight into art and culture. .
Posted by hitchcock on November 10, 2012 at 3:11 AM · Report this
47
Welcome to you incoherently entirely missing the point of..everything hitchcock.
Posted by LORD ZOD on November 10, 2012 at 8:26 PM · Report this
48
Hardly.
Posted by hitchcock on November 11, 2012 at 3:02 AM · Report this
49
All of this is a bit of a "tempest in a C-cup" now, isn't it? Sorry, I had to say that. It has been driving me mad all weekend.
Posted by goyasdog on November 11, 2012 at 9:12 PM · Report this
juanalonso 50
I can honestly say I understand frustrations from all sides on this article and comment thread and I see the validity of many of the viewpoints expressed. What I found missing was the lack of questioning or burden of responsibility or even the request of input from Mr. Beres. By pointing this out, I am by no means making any assumption of his intent nor am I criticizing or blaming him for anything. I respect his artwork but don't know him enough to make ANY type of judgement on his character. I only bring this up because it reminds me of times past when in several cases, my women friends were cheated on and the anger was always directed at "the other woman" instead of the men they were involved with. I bring this up because it goes to the topic of how the two sexes are perceived and treated differently.
There have been plenty of comments directed at the curator, the critic, the women who did not want to be depicted and many comments from women directing their disagreement of the artwork a man created at each other. At the very least, whoever the artist is at the center of the controversy, should share not only the notoriety of the "scandal" but should also be given the opportunity to make his intent known. If men are going to be included in the dialogue and ride the coattails of the enhanced visibility of women artists in Seattle, then they/we should also be equal targets of criticism and evaluation.
Posted by juanalonso http://www.juanalonso.info on November 14, 2012 at 3:29 PM · Report this
51
Juan makes excellent points. It is so true that anger so often is directed at the women in such a controversy because it is societally easier and safer to direct it at the party with less power in the system.

I am not sure it matters what Ben's intent is ultimately however because the image has its impact independent of his intention. If he is lampooning a particular attitude the effect is still the same. He repeats and strengthens degrading messages.

Like Archie Bunker's TV comments on All in the Family back in the 70's, the script may have targeted the racist comments of a bigot as a source of humor, in the end it just repeats his racism in a powerful forum that strengthens and spreads it.

It's impact on the students, remains negative and it legitimizes that kind of treatment of Cornish employees and women in general in their eyes.
Posted by hitchcock on November 14, 2012 at 9:01 PM · Report this
52
This is absolutely chauvinism. An African American will not put up with anyone but an African American using the 'n' word or making any racist (towards blacks) jokes. As educated people we accept this. Why is it deemed acceptable by anyone male or female for a man to draw women's breasts and THEN to assign the breasts names of actual individuals without even asking permission? This is an invasion of privacy as well as sexist. It clearly illustrates how much sexism is part of our culture. It is a pity as well as disgusting that women were involved in this without thinking it through with some intelligence.
Posted by sick of sexism being acceptable on November 14, 2012 at 10:17 PM · Report this
53
There's so much support for free discussion and artistic expression here-- if something inspires discussion it's good, right? Never mind that as a society we can talk ourselves stupid for 50 years about women's equality and then a man can draw boobs labeled with real women's names and it's considered intelligent art. Were we all silly to think female artists could be seen as more than these reductive parts, and as whole individuals. But that silliness is derived from not calling out simple insults and instead choosing to interpret them as valid points of view. Do we want to seem level-headed when it comes to men? Who cares! This is them: I can see her nipples, ha ha. I'll give him this-- there is wisdom in being immature. It wields power. This is what we should learn. Instead of maturely contemplating the anger surfacing from men using cultural advantage to derail women's illusion of dignity, and believing if we just keep thinking and thinking and talking and thinking we can rise above it.. Try this: F you for trying to pass a drawing of boobs with women's names under them as legitimate commentary of female artwork, try harder, you cheap sh*t for brains. Don't let the succinct beauty of a cheap shot confuse you and essentially say, "Good job, you really made me think from the point of view I've been trying to distance myself from for the zillionth time, and at my own curated show, how clever!" Fight the dirty fight for crying out loud. Recognize when it's been brought to that level and quit rolling out a red carpet. Censor it. Take it out of the show. And don't argue that men don't censor us, we just don't use that label for it, and there's no article when it happens. It probably wasn't intended that his cheap characterization would overshadow artworks with more depth-- but you allowed it to with your naive and rookie good faith. Sharon Arnold- wake up, big tits (you don't mind if I call you big tits, do you? I'm expressing myself), for the rest of us women who are never given a real mic and will never curate a show, seriously, wake up. This isn't a fair fight and you're playing like a loser.
More...
Posted by tinytits on November 18, 2012 at 1:46 AM · Report this
54
Well said
Posted by hitchcock on November 19, 2012 at 5:36 PM · Report this
55
Hello, I'm an English artist with no connection to Seattle but as I was passing I thought I'd add my unsolicited opinion, for what it is worth. Probably nothing.

Rightly or wrongly, I immediately read the Beres as a well-made feminist point about artists becoming 'women artists' rather than artists. There is clearly no intention to differentiate the breasts so the names attached to them are in effect random - these are not pictorial representations of individual women, so it is hard to see why anyone should be offended on that score.

On the other hand, if I was going to use another artist's name IN ANY CAPACITY, even a completely non-controversial one, I would ask them first. That's good manners.

So, in my backseaty, non-Seattley way, I think the artwork is fine but the artist has been rather ill-mannered and that is a good enough reason for the work to have caused a good deal of unease.
Posted by Sewell on November 23, 2012 at 1:14 AM · Report this

Add a comment

Advertisement
 

Want great deals and a chance to win tickets to the best shows in Seattle? Join The Stranger Presents email list!


All contents © Index Newspapers, LLC
1535 11th Ave (Third Floor), Seattle, WA 98122
Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Use | Takedown Policy