On Protest Art: Don’t Smash Stuff, It’s Rude

junkyardarts February 19, 2014 Comments Off on On Protest Art: Don’t Smash Stuff, It’s Rude
On Protest Art: Don’t Smash Stuff, It’s Rude

There’s a whole lot of talking going on with this whole ‘stranger decides to smash an Ai Weiwei clay pot installation at the Perez Art Museum Miami’.

Some people think it’s hilarious.  Some people think it’s not ok.  I tend to agree with both, actually.  But my main reaction to this, above all else, is do not go into museums and start smashing shit, it’s rude.

That’s really the crux of it.

Now Maximo Caminero, the man who smashed the vase, is going to argue a lot of things in his defense.  His initial response was that he was upset the museum wasn’t representing local artists so he smashed the vase.  This is, I believe, honest.  It’s also really stupid.  You want to do some protest art, then have a pop-up show in the middle of the museum, then people, I dunno, actually see your work.  Hey, it worked for Banksy, so why not give it a go?  Or maybe your own work is awful and there is a reason no one pays attention to it other than your mom. I don’t know and I don’t want to speculate.

In the days to come, Caminero is most assuredly going to say that his dropping the vase was some sort of comment on Weiwei’s own piece where Weiwei was photographed dropping antiquities as a form of protest (which looms over the installation).  He will say that he was inspired by Weiwei.  That he thought it was part of an overarching art-dialog.  That he was protesting the perception of fine art and the value placed on it.  That his actions are protected speech.  It was an art piece.  It was protest art.  It was an homage.

And he’s certainly welcome to say these things, and I cannot deny the deliciousness of the whole situation.  I mean, Weiwei for his part seems to be pretty upset about someone smashing his property…which is rich.  Just a little bit.

However.

That does not, under any circumstances, give Caminero the right to be a monumental asshole and go gallivanting around museums smashing shit.  Destroying Weiwei’s installation doesn’t let you get your word in.  It doesn’t bring you to the table because you aren’t part of that  conversation.  No one asked you your opinion because one gives a shit what you have to say.  There are actually reasons why Weiwei did this particular piece of work, and those reasons are more valuable than your feelfeels being hurt because you’ve decided that you can curate the museum better than the professionals running it.

Let’s break it down:  Destroying this piece of work doesn’t actually prove your point if you didn’t have a point to start with.  It’s also rude.  It’s also disrespectful to not only the artist, but to the museum and the visitors who paid to see those works.  It’s also expensive.  It’s also lazy.  It also sets a really horrifying precedent for other crazies to try to get notoriety for doing stupid shit in museums.  It’s also wrong.

We will see how this plays out, and while I’m laughing (just a little) at this, I’m also disappointed in Caminero taking the easy way out.  There are hundreds of other options you have to get people to see yours and other local artist’s work, and yet you took the accidental-sex-tape-release route to easy media attention.  Worse yet, it’s going to work.

Final thought: Do not break stuff that isn’t yours.

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