Social Media: To the burners of art at UCT
18 February 2016
Proud Supporters of:
To the burners of art at UCT,
Yours is no small achievement.
Throughout history there have been those who burn and break art. They
always claim to have a “good” reason… the artists or their subjects are the
wrong race, religion, gender, sexuality… the art or the artists or the world
within which they work are imperfect and therefore ‘offensive” … there is
always an excuse. There have always been those who want to make utopia,
but only make fire. So, no marks for originality.
Nor did the physical destruction achieve much. The truth is that art begins to
decay the moment it is created, so you have merely hastened the inevitable.
Wood, paint, paper and even stone are so fragile when confronted by time or
human anger and violence. Besides, a trip to a library (You’ll like libraries,
they burn so very brightly.) or an internet search will show in a fraction of a
second that those artworks still exist. They have been well documented so
that they can still be appreciated or evaluated by those who wish to engage
with ideas rather than obliterate them. Perhaps you feel triumphant that the
originals have been destroyed? Well, no original Shakespeare manuscripts
exist anymore, did that erase him or his art or his influence?
So, a very low grade for effectiveness.
Your acts of vandalism were not aimed at winning an argument, but at
silencing it. Yet your actions have ignited widespread debate. Unfortunately,
what you have done is overshadowing your own cause. Today, the argument
rages higher than the flames and your cause, however just, is singed and
damaged as those artworks.
So, another failure.
Perhaps try other internet image searches of mob violence through history.
You’ll find plenty of photographs you recognise. But the events depicted are
less haunting than the faces. I look at those faces full of rage or glee and I
wonder how those people felt when they looked at those pictures years later.
They are captured, frozen in time. Whatever they achieved after, they could
never completely escape that moment when they became images. Art. Open
to (mis-) interpretation, defenceless against cynical exploitation, vulnerable
to hatred, defacement, abuse.
I look at the photographs and footage of your arson spree and I realise you
have achieved something important. You’ve become works of art. That must
be a very frightening position to be in.
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