Archive for January 25th, 2008

It’s no surprise that the adoption world is easily offended when babies are used as props, since a good part of the debate that fumes mightily has everything to do with children posed as possessions to be wrangled over. But it could be argued that kids are not only “property” in the yours, mine and ours sense, but also in the theatrical sense, being that they can be quite handy for setting a scene or revealing character, and they look great posed between the dog and the tree on Christmas cards.

Who doesn’t attempt to position a child adorably for posterity, frame the results to gaze gleefully in perpetuity from the family room wall and send copies off to Granny, and maybe even to parenting magazines with the certainty that a wide audience is prepped to awwwwww? Being that there’s no shortage of kids being dragged from audition to audition in hopes of being the next Daniel Radcliffe, putting kids through their paces for the sake of “art” wouldn’t seem to be considered objectification of obscene dimensions. Would it?

Art being art, objectification and obscenity would both fall within the realm of beholders’ eyes, as what’s art to one is shit to another, and vice versa.

Take for example the paintings of Turner Award-winning artist Chris Ofili whose medium of choice is elephant dung.

How about the centerpiece of an exhibition in London correctly and descriptively titled: 21 Anthropometric Slabs Made Of Human Faeces By The People Of Sulabh International, India, or a shit retrospective in New York that featured “a dense concentration of scatological art dating from 1961 to the present,” some made from the real thing?

Now that we’ve established that art can be tasteless and still considered worthy of the title, and of people paying loads of money to bask in its glory, we can perhaps approach Vanessa Beecroft and the fuss being made over her, her breasts and Sudanese twins.

Ms. Beecroft is a star. An art star. She is not known for being nice or sensitive or caring or generous or … pick a pleasant adjective, any pleasant adjective you would attach to someone you’d like to spend time with. Vanessa Beecroft is not that person.

She is, in every sense of the word, a piece of art (see above). She is her own work, as her eating disorders attest, and with that always in mind, well into promoting Vanessa for Vanessa’s sake, even to the point of having a film made about having pictures taken of having the experience of having a conscience.

This debacle involves photographs of herself breast feeding twin Sudanese infants, a prompt that has immediately been sucked with relish into the black hole of celebrity adoption media spin:

At times Beecroft’s behavior is appalling, her motives and methods highly questionable, but it is difficult to turn away, and the more you watch, the more you wonder: What is best for these African children — to be adopted by a wealthy vain celebrity, an Angelina, a Madonna, a Vanessa (who admits she is a little crazy), or for the babies to live with their relatives in a hut, and take their chances with poverty and disease?

Yeah … like that’s what this is all about.

This is a woman who left her breastfeeding child at home in L.A. while she took off on a self-serving art quest to Africa, and if anyone is thinking the breastmilk-and-black-babies thing was a spur of the moment happening they are seriously missing something.

With a film budget and all to worry about, it makes sense that Vanessa would pull out all the stops on hype, and how better to get coverage outside the wacky art world than to slap the “celeb adoption” card on the table that issues press passes?

And, of course, it worked. Why wouldn’t it? There is no point, but why should there be? it’s art, and for art’s sake.

As Beecroft says:

“I really enjoyed this criticism. It is what I work for. I want people to exercise their thoughts, and I provoke with this image. Because the image was intentional also, not only a souvenir. But it had an intent to provoke. So I was happy with this reaction. That is part of my work. To create a little bit of irritation for the audience.”

The photographs are for sale for $50,000 each.

Here’s the link to her site where you can see the poster for the film … boobs, babies and all … an perhaps make an offer on a print … ?

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