State of the Art

From The New York Times:

Art_1 IN 1974, Chris Burden had himself crucified on the roof of a Volkswagen. He was creating a work of art. A decade later, Hermann Nitsch staged a three-day performance in which participants disemboweled bulls and sheep and stomped around in vats, mixing the blood and entrails with grapes. Another work of art. Rafael Ortiz cut off a chicken’s head and beat the carcass against a guitar. Ana Mendieta, who had a retrospective at the Whitney last year, also decapitated a chicken and let its blood spurt over her naked body. As one commentator has observed: “animals are not safe in the art world.” Neither are the artists. They have sliced themselves with razor blades, inserted needles in their scalps, rolled naked over glass splinters, had themselves suspended by meathooks and undergone surgical “performance operations” during which spectators could carry on conversations with the artist-patient. In 1989, Bob Flanagan nailed his penis to a wooden board.

Has the art world gone crazy?

Many New Yorkers dismissed ”The Gates,” or did not take pleasure in it. Some even refused to experience it. Their objections were not to the quality of the work, to the color of the sheets, for instance, or to their height or placement. Technique was never the problem, and few complained that Central Park was being desecrated. Most of the objections went much deeper, reaching in fact to the philosophical issue at the heart of modern art. ”Why is this art?” the skeptics asked. It’s easy to imagine art snobs smirking at what they would consider the cultural naïveté behind such doubts. But the question, a fair and very serious one, has always deserved an answer.

More here.