Robert Polidori with Jean Dykstra at The Brooklyn Rail:
Polidori: Well, America is a Protestant country. Protestants don’t take so well to pathos, so they think that I’m a reactionary, because I am making misery look beautiful. And so because of this, I am minimizing the plight of the victims. I only get this in Anglo-Saxon countries, the rest of the world doesn’t think that way.
Rail: Right. And so what’s your answer to that criticism?
Polidori: My punk answer is, “Well, if I made it ugly, would you look at it more?” And my more serious answer is, this is a problem created by wanting to fix political blame as the cause of events. In America, the prevalent culture says that if things go bad, it’s your own fault. Therefore pathos is problematic. In art history, with Ruskin, there’s the notion of the “pathetic fallacy.” You know, it’s like when they say in English, “Gee, that’s pathetic,” and it’s actually a contre-sens; it’s an ironic statement. For them pathos or being pathetic means kitsch. It’s below consideration. And this is also why they call what I do “ruin porn.” But it doesn’t have much to do with pornography at all. It’s about death. So that’s why some of my work is not always appreciated in America.