Tag Archives: Daily Mail

A Taste for Crime

Repetition

Under the Son of Sam law, criminals are not allowed to profit from their crimes by selling their story. Even after they served their time and if they managed to get out, it is illegal for murderers to write books recalling the grisly details of their crimes. And yet… why do we allow other people to exploit their crimes for their own profit?

I haven’t really thought much about it until I was listening to the latest Sword and Scale podcast regarding Christopher Watts, a man who murdered his pregnant wife and two daughters. To others, the family seemed like a perfectly, photogenic family with the dream house and all, but apparently he was abusive, cheated on his wife, and the family was actually struggling financially. It always bothered me how the host/narrator of the show seemed to describe the state of the victims with glee, but it was particularly disturbing this time around when Mike Boudet described the victim’s unborn child as well as her underwear for no reason except maybe to add more titillation to the broadcast. I know it’s subjective in my part, but I imagine him almost licking his lips as he describes the pictures which were paraded around by tabloids like the Daily Mail. It crossed from being informative to being almost pornographic in its exploitative nature.

Now, I’m no fragile flower. I have no problem consuming violent and even bizarre media, but when shows like Sword and Scale market themselves about true crime, I would imagine it’s about the details of the case and how it was put to rest, not about the gory details or overdrawn subjective commentary. Also, the fact that the show praised the work of the polygraph expert in the case tells me that the show couldn’t care less about the workings of the law and how justice should be pursued.

Polygraph tests are inadmissible in almost every jurisdiction in the United States. No one can be forced to submit to a test, and they are proven many times to be inaccurate and open to manipulation. In the Watts case, the suspect volunteered for a test where he was interviewed by the agent in ways that suggested she had more insight regarding the truth in his heart. She was practicing pop psychology with the atmosphere of law enforcement. They were in effect interviewing him without a lawyer and pressuring him to confess to crimes under tremendous pressure. Granted, he was a horrible human being who happened to be guilty, but what if the next person being interviewed by the agents was an innocent person? As Mike Boudet described the polygraph expert, she was like a mongoose strategically catching a cobra. How nice. That mongoose would also be catching innocent animals using the same set of skills and loose ethics.  Protections for suspects are designed for both the innocent and the guilty. Sword and Scale seems to not realize this as the host colorfully condemned the rather easy target.

The purpose of these shows is not to inform the public or to promote justice. Their purpose is to entertain and sell more subscriptions to Blue Apron or Dollar Shave Club. And really, what’s the attraction that these shows are working on? What is the bait with which they are attracting viewers and convincing them to push subscribe on their phones? Is it the workings of the law and justice, or is it just the scandalous details of the crime? Is it the feeling of superiority after the downfall of the perpetrators? There can be a fine line between good shows and exploitative garbage, and I really don’t have a problem with true crime shows or even fictional crime dramas, but when it lingers on gory details, unnecessary subjective interpretation, and disregard for the implications of the actions of law enforcement, then it becomes really, really problematic. Instead of the detailed investigation of crimes like Sarah Koenig’s Serial, you get the shoddy analysis and proselytization of Nancy Grace. It makes for poorer, ill-informed citizens.

And of course, there are still real victims of these crimes. Victims whose loved-ones just got delightedly reminded again of how the victims were killed and the state they were in when they were found.

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Can’t we just draw, paint, or sculpt?

Bee

Bee

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2239504/As-prices-Damien-Hirsts-works-plummet-pity-credulous-saps-spent-fortunes-tosh.html

Yes!!! Yes!!! Please, art world, please! Let’s make this happen. Let’s stop alienating the rest of the world with pieces that we all pretend is high art but is nothing but schlock.

Apparently, Hirst’s works are now dropping in value. What were once hot commodities are now failing to sell, and people who invested on his works are losing money. While the British press has always seem to have been against Hirst’s bombastic brand of kitsch, it seems like the rest of the world is finally starting to catch up. I hope this trend continues. I hope we all stop paying attention to what is shocking and excessive, and not trust people trained in sales to see what is really not there. “The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living” Sure… maybe… or it could very well be just pieces of fish submerged in formaldehyde. Was it hard imagining such concept? Maybe?  It’s also not hard imagining a bicycle wheel stuck on a stool. But the difference between Marcel Duchamp and Damien Hirst is that Duchamp’s readymades seek to arrive at a higher purpose, to find an antidote to art that is purely visual. Duchamp’s works gave form to conceptual art, where the idea came first and the visual arrives soon after. There is humor in them. He challenged what is and what is not art. The rise of Hirst however tells me nothing but the story of excess. Of how a good salesman who knows the right people could make ridiculous amount of money selling pointless art that shocks. Nothing else.

Like a scary movie based on jump scares, as opposed to a psychological thriller which haunts you… you get over it and move on with your life. The makers of the movie however, make off with your money.

The reason why I’m happy about the news regarding Hirst is that I believe that the art world, if it continues to celebrate shocking, pointless art, it’s bound to self-destruct. Artists will be creating pointless, self-promoting pieces in the hopes of getting rewarded, while traditional artists move on with their life and get “real” jobs. It reinforces the stereotype that art is pointless and weird, and lay people would continue to devalue it. Instead of learning how to paint or draw, young artists would be incentivized to thinking of schemes on how to grab headlines. A vagina painting here, a semen painting there. Forget drawing or painting figures, how could you make a story go viral? And that is the danger. That is the nail in the coffin. “The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone” is like the “Gangnam Style” of the art world. It’s a shallow concept with an interesting visual. If anything, most of the beauty of the piece stems from the shark’s very nature. A person would be better off looking at a real shark in an aquarium. The work grabs headlines, but in the long run it is not as significant conceptually and artistically as Duchamp’s name on a urinal. It does not teach us anything. What shocks a person now would not shock a person ten or twenty years from now. That makes whatever is viral right now utterly boring and forgettable in a few years.

The Guardian piece notes, “Artists should be able to draw, paint, or sculpt, says the ordinary person, but all Hirst and his ilk can do is shock.” I agree to this sentiment to an extent. One of the criticisms to the movie “Whiplash” is that it pushes the notion that you can train someone to become a genius. True, great artists are sometimes just born, and training and technical accomplishment alone does not make someone a great artist. But what about the work? Let us judge artists by their works and not the artist as a person (although I could talk forever about my frustration with some artists marketing themselves instead of their works). Is the work in itself genius? Is there an incredible amount of skill involved in its creation? What I despise about the rise of Hirst, is that the works are called genius despite the fact that there is no skill or technical accomplishment displayed in the pieces. And as for genius, I believe the idea is schlock and not that special at all.

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