Art That Should Never Be Made

It's early in the morning (or late at night, depending on your view), and I'm irritated. I get like that sometimes. Today/night, I'm irritated because I can't stop thinking about something I read a week ago on the interwebs: "This should never have been made." This referred to a comic book which the writer of the quote thought was too offensive for the universe to handle. More specifically, they wrote that, "[the comic] could literally have been comics’ Second Coming of the Messiah and I would still think it shouldn’t have been made."

I have a serious problem with that.

Part of my research -- what I call diving into the rabbit hole of books and websites, looking for interesting things that have nothing to do with what I should actually be studying -- took me to an article on the aftereffects of the Charlie Hebdo massacre that took place early this year. If you're not familiar, Charlie Hebdo is a satirical French newsletter known for its political cartoons. Twice, they published a comical drawing of the prophet Muhammad, which naturally set a lot of people on edge. Unfortunately, in January, two gunmen decided enough was enough, and slaughtered 12 journalists in the Charlie Hebdo office. The incident sparked a movement called "Je Suis Charlie," or "I Am Charlie," in which sales of the CH issue featuring the controversial cartoon shot up an unthinkable amount, with the first run sold out before the day after had ended. Thousands of people took to the streets to protest censorship, hashtags were slung, and conversations on the future and nature of journalism had.

Then, there are artists like Ai Wei Wei and Atena Farghadani. Farghadani is currently facing a 12 year, 9 month prison sentence in Iran for drawing a cartoon featuring Iranian politicians with animal heads. Ai Wei Wei is forever in trouble with Chinese law, and recently, the UK, for his politically charged artwork and activism.

These people, whether doing something they believe in, making a light joke, or just "poking the bear," so to speak, raise an important question: Is there art that should never be made?

There certainly exists artwork that I find distasteful, crude, pointless, horribly uncouth, and downright terrible. I'm pretty sure I feel all those feelings, in order, when I look through one of my own sketchbooks after it's done. Does that mean it shouldn't be made? I find it difficult to stomach certain works, like Sambo figurines. In the age of Photoshopped-everything, the most crude among us create horrific images, and lash out further when called out on it. Should they be banned from creating anything that could rub a decent person the wrong way?

One girl recently tried to ban a good portion of artwork from her college campus. Tara Shultz of Crafton Hills College in California was appalled when one of her class reading lists included graphic novel titles like Persepolis and Y: The Last Man. Along with The Sandman, Fun Home, and The Doll's House, Shultz wants the books gone, noting that when learning the class involved the study of fiction through comics, “I didn’t expect to open the book and see that graphic material within. I expected Batman and Robin, not pornography.” Bypassing my bad-pun-o-meter's alarm from not expecting "graphic" material in a graphic novel, the "pornography" she's referring to is probably in relation to the search of the main character's sexual orientation in Fun Home, which is a Broadway musical now. Shultz apparently had a few friends willing to protest with her, as well as her parents. College officials have promised to warn incoming students of the nature of the graphic novels in hopes they might avoid a similar incident. I'm not sure what all the fuss is about. I was required to read Maus in college, and loved it. It takes some serious chops to weave a heartbreaking tale of the holocaust using animals as characters. Maybe that'll be next week's Read. We'll see. But back to the main point.

On one hand, the world would be a better place if we all acted in truth, trust and integrity. On the other hand, artists like those at Charlie Hebdo truly believe in what they're doing, and many of them died for it. Were they being offensive to a large population of people? Sure. But that doesn't matter. They didn't deserve to die because of one drawing. Farghadani doesn't deserve to go to prison because some government official never learned how to take a critique. Art is powerful. It has this way of bringing out the best and worst emotions in people, making them do things they would never do otherwise, or giving them courage to do things they were just waiting to try out, both good and bad. When we see art that offends us, we tend to speak out about it. We take to the internet and proclaim our fury to anyone and everyone who would listen, and when they agree with us, we feel like a warrior inside. When they don't, it angers us more. We put up posters and we hold meetings, and discuss why the art is offensive and how to remove it from society. And what does the offensive artist do? He or she walks over to our posters, snickers, and draws penises all over them.

We don't get the final say in what other people create. It sucks sometimes, but we just don't. We can shout and write blogs about it, but artists will keep producing. Even if it's the most horrific image we've ever seen without immediately vomiting, someone somewhere will frame it on their wall. Artists aren't all the best people. Yea, we make cool stuff with our hands and feet -- and in some cases, other body parts -- but we aren't all the tortured, otherworldly beings everyone else likes to think we are. Just like there are people with good and bad intentions working in finance, the variation exists in the art world, too. There are people who want to make a huge social change, or create the most beautiful work anyone's ever seen. There are people whose sole happiness in life is whipping out a marker and drawing penises all over everything.

And they sure as hell don't deserve to die over it.

We have the right to be offended and to speak out about that offense. Others have the right to keep being offensive. Art that should never be made doesn't exist.

Now let's all take a moment and think about the definition of "hyperbole."

Non-Profit Storm

It's been a couple of weeks since my last post, so I wanted to come back with something interesting. Below is the short film "Storm," by the KerShoot production team. It's pretty darn well-made, and it's also non-profit.

I've always been curious about non-profit film making; I'm sure many people can attest to wanting to do a great film but needing the funds that come from commercial work. I myself have finally gotten past the point of eating ramen at every meal (*crosses fingers*), but I can already tell that Rosalina's little flamenco movie is gonna take a good long minute to make. "Storm" took over two years.

Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, I was able to email the KerShoot team a few questions about this masterpiece, and not-for-profit work in general. The producer, Tracy King, got back to me:

1) First off, what drew the KerShoot team to non-profit film making? How does doing non-profit compare to commercial work?
The main reason Storm is non-profit is because we didn't want to make it under any commercial constraints. The minute you have to worry about whether something will sell (or in the case of a ten-minute pro-science rant, *how* it will sell), the project changes. The only way we could make Storm exactly how we wanted was to agree up front that the intention was not for it to make a profit. That way we could take as long as we wanted, too. We also do commercial projects and they are very different in terms of deadlines and expectations. It's worth bearing in mind though, that being non-profit is not the same as free. Storm cost a lot of money to make, as do commercial projects, but the difference is we didn't make it with any expectation of making our money back or making a profit. If we did, that would be a bonus!

2) What kept you motivated during the 2+ years of working on Storm?
Belief in the quality of the poem and Tim's performance, mostly, and also the constant reminder of why we were making it (to get the content to as large an audience as possible, by giving it a visual dimension). It was very hard at times though.

3) How long has the KerShoot team been working together?
We founded the company halfway through working on Storm, so about a year ago.

4) How many projects do you normally work on at one time?
At the moment all of our commercial resources are taken up with animations for a major game which sadly I'm not allowed to discuss yet. It's out in November. We're hoping to start the next non-profit animation at the end of July.

5) What project did you most enjoy working on?
Storm :)

I'd like to thank Tracy for emailing me back, as well as the entire team for making this film in the first place. Credits:

Tracy King- Producer
DC Turner - Director, Animator
Tim Minchin - Writer and Performer of the awesome poem that started this whole thing