Public/Private Interventions

January 31, 2007

My excuse for why poose should rightly be in the art gallery – Letter to the Editor

Filed under: Interventions, Media file, Ruminator's Digest — mastermistress @ 4:57 pm

Artist Responds Over Exhibition Article

Letters to the editor – The Leader, 01-02-07

Dear Editor,

I’d like to give thanks to George Barker, Laurie Neilson and Lyn Guyton for their impassioned response to the article in the Leader (December 21) on my exhibition Reason’s for Being.

The attention brought to human excrement in the article was indeed a slight reference in its context, perhaps equal to giving some parasite living on a flea cohabiting the armpit of a camel, a mere mention.

Was our good Lord Jesus Christ not subject to and grounded by the same earthly-bound human limitations as his brethren, all made in the likeness of his father? To live, one must eat, to stay alive one must excrete, not at all an abhorred sin adapted by freewill.

Not even our Queen or Prime Minister is exempt from this essential bodily function. By this we are inextricably linked, like it or not.

I applaud the innovative decision by the Leader to celebrate our oneness with God near (give or take a month or two) the birth of his only son, by publishing an article highlighting our common grounding by his creation.

I am not the first person to bring human excrement to the art gallery. Marcel du Champ exhibited a urinal in 1917, Piero Manzoni hermetically sealed his floaters in a can and sold it in 1961. New Zealand artist Julia Morrison currently paints pictures with her own ‘special’ paint.

The arts have existed in tandem with life throughout human history, never occurring in isolation.

When the public investigate my installation, Ingestion, Assimilation, Elimination, they discover the metaphor of excrement is used in humour to demonstrate the quality of homegrown soap drama that exists on our television, shaping the minds of the younger generations.

Paula Cunniffe, Nelson.

Letter to the Editor – The Leader – 01-02-01

In Defence

Dear Editor,

Predictably, Laurie Neilson and others (Leader, Han 25) have been quick to find Paula Cunniffe’s art offensive because it contains photos of excrement. Frankly, I find his leveling accusations of fetishism and perversion at the artist offensive, not only because they are unfounded and unjustified, but also because they are evidence of his ignorance about the context of this work, its other contents, and the artists intention.

It would appear from his own comments that he has not even been to the Suter to view the work, which somewhat undermines the credibility of his outburst.

Through history, work of this nature has usually been greeted by similar, sometimes puritanical outrage by a proportion of viewers. However, such a response is more of a reflection of the strongly held views of the outraged than any particular perversion by the artist.

To link Cunniffe’s art with the general decline of society, as your correspondent Lyn Guyton (Mrs) does, is not only quite sully, but also evidence of another recurring fashion, that is the fear of widespread moral decline.

For my part, I would rather live in a society where open and informed debate about art and the human condition is encouraged, rather than one where anything that departs from someone’s idea of the norm is attacked and derided.

While I respect the right of all people to their opinions, I believe that the right to express, and in this case publish, such opinions comes with an obligation to inform oneself about the matter in hand. Anyone wishing to learn more about the use of excrement in art may be interested in researching work by artists Piero Manzoni Italy), Chris Ofili (UK), Wim Delvoye (Belgium) and Julia Morrison. (NZ)

Andy Clover, Nelson.

This correspondence is now closed – editor.

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Other Letters to the Editor in response to the original article
Laurie Neilson, George Barker and Lyn Guyton.

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