postmodern issues of serrano, nea and religion : LUSENET : Public Art : One Thread

I am working on a reasearch project about postmodern issues. i am interested in finding out what people around the nation think about the postmodern era. What interests me is the debate over the NEA, why do we need it? someone help me! Is it that necessary? And how do we fund artists whom the public has a strong distaste for (serrano, mapplethorpe etc..)without being unobjective? Also, i have seen references to the work of serrano as being based on his catholic background, can anyone give me any specific examples of pieces and what they relate to? thanks!

-- christopher lee classen (, November 07, 1997


Hi Christopher,

Hmmmm ... what do I think about the postmodern era? Big question. Small space. Bad taste to answer a question with a question, but what do you actually mean by "the postmodern era"?

I think it's quite a fine thing to have the NEA. You see, I think a nation with any pretense toward civilization should be willing to fund its artists through tax dollars. (I hear the shouts of "heresy!". I go on). By agreeing to put our tax dollars into an arts fund we are saying to one another, "I agree to join with you in a collective effort to support art. I take your participation in this effort to mean that while we may engage in long [and hopefully fruitful] conversations about what art actually *is*, we will as a nation trust some folks rather more finely schooled in what art *is* to make some decisions for us and distribute NEA funds". I personally go along with this scheme because I'm just too darn busy to run the NEA myself.

Now, if folks have an argument with the quality of decision making coming from the NEA, that's one point. We can always replace the decision makers. What we should not be replacing, in my opinion, is the concept of public dollars for art.

Regarding funding artists for whom the public has a strong distaste. Hmmmmm. You mention Serrano. I can't offer any information there, though I've seen some of the work and find it hauntingly beautiful in a mildly offensive sort of way. I don't have the same kinds of issues to work out around his church as Mr. Serrano apparently does, but I think his work reflects committment, thought, judgement, technical proficiency and finally, artistry. Someone obviously more capable of juding that than myself thought so too, if he received NEA funds. It kinda goes back to trusting the decision makers, or lobbying to replace them with thinkers more congenial to one's mindset. That's where the real battles are taking place.

Oh. Regarding being "unobjective". Now *that's* an interesting concept to bring up relative to art!

Good luck with your research project, Christopher. Try to take Rilke's advice regarding irony rather seriously.

Jacqueline Read

-- Jacqueline Read (, December 24, 1997.

Robert Mapplethorpe was never funded by and NEA grant. NEVER.

As for others, if all the blue nosed idiots can come up with are the same two or three art pieces by the same two or three artists it would seem NEA funds very, very few "decadent" art pieces.

Obscenity is embodies in the Government types who scream about these same few art pieces while supporting tobacco, cattle grazing subsidies and land swaps where the public gets screwed. This is ongoing and won't stop. The few(very few) offensive art pieces that have some folks up in arms are a red herring. I bet these folks stay up at night planning on how to get their hands on NEA money after taking it away from artists.

-- Dan Smith (, August 01, 1998.

Hi there, I am a big fan of postmodern theory (pomo). I would tell anyone who wanted a solid understanding of it to read Frederick Jameson's "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction", watch the movie "Bladerunner" and read William Gibson's "Neuromancer". I also recommend that you browse through some current art or media-analysis magazines. Also, don't get too depressed by the death of originality and flattening of history and such - there is a great freedom in postmodernism, the freedom to draw from the vast diversity of human cultures and histories.

As for the NEA, this discussion really points to the debate over the artist's place in society. Artists tend to foreshadow and investigate broad cultural/societal phenomena. This may involve shaking things up a bit, in order to point out problems and dilemnas in society. A lot of people do not like to have their assumptions challenged, but that is one of the critical jobs of the artist, to see things in an unconventional way and try to communicate what s/he sees.

Public funding is necessary to support the ongoing inquiries of artists. Many of these inquiries would not be supported by the corporate community, who have their own agendas to serve. And, I think the public should allow itself to be offended every so often, tolerating offensiveness in order to accommodate alternate points of view, and create an environment for the discussion of important issues.

-- Kelly Wilbur (, May 08, 2000.

art that the public has a distaste for isn't necessaryily better. it is possible to make art for public spaces not funded by nea nor government and dvevoped it hand-in-glove- with a sympahtetic client; and so was responsive as well as good. Site specifity, functionality was an inspiration since it was public art and not private...just to toss this in.

-- ellenamber (, April 17, 2001.

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