Friday, July 28, 2006

Art or Abuse?

What do you think?...
Photographer Jill Greenberg has whipped up a storm of controversy with her new exhibition, End Times. The pictures in the show, for which she deliberately provoked tearful outbursts from children by taking away lollipops she had just given them, have been described by some as tantamount to child abuse.
Greenburg titles each piece of "art work" to depict what she says reminded her of the "helplessness and anger I feel about our current political and social situation."

Greenburg answers the charge of abuse in an interview with PopPhoto magazine,

Your images have certainly caused an uproar. What do you say to people who call you a child abuser?

I think they're insane...Maybe getting kids to cry isn't the nicest thing to do, but I'm not causing anyone permanent psychological damage.

How can someone who is this psychologically derranged possibly determine if she caused permanent damage to another person let alone a child? And what parent would subject their own children to this?

The title of the exhibit is "End Times". The end times, isn't that when good will be called evil and evil will be called good? Or in this case, "art".

This also demonstrates why just teaching our children knowledge isn't enough, they must learn wisdom. Knowledge is understanding how to use a camera, wisdom is understanding when to use it.

From the comments...

Shelby provided a defintion of abuse from Websters 1828 Dictionary
"To use ill; to maltreat; to misuse; to use with bad motives or to wrong purposes. To deceive; to impose on. To treat rudely."
This seems to meet that definition.

Dana said,

I don't know...I'm not one to throw around the word abuse. In poor taste, definitely. Do I question why parents would allow their children to go through it? Yes. Do I question her overall concern with real people over what she wishes to express? Yes. But I can't quite go so far as to call it abusive.

"The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act defines child abuse and neglect as: "at a minimum, any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker,
which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation, or an act or failure to act which presents an imminent risk of serious harm."Anything short of that is just distasteful, or perhaps poor parenting. This example, while disheartening, does not come close to compare with what real abuse is. The only logical conclusion from the accusation of abuse is that these children should be removed by the state and put into custody. And do we want that sort of precedent?

There is another option. Here is my response,

I'm not calling this "criminal abuse" but it is abuse. I liked the definition given by Webster's 1828 Dictionary that Shelby provided. I'm not saying that this woman should be prosecuted or the parents found negligent. There is another option, public shame.I don't think that we as a society should just call anything that doesn't meet the criminal definition of abuse something less than that. The state's bar for abuse doesn't have to be the same as what society will tolerate as abuse. As a civilized society, I don't think it's just in poor taste to purposefully upset another person for profit or to make a political statement. This woman is doing both, and with children. That in my opinion is just beyond distasteful. It is not the same as a mother, realizing an error and causing a child to be upset.

Public outrage and shame are useful tools in a civil society to cause someone to think about their actions and consider things differently. In fact, we used to employ them quite often. Sadly, our society is so afraid to "offend" that we tolerate that which is abuse because it doesn't rise to the level of "criminal behavior" and a state definition. I don't want the state to be the only arbitor of public behavior or its definitions.

Public shame could have a very positive impact where the criminal system might only punish her; public shame may cause others not to purchase them and the museum to pull them. That elevates the whole standard in our society and we all benefit from a little more civility and common decency.

Just how effective is public shame? Just ask blogger Thomas Hawks. Ms. Greenberg is trying to get him to stop blogging about her and her photographs. In Ms. Greenberg's worldview it's apparently okay to provoke children to tears and photograph them as a public statement, but wrong for a blogger to express his opinion about them and provoke her. (I wonder if anyone captured her outrage for the camera. I'd bet those photos would be priceless.)

Michelle Malkin has more links.

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