Do you separate the art from the artist?
I'm having a hard time with this.
I stopped listening to some bands because of what they did, do or not do.
The guy from Inquisition turned out a pedophile.
Mgla, while not a nazi band per se, are at least nazi sympathizers. So i stopped listening.
Vektor: the guy is a wife beater, but there are is some controversy.
And i absolutely loved these bands. While i can find similar bands, it's not the same.
But what i am doing not listening to it? I'm the one not listening to it and that's it. I will never give them money (i threw my Mgla shirt away) because i obtain the music by another means.
I am not helping with their popularity because i'm the only one in my circle that listens to these subgenres of metal and i mostly do it alone.
So... what's the point of depriving myself of music that i like? They are the ones who suck, not me! But at the same time i feel bad listening.
What are your thoughts on this?
I basically agree with everything that's already been said by others in this thread, and I feel like we are touching on a concept which is useful in, and often missing from, discussion of other aspects of culture and society, particularly politics -- nuance.
There seems to be a tendency by humans to take a very narrow fact, usually without context, and inflate it into a very wide value judgement. The most common example of this is when we use statements like "X is a good/bad person", usually as part of an argument of the form "X did Y, therefore X is a good/bad person". I don't think anyone is wholly 'good' or 'bad', instead I think that people perform individual actions which may separately be good or bad, and I don't think we necessarily gain anything by moving the judgement from the verb to the subject.
An example: Hitler was directly responsible for multiple genocides and the murders of tens of millions of people. He was also an antivivisectionist, and deeply loved his dog Blondi. None of these facts completely defines Hitler as a person, and none of them are enough for us to attach an ethical value judgement to the totality of Hitler the person: he lived for many years and did many things. If you add together every good thing he ever did, it does not justify or excuse the Holocaust -- it was abhorrent and a crime against humanity. But his responsibility for the Holocaust doesn't invalidate his positions or actions on animal rights.
We like to put the judgement on the subject instead of the verb because it draws everything to a simple conclusion, but that's precisely why I think such reasoning is so dangerous: people are not simple, and the world is not simple. When we form judgements around the person, we shut out important context and nuance and we prevent ourselves from seeing when good/bad people do bad/good things.
I think this is particularly dangerous when we look at sexual abusers like Kevin Spacey or Jimmy Saville. By creating a narrative that "X is a good person", we make it harder to believe the stories of the abused because we have already internalised the belief that "X is a good person; X does not do bad things". Additionally, the awareness that their reports of abuse will be met with scepticism because of this makes it so much more difficult for abused persons to come forward.
Transference of judgement from verb to subject is particularly common in politics, and I think it's one of the reasons why politically many countries are so divided/polarised: we demonise the politicians in 'the other party', and this stops us from understanding why they have come to their particular conclusions. We start to assume there is some 'catch' to any policy they propose, but we do not approach the policies from 'our party' with the same level of scepticism. I've seen this attitude start to take hold in the left, leading to the term 'regressive left', where in some circles it is impossible to have a discussion with any kind of nuance, or to raise any kind of idea for discussion which is not already part of the accepted dogma, without getting shouted down as a fascist -- and that pains me because I have always thought of the left as the area of the political spectrum where ideas can be discussed freely and critically. If we lose our ability to consider nuance, and to appreciate context, I fear that not only will the world become more polarising and conflicted, but we will be unable to develop policies that can suitably address the complexities of the problems we face, and that even if such policies can get produced, those with vested interests will be able to shoot them down in the arena of public opinion by overly simplifying the arguments.
So, death of the author. Yes, appreciate the music and art you enjoy. But also take time to learn about the horrible things these artists have done. Educate other people about both things at the same time. Do not allow one thing to excuse or justify the other.
Also, video by Lindsay Ellis y'all may enjoy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NViZYL-U8s0
This strikes me as the worst possible example. If anyone can be defined by their worst actions, surely it's Hitler? Also, the "art from the artist" discussion is usually about creators who behaved badly in some aspect of their lives that is not directly tied to their work. But Nazism was kind of Hitler's main thing. He wasn't an animal-rights advocate whose legacy has been complicated by the discovery of some antisemetic leanings.
And that is why one should avoid comparisons with Hitler and the Nazi high command unless the argument cannot be posed otherwise.
And yet it always happens...
I understand the inclination to invoke the comparison when trying to test an argument by applying it to an extreme case, but:
a) Hard/extreme cases make bad law: trying to fit your arguments to the most extreme scenario often results in simply making bad arguments.
b) As I mentioned in my comment, Hitler is not the extreme extension of "a great artist who did bad things," and so even if you do want to test your argument in the extremes, the premise is flawed because it's simply not an analogous case.
I did hesitate slightly to use Hitler as the example, partly for fear that it would be too controversial and I didn't want to upset anyone, and partly because it is quite trite, viz. Godwin's Law. I've not come across "hard cases make bad law" so thank you for sharing that, very interesting and something good for me to keep in mind in future when I think about stuff like this. I did invoke Hitler precisely because I wanted an extreme case to test my principle against: if the principle is sound then it should hold up to extreme / edge cases as well as general cases.
And yeah I absolutely meandered from the original topic, Hitler is definitely not the extreme extension of "a great artist who did bad things".
The problem with using Hitler in an argument is not necessarily logical, but is frequently rhetorical and psychological. Many people consider Hitler to be outside of the human realm—a real life monster. Even though he truly was just an extremely evil human being in a powerful position. Comparing someone to Hitler invites passionate rebuttals from people that seek to maintain Hitler’s non-human status to avoid upsetting their worldview that no human being would commit those atrocities. To prevent being put in such unfortunate position, and also to avoid being compared to Hitler yourself, comparisons to Hitler should be avoided in almost every case and situation.
"Do I contradict myself? Very well then I contradict myself. I am large, I contain multitudes." - Walt Whitman
You can listen without supporting financially.
I think that explicitly avoiding things you like just because of what the artist does or did (boycott aside) is a way to lie to yourself in telling yourself you're a better person for it. All you're doing is refusing to learn from people you disagree with, right? I'm not saying listen to a wife beater on marriage advice, but eg. not watching House of Cards because of the shitty things one actor did outside of the series is misguided at best.
I also believe it's the same mindset that leads to people wishing to avoid teaching uncomfortable history, such as the shitty things your own country might have done in the past.
Thanks. This is the conclusion i am reaching too.
Because, in the end, the saying "never meet your idols" exists for a reason. A lot of people do shitty things, some worse than others, as we are all humans. We tend to put artists in some kind of pedestal, but they are as fallible as everybody else (except King Diamond, the guy is a saint) and if i take a hard look at everyone i listen to, i will have to curb half of my library probably.
And i should never make music, because i have my share of mistakes.
Even when the only thing you see when you look at his face is the abuse of the young, and the pain and suffering it entails upon their lives?
If you don't enjoy the piece anymore then it's different than if you enjoy it but don't want to watch/listen to it like op described.
This is a good point. In this line of thought.... would our knowledge of their atrocities have changed anything within our control? If for example a rapist actor played a starring role in a flop, he would still be a rapist but we just don't know enough about him to feel one way or another or to have helped the would-be victim in any way.
I don't think there is a hard and fast line to draw between art and artist, because it's all so subjective. If the meaning of a piece is personally marred by this knowledge, it can certainly destroy any future appreciation however a lot of what we consume day-to-day is probably on the backs of many people's crimes - we just do not know of it and it is beyond our locus of control. So appreciation of art for the sake that it personally contributed to you positively regardless of who made it is understandable.
On top of this, crime and morality itself is subjective. What is pedophelia in the states would not be in say, japan. And in an ideal world (haha if only!) crime itself should be treated with correction not vindication, meaning the art itself should be appreciated regardless of whatever beef a consumer may have with the creator.
After all that thought vomit though, I am only human and given the situation of an impeccable piece of art made by the devil..... It would probably depend on if I saw the art and it made a mark on me before I knew about the artist.
I think it depends on the connection between the art and the artist. Burzum, real name Varg Vikiernes, is a good example I can use to explore this.
Back in the heady days of Norwegian black metal, he was convicted for killing another musician and burning down a bunch of churches in resistance to what he felt was Christian imperialism. He's white supremacist, nationalist, and racialist. This is tied to his religious views, which are heavily Scandinavian paganism, but his religion and spirituality do not inherently contain these views. He is a very hateful person, even if he's not particularly violent about it (his murder wasn't racially or politically motivated, and he hasn't burned a church since his conviction), but his artistic output is not.
In the interest of hitting the ball, not the pitcher, here's an interesting take from the man himself:
His music contains some elements of the spiritual stuff he's involved with, Nordic pagan spiritual stuff, but that is not inherently dangerous, harmful, or even bad. In fact, I would say his music could be considered positive. Now, if you bought his table-top game MYFAROG, which has elements of his racialist worldivew, and many things I would consider as objectively problematic, beyond what has already existed in post-Tolkein fantasy, we'd have to have a completely different conversation.
Do I listen to Burzum? No, because as much as I like the art, I'm unable to fully divorce it from the stuff I've seen him say. Do I regret having listened to him knowing what I know now? No. However, I'd say you wouldn't have any issue with listening to his music aside from being judged by people who can't break this connection between an artist and their music. I'd argue that would be more their problem than yours. While I'm unable to despite trying, I think it's okay to separate the art from the artist, as I simply don't think it's an endorsement of their bad behavior, unless their bad behavior is baked into the art.
For a good discussion of this idea, PhilosophyTube did a video discussing these issues, specifically using Kant as an example. His "racial science" was his main gig, philosophy a side gig. The question is: Does one negate the other?
EDIT: I tweaked a part referring to Varg's religion. The religion is not the reason for his nationalist/racist opinions, and feel for this topic full transparency for my edit is required.
On a similar topic, Ihsahn (who was in Emperor together with Vikernes) is one of my favorite musicians and a cool dude in general, but l was pretty disappointed when he had Faust as the drummer for the 2014 20-year anniversary tour of Emperor's In The Nightside Eclipse.
That guy's a convicted (homophobia-related) murderer, served 14 years for stabbing a gay man 37 times.
Even though he served his sentence and all, l'd rather see Ihsahn cut ties with people like that.
Similarly, l love Emperor, but there's just too many shitty people in there to not think about that while listening.
This also adds another dimension: Is his working with Faust an endorsement of Faust's behavior, or the acceptance of what he sees as a troubled friend ? Art with extra baggage is definitely harder to enjoy in a pure way, whatever that baggage is, as we've both experienced.
Yes and no.
First off, if the creator is a monster, there is no way I am going to reward them with money.
Secondly, Death of the Author is an extremely useful tool to analyse any form of literature or narritive. But it should not be used exclusively. You can gain more insight by knowing the story of how the art was created.
For music specifically, I don't think that the creator is going to be as much of an impact on you as much as you might think. For the most part, music is going to have an affect on the feelings you already have. But that doesn't really ring true when it comes to the lyrics. Lyrics are designed to persuade the mind. If you've got a song with bad lyrics, chuck it out the window.
Personally I don't care much, BUT I also think that art and artist are not seperated at all. So say a neo nazi band does this beautiful song without any overt connections to nationalsocialism in the lyrics. Unless its a secret unknown, their motivations are still there for making it. That doesn't mean you can't listen to it and say "well their shitholes and they probably thought of the third reich while making it but its beautiful". That's ok. Claiming that their motivations had nothing to do with it or waving it away as if those concerns are irrelevant isn't.
Leni Riefenstahls photos are great, but presented without at some point going "oh btw, massive nazi" is doing the viewer a disservice.
Saying Fragonards the swing is pure pornography isn't right, but ignoring his and the buyers motivations and keeping it as some kind of sad attempt at an "object beauty" fantasy - is crippling the work as well as removing part of the enjoyment.
The viewers right to enjoy a piece of art can never be seen as secondary to the art work, but the creators involvement in the art work can never be totally ignored.
I get what you are saying., but it depends on the art itself?
Mgla absolutely does not sing about nacional socialism and the band is not nazi per se, they just don't avoid doing shows with nazi bands and being associated with these people. Doesn't make them nazis, but the fact that they didn't changed this and got angry when confronted about it is sketchy.
The same way that Vektor does not sing about beating women. Just pure sci-fi.
Well in these exact examples - its like Dali. If we ignore his torture of his sister, his abuse of others etc - that same issue comes up.
Having someone being a coward (like the band too scared, too dumb, or simply complicit, for not playing with nazis) or a misogynist (like the wife abuser) - is relevant for their art in the same way. You enjoyment isn't a problem, if you on the other hand did enjoy it and totally ignoring these thoughts THAT would be problematic.
I'll give an example - David Foster Wallace is one of my all-time favorite writers. I read everything he wrote, watched his interviews on a regular basis, etc. After his death, it became clear that he treated the women in his life awfully. Stalked, some physical abuse and a lot of emotional abuse, threatened including with a gun, etc. When I learned about this, I no longer felt comfortable teaching him, because I don't want to perpetuate the myth that geniuses are given a pass to be terrible. I also don't want to tell my students that their safety is less important than art.
I planned on continuing to be okay with rereading him on my own, given he is dead and doesn't benefit financially. However, I've found that I don't have the same connection with his writing that I once did now that I know this about it.
So, personally, I can't. Whether other people should is a really blurry line, but when it comes to people actively financially benefiting from their art and also being given a platform because of their art, I lean towards you should take their vocal beliefs and behaviors into consideration. There is so much amazing art out there, no one artist is indispensable.
Collaborative work like movies gets much more blurry.
I wonder if it’s better to teach him, but also teach his flaws? Though I haven’t read DFW I am aware of the myth of his genius, and your comment is the first I’ve heard of how he treated women.
Maybe if I were teaching a class where it was necessary to teach him to understand a bigger concept, but I think in a survey-type course I'd rather just teach someone who didn't do those kinds of things. And there are so many genius writers who (probably) didn't! Every time I choose to teach something, I'm choosing NOT to teach a whole lot of other people. Plus, there are a lot of other canonical writers with a range of bad beliefs/morals/behaviors who students will probably have encountered before coming into my classroom, so I don't have to assign those kinds of authors in order to have the kind of discussion you're talking about.
I've struggled with this question for a long, long time.
I want to separate the art from the artist. I want to do that so much. But I find that if you want to appreciate art (for me, that's mostly music) at any level beyond the superficial, you have to consider it in the context of the artist.
That said, does that mean you have to consider it in the context of the whole artist? Quite often, with art, it's a certain event in the artist's life, or a point of view that the artist holds, with which the art is concerned. So if that event isn't the artist beating their wife, and if the artist's view isn't that of celebrating the Nazis, then I think that it's perfectly fine to enjoy that artist's work.
I still like Wagner's operas, even though he was an anti-semite. I still like some of Crystal Castles' stuff, even though one of the people involved was abusive. I'm sure there are other artists whose work I enjoy, who have also done bad things, but I don't see that coming across in their work.
Anyway, that's my position.
I'm not going to wade into the mire of "what is my responsibility as a (former?) consumer of cultural goods now tied to someone (partially?) bad?" because others in this thread have done so fairly well, but I wanted to bring up one interesting conversation on the topic:
There's an interesting discussion about separating the man from the work in Dave Chappelle's "The Age of Spin" special. He talks about growing up with Bill Cosby and OJ Simpson as idols/role-models, and what it means to watch them fall. From the linked NYT article:
Mind you, this is a standup special, not an op-ed, and Chappelle definitely intends to shock or at least provoke his audience at times, but I think he has something to say that's worth hearing.
I think that as l0ng as the artist's art d0esn't pr0m0te this kind 0f ide0l0gies 0n their w0rks is 0kay t0 c0nsume it. An example 0f this is J. K. R0wling and her fam0us n0vels, Harry P0tter, she is a TERF, 0f c0urse, but n0ne 0f this can be appreciated 0n her writings
Yes and no.
Ill use orson scot card as an example (creator of the ender's game series). I dont like him as a person. He is misogynistic, (his female characters, while important to the story, are almost always in either a motherly role or must perform there actions through men. (also, heavily implied eugenics is a running theme in his books!)) he is known for being extremely anti - lgbt, and has written several pieces of fiction implying that he thinks that the left wants nothing more than to overturn the US and put it under dictatorial rule. (see empire or 'the game of unlikely events')
am I ever going to buy anything from the guy again? No. Am I going to continue to enjoy enders game, speaker for the dead, etc through used book stores and the copies I already have? Yes.
I will not buy things from people I cannot support. I will, however, continue to enjoy works that I enjoyed before the person became unsupportable.
One angle I don't see discussed much: one reason people like being fans of things is to share the thing with others and to have opportunities to meet other fans. If an active media creator is found to be an avid white supremacist, then it's likely they're going to lose a lot of non-bigoted fans who no longer want to support them, and then gain a lot of bigoted fans. Now it's more likely that if you meet other fans that they're going to be bigoted, and it's more likely that anyone you share your interest with is going to worry that you're a bigot.
I don't think this effect applies to all shitty creators. It's really dependent on what they did, whether they're still active or a public figure, and whether they still profit from their creations. If an active media creator comes out as a white supremacist, then their fanbase is probably going to shift to be more bigoted. But if a no-longer-active media creator is later revealed to be a pedophile or abused their spouse, in my experience it doesn't seem like they usually gain a similarly problematic fandom from that, so their work isn't as tainted.
Yes I do. Woody Allen may very well be an abuser (and his history with his current wife is sketchy to say the least), but Manhattan, Annie Hall, Stardust Memories and many others are masterpieces that belong to humanity. They’re also part of my history and contributed to the formation of my identity. In recent years his films had a dip in quality, and that’s the only reason I follow him infrequently.
I don't have any answers but here are some related questions to think about: how important is it to learn about the artists? Suppose you just listen to music you like without making any attempt to learn about the people who made it, in case that spoils it. Is that okay? (Ignorance is bliss?) How about watching movies without knowing or caring who the director is?
Also, movies get made by a large number of people. How many of them should you learn about? If the cinematographer or casting director turns out to be a bad person, is it okay to spend money on the movie? Does it invalidate the work of all the other people who worked on the movie?
Or to put it another way, how closely would Harvey Weinstein have to be involved in a film before it would bother you?
It seems like it would be pretty easy to set up trolley problems as complicated as you like. Suppose your best friend worked on a film, but a horrible person also worked on it. Would it be okay to root for them?
Side-stepping the issue of "what if the creator did something very bad," it's worth noting that knowing about the author can also enhance one's appreciation of the work, and to try to isolate the work from the creator (which I'd argue is often impossible) would be a huge loss.
It's a different way of appreciating art. Something lost, maybe, but also something gained?
If you don’t know who the artist is, do you have a choice?