ITen days ago, a parliamentarian from the National Rally chose a target: not the violence of the real world, but its representation by an artist. At the Palais de Tokyo, a painting by Miriam Cahn, Fuck Abstractiondepicting a man imposing fellatio on a fragile figure, has been the subject of political, media and legal attacks to demand its withdrawal.
That it is the work of a great artist and that it was painted to denounce the horrors of the war did not change anything, it was necessary, at the cost of outrages and lies, to prohibit the work for better repress what it came to disturb. The Minister of Culture had to recall the obvious: that freedom of expression and creation is guaranteed by law. This was not enough, several associations having seized justice in summary proceedings.
This is a case that should have made us all react immediately. However, we initially remained silent, as if we had grown accustomed to the fact that the presentation of works of art could be the subject of disputes, whether they come from one side or the other, at the name of morality, sensibility or instrumentalized rights for the occasion, finally letting justice decide even more simply and more quickly on public opinion.
This silence comes in a general climate of concern which seriously undermines the freedom of creation and the place that we, as museum managers, must give it. The violence and speed of polemics, most often inflamed by social networks, replace and prohibit debates. The chilling spectacle offered by international institutions, where resignations, cancellations of exhibitions, withdrawals of works and contritions accumulate against a background of cultural battle, should show us the path that we do not want to follow.
Because our primary mission is to let artists express themselves, those of yesterday as well as those of today – the past not escaping either the controversies or the re-readings which sometimes lead to putting them away in the closet to buy a good conscience. and quietness. Rather than being afraid to shock, we should be afraid of never shocking. Because, yes, art shocks. Disturbed. Denounce. Disturbs. Ask.
A museum cannot be reduced to a place presenting works intended to rest the gaze, entertain and Instagram. A museum, whether of art, society, history or science, is a place in which we encounter the gaze of others. Any work is by nature disturbing because it shows the real or imaginary world in a different light; art forces you to decenter. It leads us to question ourselves about the other and about ourselves. It allows us to build ourselves for ourselves and with others. It opens doors: it is up to us to make the public want to come and to contextualize the presentation of the works.
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