Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Would You Do It?

Although it is not the first time I've seen and read about Jill Greenberg's purported "art" where she induces states of emotional distress upon toddlers and then photographs them, the controversy seems to be growing. Kent Newsome weighs in on Thomas Hawk's current battle with legal threats from the artist due to his original post on the subject.

I've read Thomas's original post and I have to say I agree with his opinion. Perhaps more importantly I agree with his freedom to have that opinion. Is it libel? I'm not sure. But if you read his post he is constantly asserting that this is his opinion. From what I understand of libel and slander, you must make a false statement of fact that damages the person's reputation. It is NOT false that Thomas *thinks* Jill is abusing the children and should be charged. One cannot be making false statements of fact when they're describing their opinion can they?

While I'm not sure about Ms.Greenberg's moral or ethical standards (I don't know her), I can surely say that I don't like what she's doing. It is one thing to capture a moment of pain or anguish (I've done so myself) but entirely another to induce it. Would you do it to your own child? Would you do it to your own child to make money?

I knew a guy back in grade school who supposedly delighted in tormenting various dogs and cats around the neighbourhood. At 12 years old I distinctly remember myself thinking "How can he possibly do that?". I realized back then that some people are just wired differently than others. While taking lollipops away from toddlers to evoke short term stress and anguish may seem so trivial, you have to ask yourself what kind of person would enjoy doing that for money, fame or notoriety.

I'm not going to bash "artists". There are hundreds of examples of art I find distasteful, ugly and pointless (just subscribe to BoingBoing for a week), but the simple act of inducing pain in someone (toddler, adult or animal) for the purposes of fame, money or notoriety just doesn't sit right with my ethics no matter how noble your artistic cause.

And to Ms Greenberg's husband for pointing out in his initial comment to Thomas Hawk:

this is the EXACT technique used in ads and movies and TV. i'm a producer in two of those mediums and have been through this before, so i know whereof i speak.

That doesn't make it right. I will look differently upon those things from this point onward. Thanks (honestly) for exposing this fact too.