The Government has Blood on its Hands

Category: Art
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An example of visualizing the Aids crisis and gay art was Gran Fury’s The government has Blood on its Hands. It is a political poster that says the name of its title at the top and “one aids death every half hour” all in the same sans serif font with bold black capital letters. The main subject matter of the piece is in the middle of the two sentences. It is a large, red hand print that appears to be made out of blood. During the 1980’s the U.S. government was not meeting the requirements needed in helping the people of the United States that were infected with the aids virus. Fury’s poster states strong, staggering facts that every half hour someone in the world dies from aids. This shows the severity of this epidemic happening in both homosexual and straight individuals and is something that needs to be dealt with and treated.

More examples of the aids crisis and sexuality come from work by Felix Gonzalez-Torres. His Untitled (billboard of an empty bed) depicts a bed that looks to have been recently used judging by the unmade covers and two separate pillows with impressions in them from a head. This idea of bodies and objects going missing represents Felix’s reaction to the government’s handling of the aids crisis. “Gonzales-Torres’ memorialization resonated especially during a time when Ronald Reagan (U.S. President from 1981 until 1989) notoriously never uttered the word “AIDS” because of its predominant association with homosexuality.

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Heads pressed onto pillows in the Untitled billboard thus becomes a simultaneous declaration and disavowal of same-sex love—writ large within an urban landscape” (Tom Folland on Felix Gonzalez-Torres’s Empty Bed). The Gay community and gay artists were largely affected by the aids crisis and in doing so largely affected their art work as well.

A feminist, performance piece that transformed politics of gender and sexuality was Carolee Schneemann’s Interior Scroll. This performance involved Schneemann standing on stage in the nude, unravelling a scroll that resides in her vagina. The performance is meant to combat anti feminism and the common stereotype at the time of women being inferior to men.

The performance serves as a middle finger to anyone opposed to feminism and Carolee’s sends the message home strong in her long performance. “Schneemann was the first American to extend the action model of performance into Body art in the early to mid-sixties; her use of ‘flesh as material’ moved from the perceptual interests of the time, first to erotic expressions, then to feminist commitments in a way that was soon shared by an entire generation of women artists in the United States and abroad” (Textbook 566). She was one of the first woman to use her own body as a medium and in doing so set into motion a performance that would inspire feminist women across America and the rest of the world.

What was at stake for gender politics, sexuality, gay identity etc. was the discrimination lasting longer if women and gays did not do anything about. The artists took their perspective on it and displayed there views and ideas in meaningful ways visually. These artists help pave the way for gender equality in earlier years.

Institutional critique is an art form expressed in many ways including sculpture, painting, and performances. The goal of the art is for the viewer to reflect on the institution in which the art is showcased in and maybe even institutions as a whole. The topic of the critique could be the people who own the institution, have an involvement with the institution or the institution itself. It was created after the development of minimalism which it has close similarities to in terms of phenomenology.

One central figure that practiced institutional critique was Andrea Fraser. Fraser is a performance artist and art critic and her work focuses on a variety of topics ranging from politics to history to hierarchy and exclusion of art in museums. In her writings titled L’1%, C’est Moi, Fraser discussed the value of fine art and how it fluctuates depending on economic times along with the discrepancy between the upper and lower class and its influence on art prices as well. Andrea looks at the world’s leading collectors and how they produce their Income.

“If we look at the incomes of this class, it is conspicuous that their profits are based on the growth of income inequality all over the world. This redistribution of capital in turn has a direct influence on the art market: the greater the discrepancy between the rich and the poor, the higher prices in this market rise. The situation, it would seem, urgently calls for the development of alternatives to the existing system” (Fraser, L’1%, C’est Moi). Collector incomes are more prolific if the divide between the upper and lower classes is more prominent around the world. This has a large effect on the art market raising the prices of fine art. Fraser is very against how this works and is would like a new system, that is less corrupt to be made.

In her paper Andrea also referenced an alarming fact from an article called Art and Money. “‘a one percentage point increase in the share of total income earned by the top 0.1 percent triggers an increase in art prices of about 14 percent’. They conclude: ‘It is indeed the money of the wealthy that drives art prices. This implies that we can expect art booms whenever income inequality rises quickly. This seems exactly what we witnessed during the last period of strong art price appreciation’” (Fraser, L’1%, C’est Moi).

This information concludes that during times of inequality the rich get richer and the poor become more poor. We can expect that when the divide between classes grows larger we can expect a spike and art prices. This evidence happened during the last economic class divide commonly known as the recession. Aside from her strong ideals in her writing, Andrea Fraser’s art performances were also littered with strong undertones of meaning.

In class we watched a performance piece titled Little Frank and his Carp by Andrea Fraser. The piece is a recorded video from multiple perspectives of Fraser at the Guggenheim Museum. It starts out by Fraser checking out a hand held audio guide from the front desk, once she receives the guide and puts it to her ear, we begin the hear the audio guide speaking. The first bit of audio tells her to walk away from the front desk and then begins talking about the Guggenheim itself and its architecture. Fraser begins expressing the emotion she feels from the narrator tone and what he is saying.

After a few minutes, the narrator begins talking about a limestone pillar that contains a tiny gallery. He instructs Fraser to run her hand along the limestone and feel the texture. During this she begins to lift up her dress, exposing her white underwear, rubbing herself against it in a sexual manner. Other attendees of the museum watch her as they pass by, some stopping completely to watch her. She then stops, turns around to a crowd of people watching her and walks out of the museum.

It was urgent to analyze the and trouble traditional understandings of the art object because it gives you a new perspective on art, its circulation of value, and its ownership. I would have never thought about this money factor that plays a huge role in art if it was not presented in the class. Institutional critique challenges the perceptions of museums, collectors and their art.

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The Government has Blood on its Hands. (2019, Jul 19). Retrieved from