Outrage Or Creative License?

Observatory, The Arts

Here’s a photograph that has a horrible inevitability about it; Imelda Marcos dancing with Henry Kissinger.
David Byrne and Fatboy Slim (Norman Cook) produced a song cycle called ‘Here Lies Love’ about the life of Imelda Marcos that is still causing outrage on the message boards. First, because to many who lived through the oppressive regime it’s the equivalent of making a musical about Hitler, but also because in their programme notes, there appears to be no condemnation at all for the First Lady.

It raises an interesting point: Are artists required to damn their subjects if those subjects are objectionable, or should they rise above knee-jerk public opinion? I rather think they don’t have to justify their actions, but judging by the sizzling level of anger around the project, some kind of interim statement might be necessary.

More problematically, the album has largely received poor notices – but I enjoyed it, especially the title track.

14 comments on “Outrage Or Creative License?”

  1. Helen Martin says:

    It’s part of the socially acceptable attitude thing. There are subjects, like Hitler, one is expected to condemn whenever they come up. You aren’t expected to make musicals about them – hence the breathless shock over “Springtime for Hitler”. Theoretically I’m in favour of people coming to their own value judgements but trivializing the actions of tyrants or bullies is an insult to those who have suffered under those regimes so I have mixed feelings.

  2. Mary says:

    Mark Knopfler has written a song called ‘Imelda’ on the album ‘Goldenheart’. It doesn’t glorify her, but simply tells the facts. I agree that lack of sensitivity will offend. Common sense wins out?

  3. I.A.M. says:

    What of Evita!? Not much grumping about that one. I recall SCTV doing a take-of of that show–touring incessantly at the time–which was called Indira! all about the then President of India Indira Gandhi.

    I still have yet to see any version of The Producers (and admit I may be the last on the planet to have not done so), but given that the title role of the show-within-a-show was played in London’s West End by the openly gay John Barrowman, there is clearly a time that it’s possible to laugh at the past’s villains in some fashion. It may be that the same number of years have passed betwixt the fall of Hitler and the release of the original movie version of The Producers, as have passed between the fall of Marcos and today.

    Be all of that as it may, it’s important for artists to do what they wish and ignore the cries of the vox populi, as they are possibly reflecting the nature around them which The People do not wish to admit. I doubt that its the case here (I know of little calls for Ms Marcos to be declared a saint, for instance), but what an artist does is purely a matter between them and their muse.

  4. Helen Martin says:

    Philipinos seem to have a range of feelings about the Marcos era, probably depending on where in the nation they were raised. It’s odd the things people complain about. The Sculpture Biennale has placed a stainless steel head of Mao on a boulevard in an area now largely Chinese. On top of the head is a figure doing a balancing act. There were cries that there shouldn’t be advertisements for communism on our streets. I wondered if the complaints were from non-Chinese assuming the Chinese community had erected it or from the Chinese objecting to having imagery follow them here. After people had looked at it for a bit there seemed to be a decision that the piece was rather amusing and fair comment on history. No one has commented on the steel Croatian (I think) queen now adorning the park in front of the central bus/train station, at least not so far. Is stainless steel the in material for sculpture these days?

  5. Helen Martin says:

    By the way, what picture? I don’t know whether I could take Kissinger & Imelda Marcos dancing, but it’s not here.

  6. Steve says:

    Rules and regulations, regulations and rules. Bah! Art has GOT to be free, or it damn well isn’t art. The whole point is “flow”…….and what can flow from an artist who has an urge to create and says, “Oh no, I can’t do that, it might offend someone!” I’ll TELL you what flows from that artist – shite!
    I have a great deal of respect for the Lakota people (Sioux)and everything the have endured. I was inspired many years ago to write a piece of music based on Sundance songs, which are considered Lila Wakan (very sacred). Many condemned me, but others saw it for what it was….a tribute to Native Spirituality.
    The condemnation did NOT stop me.

  7. Brian says:

    Helen,
    Right click the place marker and select “open link” to see the pic.

  8. admin says:

    I see the photo in the body of the article – is that not what you see?

  9. Brian says:

    Chris, no, the pic is not visible. Just shows the “red X” but at least will link through to it. Perhaps it is only Helen and I who have the problem as nobody else has mentioned it.

    The pic doesn’t show on any of my PCs. They are variously running XP or W7.

  10. admin says:

    Is this the only pic you can’t see? I usually transfer all tiffs to jpegs and make sure everything’s PC-compatible.

  11. Brian says:

    “Literary London At Your Feet” on 24 March was also problematic. And yes, it was another tiff file; hadn’t picked up on that.

  12. I.A.M. says:

    AHA! Brian has sorted the heart of the problem: most browsers (ie: not Safari) don’t like *.TIF files. *.GIF, *.JPG, AND *.PNG are fine, but the Tagged Image Format files are a non-starter.

    …and I can’t even see the “Image Placeholder Thingy” on the page, but that’s Firefox for you: making things pretty and pleasing to the eye, even if it means reducing your ‘geek ability’.

  13. I.A.M. says:

    A further Fatboy Slim recommendation: Brighton Port Authority’s I Think We’re Gonna Need a Bigger Boat from a couple of years ago. Excellent for anything else you’re doing, as long as it doesn’t involve sleep or careful, intricate precision.

  14. Helen Martin says:

    Yup, no “image placeholder thingy” on my screen, either, and having checked back there was no picture in “Literary London at your feet”, either. And I *like* Firefox. I’ll live without the occasional picture, then. And I’ve been so impressed with the fiery red Admin posts that appear.

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