Posts Tagged ‘Grayson Perry's Art Club’

Grayson Perry, Futurism and the Democratisation of Art

December 13, 2021

One of the best programmes to have been on during the lockdown has been Grayson Perry’s Art Club on Channel 4, hosted by the Turner Prize-winning potter. He has attempted to encourage people across the country to get creating their own personal works of art. They have included ordinary Brits, as well as celebrities like Johnny Vegas and Boy George. At the end of the series, the works he selected for inclusion on his programme were exhibited in one of the country’s museums. Last year’s entry’s were displayed, I think, in Manchester. This year they’re being exhibited at the City Museum and Art Gallery here in Bristol. Accompanying the exhibition was an edition of his programme last Friday, in which he went behind the scenes to show the works being put up, as well as display the pieces that he had selected and talk to their creators. Those included came from all works of life. One was a volunteer at a food bank, who had painted one of the other women working there behind the counter. Another was a transvestite, who had painted himself in feminine make-up. Johnny Vegas had produced a highly stylised human figure representing Norman. This was a young lad he remembered from school, who always seemed hunched up in his coat as if he had already been defeated and given up on life. Vegas wished he could go back and encourage him to become more positive. One of the most amazing people was Becky Taylor, a young woman stricken with quadriplegic cerebral palsy. Paralysed and confined to a wheelchair, she nevertheless was able to speak and create through the same type of computer technology as Stephen Hawking. She was able to paint a portrait of Perry by moving her eyes across the computer screen. Their movements were captured by the software, which turned them into brushstrokes. The result was an astonishingly good likeness. Perry tried to do it for himself, but unsurprisingly only succeeded in making a mess.

It struck me that Perry’s programme in many respects was close to some of the ideals and demands made by the Italian Futurists. Not that the gentle, transvestite Perry had anything politically in common with the hypermasculine, nationalistic belligerence of the Futurists, who celebrated violence and declared war to be ‘sole hygiene of the world’, and whose survivors after World War I joined Mussolini’s Fascists. But Taylor’s art and the technology that enabled her to express her creativity would certainly have pleased them, as they celebrated the new industrial Italy. Marinetti, in his Founding and Manifesto of Futurism of 1909, had looked forward to ‘the coming union of man and machine’.

But Marinetti had also called for museums and exhibition spaces to be opened up to the public, to display the works of art that were being produced by ordinary Italians. He was impressed by the number of people, even in small villages, who were artistically inclined and dismayed by how they were frustrated and crushed. In his ‘Florentine Address’ of 1919, he remarked on ‘the proletariat of geniuses’, the frustrated intellectuals of contemporary Italy, calling for their encouragement and display. He said, or, more probably, declaimed

“I wish to fill another gap by turning now to the only proletariat that remains forgotten and oppressed: the vitally important proletariat of geniuses.

It is indisputable that our race surpasses all others in the large number of geniuses that it produces. Even the smallest Italian group, the smallest village, can claim seven or eight twenty-year olds, who are brimming over with creative fervor, youths of overweening ambition as revealed in volumes of unpublished verse and in eloquent outbursts in the public squares and at political rallies. Admittedly some (though they are few in number) are little more than foolish dreamers who will probably never attain true genius. But there is genius in their temperament, which is to say that, encouraged in the right manner, they might well contribute to the nation’s intellectual dynamism.

In that same small group or village it is easy to find seven or eight middle-aged men above whose heads hovers the melancholy halo of failed genius, a halo that accompanies them through their lives as petty clerks or professionals, in neighbourhood cafes, and with their families. Remnants of a genius that never found a propitious environment in which it might thrive, they were quickly laid low by economic and sentimental necessities.

I founded the Futurist artistic movement eleven years ago in order to brutally modernize the literary-artistic milieu, to deprive it of any authority and destroy its ruling gerontocracy, to debunk pedantic professors and critics, and to encourage the reckless outbursts of young genius. My aim was to create a fully oxygenated atmosphere, a healthy, encouraging, supportive atmosphere where all of Italy’s young geniuses might prosper. I sought to encourage all of them, to increase their pride, to clear a path for them, to swiftly reduce the proportion of failed and worn-out geniuses.

It is sometimes difficult to recognise, appreciate, and encourage young geniuses. In part this is because instead of viewing their homeland as a vast malleable mass to be molded spiritually, these youths regard it as an idiotic network of abuses of power, criminal rackets, corrupt authorities, and asinine rules. And, of course, they are right. Everywhere in our country, genius is undervalued, derided, imprisoned. Only mediocre opportunists and over-the-hill, one-time geniuses are celebrated and crowned….

Many other youths – dynamic, impetuous young men, intoxicated with spiritual heroism and revolutionary patriotism – have now swollen the Futurist ranks. But a great many others remain ignorant or depressed, stifled by the atmosphere of small ultrapasseist cities. Thanks to the vast wave of stormy soirees and demonstrations that swept up and down the Italian peninsula, Futurism came into contact with nearly everyone. But the nation’s political forces will have to undertake a more systematic campaign if we are to save, re-ignite, and tap the vast energies possessed by the proletariat of geniuses.

I propose the construction in every city of a number of buildings that bear a title like the following: Free Exhibition of Creative Genius. In these facilities:

  1. works of painting, sculpture, graphics, architectural drawings, machine drawings, and designs of inventions will be on display for a month at time;
  2. Musical works, small or large, for orchestra or piano, in any genre, form, or size will be performed.
  3. poems, prose, scientific writings of all kinds and lengths will be read, displayed, recited;
  4. all citizens will have the right to exhibit free of charge;
  5. works of any kind or any value, even if seemingly judged to be absurd, inane, crazy or immoral, will be displayed or read without a jury.

With these free and open exhibitions of creative genius, we Futurists wage war against an ever present danger: the danger of seeing the spirit shipwrecked on the ideological seas that swirl around the formulas of communism and the dictatorship of the proletariat.”

From: A Primer of Italian Fascism, ed. and introduced by Jeffrey T. Schnapp (University of Nebraska Press 2000) 271-3.

Some of this has been realised through recent initiatives to open up museums and art galleries to the public and aspiring artists, as well as the new opportunities for display that have come through the internet. I don’t quite share the Futurist’s artistic tastes – they were militant avant-garde artists who attacked traditional art and Italy’s artistic heritage. And there are obviously artistic, literary and scientific works that are too dangerous or immoral to be displayed or encouraged. But Marinetti had a point. Up and down Britain there are people, who have tried their hand at art or literature, and been discouraged because of lack of opportunity. They also deserve their chance. It’s great that programmes like Perry’s are there to encourage them.

But perhaps, to encourage the genius of ordinary people still further, we should build the exhibition halls he called for to show what talent is still out there, waiting to be discovered.

Rose of Dawn Attacks the Mythology of the Trans Genocide

December 11, 2021

Rose of Dawn is a transwoman, who uses her YouTube channels, one of which has the provocative title ‘Trans Stupid’ to attack and debunk some of the malign and violent parts of the trans rights movement. She is, unfortunately, something of a controversial figure among some gender critical feminists, such as Karen Davies. Davies does not want transwomen speaking for women because she considers them to be still men, and so are encroaching on women’s proper territory, even when transwomen like Debbie Hayton and Blair White share much the same views and are welcomed by other gender critical types, such as Graham Linehan, as true allies.

In this video RoD attacks the mythology of the trans genocide. Some trans activists unfortunately believe that there is a mass holocaust of transpeople going on in Britain and America comparable to the Nazi murder of the Jews, gay men and the disabled, and that Britain’s NHS is actively involved. This is monstrously grotesque. RoD has obviously faced prejudiced herself as a transwoman. But she states that society is far more accepting of transwomen now than it was ten years ago. She also believes that the rights of transpeople to compete in sport isn’t a human right. To be fair, the gender critical feminists don’t believe in stopping transwomen from competing in sport. They just don’t want them competing with born women, because of the advantage they have in possessing bodies that were previously male. They feel that they should either compete with men, or in a special category for themselves.

I am very much aware that trans people haven’t had it easy, and that there are large parts of British society that are definitely not as welcoming as white metropolitan liberals. Grayson Perry, the Turner Award-winning potter and presenter of the excellent Channel 4 series, Grayson Perry’s Art Club, had a play broadcast on the Beeb. Entitled ‘Mr. Msunderstood’, it was about his own struggle to come to terms with his transvestism. Going back to the ’90s, I remember how Jenny Randles, one of Britain’s leading investigators of the UFO phenomenon, was deeply upset when one of the tabloids – I think it may have been the Scum or News of the Screws outed her as a transwoman. I am also aware that transvestism, at least in public, was considered gross indecency under the law, punishable by arrest and prison sentences.

However the murder stats for transpeople in the UK are very low. I think only one transperson has been murdered, thankfully, in the past few years. The murder rates in America are still higher, but still comparatively small. And I think that the country has a higher murder than Europe anyway. This has made the calls for a ‘trans day of remembrance’ in Britain rather ridiculous. The stats frequently used to show that transpeople are facing a wave of murder largely come from South America. These countries, beset by grinding poverty, have a massive murder rate anyway. But very man of the victims are sex workers, so it’s unclear whether they were murdered because they were trans, or because they were sex workers.

It seems to me that the myth of a trans genocide has arisen because some militantly, and in my view mentally unbalanced trans rights activists, have read extensively about the Nazi Holocaust and the murder of the disabled under Aktion T4, and mistakenly applied it to themselves. One trans mixed martial arts fighter or boxer appeared wearing a shirt bearing the slogan, ‘Stop the Trans Genocide’. This is not only profoundly mistaken but offensively so. As offensive and wrong as the various ‘D’ list celebs a few years ago promoting the anti-Semitism smears against Jeremy Corbyn, blithely joking with each other over whether 1938 had returned.

If there was a trans genocide comparative to the Holocaust, it would be very obvious. Transpeople would not be allowed on social murder to make the claim, there would be organised pogroms against them. And the BBC would very definitely not be allowed to show programmes or items presenting positive views of trans people and those fighting for their rights. Instead they would be rounded up by the police and security forces and sent to real concentration. There may be propaganda films, such as those made by the Nazis, suggesting that they were doing well in their new homes or successfully responding to treatment. There would also be propaganda campaigns against them as well as very public humiliation and ridicule promoted by the state. The statement ‘transwomen are not women’ or ‘Scots women won’t wheesht’ are in no way comparable to Nazi anti-Semitic slogans like ‘Die Jude is Euer Ungluck’ – ‘The Jews is your misfortune’, if understand it properly and the viciously anti-Semitic content of Nazi rags like Der Sturmer. There are no special ambulances operating under the NHS, like those operated by the SS, which gassed the congenitally disabled, or took them to the clinics and hospitals where they were. This part of the mythology seems to me related to the obnoxious nonsense former Republican American presidential candidate Sarah ‘Failin” Palin was spouting about single-payer healthcare. She didn’t want Americans to have an NHS like Britain’s because the elderly and severely disabled would have to face ‘death panels’ to decide whether or not they should live and have state funding spent on them. It’s a monstrously grotesque lie which unfortunately some ‘low information voters’ in the Land of the Free were deceived by. It also seems extremely similar to what these trans rights fanatics are saying when they make the claim that the NHS is similarly involved in the organised murder of transpeople.

And RoD is clearly right to state that it is dangerous nonsense. It’s clearly very harmful to tell genuinely vunerable people struggling with their gender identity and who may well suffer from a number of other mental conditions, to tell them that there is an organised campaign by the state and society to murder them.

Some of the comments to RoD’s video are also well worth reading, such as this comment from Kaien Shiriyaku, a gay Polish man, who grew up in the shadow of the real Holocaust as well as the prejudice and persecution Polish gays faced.

‘I was late for the premiere. Comparisons to holocaust are RI-DI-CU-LO-US! Since I’m from Poland, I wanna share something – when I was growing up I’ve met some people who survived the camps. It was a part of my school (the school was in the name of the victims from the area) and we had meetings once a year, when we were told how horrific those times were. People from the premiere chat already know – I grew up openly gay in the 90s. In Poland of all places. UK and US in the 90s were much more progressive than Poland at the same time. I’ve got my jaw dislocated once for being gay. Bullied constantly. My father kicked me out of the house once I was legal of age. I bet my acrylic nails those snowflakes wouldn’t survive 5 min in Poland, even today. Yes, we have it better now, times had change, however if you meet someone who is homophobic – be prepared to fight. You’re met with either acceptance, or vicious attacks here. All you need for the second one is to exit from a gay club during a football night at the wrong time.’

To be fair, this has occurred in Britain and America. Gays have been beaten up, and gay young people thrown out of their parental homes to live on the streets after coming out to their parents. But it isn’t like Poland, where increasingly strict anti-LGBT legislation is being passed and several areas have declared themselves to be ‘No LGBTQ’ zones.

Society isn’t perfect, but there is no trans holocaust in Britain and America, and such claims are actively harmful not liberating. They have to be stopped.