Rabu, 19 April 2006

Cattelan's perverted victory



Of course, it's not his fault. He simply made the art. And if someone interpreted it wrong, well, they interpreted it wrong.
As many of you know, in 2004 the Italian sculptor Maurizio Cattelan hung three plastic dolls of children from Milan's oldest tree.
Shortly after being officially "open", the exhibition came to a sudden end: Franco De Benedetto, a Milenese man, decided to cut the children off. He cut two ropes, but swayed and fell when cutting the third one. He was injured and taken to hospital.
Cattelan graciously didn't press charges, but the city of Milan did. And won. De Benedetto will be spending three months in prison for destroying a work of art. Mind you, it took them nearly two years to establish this was indeed a work of art, as that was the prosecution's main argument.

Some say he simply misinterpreted the nature of the work:
Maybe, as the ambulance blared through the Milan streets, di Benedetto was moved to reflect on the violent collision of two types of judgment: civic and aesthetic. He seemed to have mistaken one for the other; or rather, he’d disallowed the second as soon as he set out on his hapless clamber.
I quite disagree. I think the whole work was based on the game between a work of art and a "natural" surrounding. As it is often the case with Cattelan, it was supposed to create uncertainty about the exact role of the work. Only here, it could easily bring uncertainty as to whether the sculptures were real or not.
In places where guns are illegal it is also a crime to pretend one has a gun. Even if you said it was a work of art, you would still be inciting a certain type of behaviour, suggesting a certain reality. I believe this is exactly the case here. This is not to say Cattelan is a criminal, case closed. Not at all. But since he plays in the real world, he should accept the real world's rules. And he does - by neither accusing De Benedetto formally, nor insisting on hanging the children again. But he creates a situation and then washes his hands, as if he wasn't its author. De Benedetto hurt himself and wound up in the hospital. This should be enough. The contact between art and reality is made quite explicit in this fall. The score seems so naturally set. Why go further?

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