I doubt that I would be eager to classify good art as transgressive, but I would insist (along with Keats from whom I now borrow) that "Beauty is truth, truth beauty--[and] that is all / Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know." Whether the guerilla art to which you have linked represents truth (and, therefore, beauty) is a determination yet to be made.
Well, my own view, R.T., regarding what I linked to is that it is not art, but propaganda. I would have said - and did say - the same about such "art" directed at Bush. But the party line regarding such "art" when Bush was the target was that it "spoke truth to power." I thought that was bullshit then, and I still think so.
Life as citizen in the 21st century demands that we each have a fully engaged "bullshit" detector. The media used to detect and blow the whistle on such things. Now, however, individuals must be alert enough to do so for themselves. However, having said that, I would be remiss if I did not champion the uses of satire as a good "bullshit" detector; whether or not the "art" in LA amounts to satire is, I suppose, in the eye of the beholders. As for myself, I--a bit like you--am not amused by or edified by mean-spirited satires (whether they appear in print or in art).
But as Dr. Swift knew well, surely the best satires are entirely mean-spirited. Toning it down keeps it from becoming effective satire, and keeps it on the level of bad political art.I can imagine one interpretation of this poster as a satirical response not to Obama but to those authoritarian forces within our political system (most of whom are vocally aligned with the right at present) who have been screaming "Socialism!" with regard to every progressive reform Obama's administration has been trying to implement, especially in terms of health care. (Many of which are proposed solutions to problems created under neo-conservative rule; under Bush, yes, but in many ways Bush was merely the full flowering of policies begun under Reagan.) So, the poster could be a satire against those shouting "Socialism" against any attempt to alter the clearly-dysfunctional status quo.Or the poster could be just propaganda from someone who is so firmly aligned with totalitarian impulses in out civilization that in fact they equate Obama with the forces of anarchy. The Joker is an archetype of anarchy, while his alter ego, the Batman, is an archetype of social order. On the darker level of the Dark Knight, Batman is an outlaw who enforces justice by any means necessary, and there is a deeply totalitarian impulse under that cowl. "Law" vs. "Chaos" is the root of the eternal war between the Joker and the Batman. If some person sympathetic to authoritarian and totalitarian aspects of our current culture (as expressed very blatantly in legislation such as The Patriot Act, which is the biggest legal violation of civil rights in 150 years) genuinely views Obama as the Joker, as a force for anarchy and nihilism, then that person may well have thrown the socialist label onto this poster with sincerity. We saw that word used as a straw-man demonizing bogey-man under McCarthyism, and we've seen it used that way lately, too.Or both of these interpretations could be true.And it's because of the ambiguity that this possibly rises above mere propaganda and perhaps does become art.It's very easy to label something as propaganda when we disagree with its message, or with what we interpret its message to mean. Good satire IS ambiguous, as often is great art. There are layers of meaning and interpretation, and if they contradict each other between layers or meanings, that's all to the good, because that's precisely the tension that gives satire it's force.
Leave it to you, Art, to find depth - genuinely - in this sort of thing. I am at least consistent: Didn't like it aimed at Bush, don;t like it aimed at Obama (of whom I am no fan - but I prefer my art to address something more significant than the day's news). Regarding the Patriot Act, few people seem to know that said act is an extension of legislation passed largely without note - except by Glenn Reynolds - during the Clinton administration. It also seems to have been forgotten that it passed with ease and the generous support of both parties.
I respect the Office of the President, but don't often respect the person who holds it. I had no respect whatsoever for Bush; for Obama, it's still too early to tell. I do find it interesting how people are already trying to tie his hands so that in effect he can't DO anything; which also happened with Clinton.I agree with you about art being about something more than the day's news, or non-news. Very little topical, political art endures; unless it has something eternal in it for the ages, regardless of its topical content. (One thinks again of Dr. Swift. But I also think of John Donne in this light.) As for the Patriot Act, believe me, none of my friends nor I have forgotten that it was passed with virtually no rebuttal or dissent. Which just goes to show how spineless most politicians are, especially in the force of public opinion. But I do give my Wisconsin Senator, Russ Feingold, for being that lone voice of distrust and concern during the Patriot Act's ratification.As for those provisions being laid the groundwork for under Clinton, that was because Congress under Clinton was already entirely owned by the neo-conservatives. Remember Gingrich's "Contract With America," yes indeed that was part of it. The only aspect of this agenda that Clinton was really, truly, visibly in alliance with was NAFTA, which he did promote, even though as predicted it's turned out to be a really bad idea. So I don't blame Clinton's Admin. for laying the groundwork: they were fighting a defensive battle from day one, against an entrenched set of opponents who went out of their way to undermine everything Clinton tried to do (except, again, NAFTA). I think Clinton was fighting too many battles on too many fronts to be an effective President. The dismaying part was that some of those battles were obvious ploys, delay tactics, and/or bread-and-circuses distraction maneuvers; and despite being a smart man, Clinton did too easily fall into some of those traps.And neither was Glenn Reynolds the only one that I'm aware of who noted it at the time. The mainstream media outlets certainly did fail us, then, though, just as they continue to do now.BTW, Frank, I hope it's clear that I didn't mean to imply in my earlier comments that you were either for OR against political art. I hope I didn't put words in your mouth on any point, therein. I thought about that later, so I just wanted to be sure I didn't accidentally speak for you. Sorry if I did.
No apology needed, Art. I didn't get that impression at all. I am writing a piece just now about Milton's Aereopagitica. That is an example of a political protest by a writer that took genuine courage. My problem with most artists protesting in the West these days is that their protests tend to be fashion statements carrying no risk whatsoever. Regarding the groundwork for the Patriot Act during the Clinton adminstration, it was in fact Clinton's Justice Department that proposed the legislation. And some of the ideas in the Contract With America were good, and like it or not it carried the day with the voters. I have a higher opinion of Clinton than you, I think. It seemed to me that he turned out to be quite comfortable functioning as he had as a moderate Southern governor. He also very much supported the repeal of the G;ass-Stiegel Act, which enabled savings banks to also function as investment banks. Despite the financial dislocation of last fall, I suspect he was right to do so. As for Bush, I happen to agree with re the War on Terror, so we had probably just agree to disagree on that. And as for Obama, people don't tie the hands of effective politicians; if that happens, it will be his fault. It is one thing to be successful electoral politician, another to be a successful administrative politician. I hope I'm wrong, but I don't think Obama will prove to be the latter.