“Any of us could have won,” Antony Gormley says of the artists shortlisted in 1994. “All of us have made important contributions to contemporary art.” He dislikes the “gladiatorial” way in which artists are pitted one against another, and feels “embarrassed and guilty to have won – it’s like being a Holocaust survivor. In the moment of winning there is a sense the others have been diminished. I know artists who’ve been seriously knocked off their perches through disappointment.”
A recently discovered blogger, the Attic Fantasist took exception to Gormley’s simile, calling his choice “tasteless” and “wholly inaccurate.” In fact, the issue riled him/her enough to write two whole posts about it. Attic does not include contact information or comments on the blog, so Miss Mussel was not able to ask for clarification. To this bivalve, Gormley just seems to be saying that winning is bittersweet because it means that friends and colleagues didn’t win. Simple as that. End of story.
Frankly, Attic’s reaction was a bit puzzling and got Miss Mussel to wondering at what point do events stop being taboo and what is an artist’s role in pushing those boundaries?
The Spanish Inquisition went on for nearly 400 years and is now part of a common idiomatic expression and a famous Monty Python sketch. It’s true, there isn’t anyone left with a memory of these events, so they are really devoid of any emotional attachment. Nevertheless, it was a highly vicious reign of terror that caused the death of over 5,000 people.
Comedians joked about the September 11th bombings almost immediately afterwards to prove that America’s spirit wasn’t crushed, yet six years later merchants are peddling a coin made from Ground Zero gold with a pop-up silver WTC “rising from the ashes.”
Miss Mussel doesn’t know anyone who was directly affected by the Holocaust and although she can intellectually recognize that it was a horrible thing, emotionally it is as significant as the Crusades or Salem witch trials.
Does reducing something as loaded as the Holocaust to an idiom or comedy sketch trivialize it or encourage healing?