Is It Art?

22 Jun

from the New York Times

…(A) Manhattan federal jury awarded the production company $116,500 after deliberating for several hours in the case against San Francisco writer Laura Albert. Antidote International Films Inc. had sued Albert, who went to strange lengths to hide her identity behind her alter ego, a male prostitute named JT LeRoy.

Albert has two very distinct quotes:

”This goes beyond me,” Albert said. ”Say an artist wants to use a pseudonym for political reasons, for performance art. This is a new, dangerous brave new world we are in.” 

Albert testified that she had been assuming male identities for decades as a coping mechanism for psychological problems brought on by her sexual abuse as a child. To her, she said, LeRoy was real.

So is Albert a performance artist who owes no explanation (or money) to the film company or is she a person suffering from multiple personality disorder or some other disassociative illness?  Art should, in some sense, be based on intent.  The somewhat classic example is if your dog takes a crap that looks like Elvis, it isn’t art.  But if you photograph it and frame it, and call it “Elvis on Velvet” it becomes art.  Your intention to comment on society or provoke reactions goes a long way in determining what is art (in a non-Tolstoy novel way.)

So is Albert a performance artist who is no different than say, Crispin Glover, creating a persona, playing it for the public, in an attempt to reflect on the nature of fame in our culture?  Or is she a crazy person?  Did Antidote win their court case because they proved that they were defrauded, or because the jury was just as pissed that she pulled a fast one, and thought they would teach the freak a lesson?

Full story at NYT (free subscription required)

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