In my first blog post among such an esteemed group of writers, I thought it might be useful to expound on my relationship to writing. I am far better known as an artist than as a writer, although I have been writing commentary and editorials for Annoy.com for almost eleven years.
To me, the written word and visual art are equally compelling and I frequently employ text in my art, just as I complement my commentary with graphic imagery.
One of the most interesting demonstrations I can provide on this topic relates to an image I created for an exhibition in 2004, called “Like Apple Fucking Pie,” which dealt with the Abu Ghraib prison scandal. I aimed to demonstrate that in certain instances, the written word is just as horrific, if not more so, than imagery, but only if one actually bothers to read it.
After I read the Pentagon's own Taguba report, I was astounded at how graphic it was. I couldn’t believe that it had sat languishing on Donald Rumsfeld’s desk for as long as it had. You really didn’t need the images to realize that there was a huge problem at Abu Ghraib, and had steps been taken to mitigate the problem immediately, the outcry that resulted from the release of the images would have been significantly reduced. It was terribly managed, and it was a pivotal moment in the war where America lost her moral authority, which has yet to be restored.
I used the text of the report to create the stripes of the American flag, using the iconic image of the hooded Iraqi with electric wires dangling from his hands to create the stars. One of the ironic results of that piece was that Zazzle, a Palo Alto printing company deliberately destroyed that and another piece just before the opening of my 2004 exhibition. They claimed the stars violated their policy of producing images of excessive violence which determined their decision to destroy it. They made no reference to the text at all, which simply reaffirmed what I was trying to point out. The descriptions in the text were far more graphic and violent than the one I used to depict the stars. Of course, Zazzle has no problem reproducing crucifixions, which inexplicably do not represent graphic depictions of violence to them.
The most interesting aspect of the relationship between visual imagery and the written word is that visual artists are often able to make references that are not immediately obvious to censors, particularly through abstraction, whereas writers may be forced to engage in metaphors in order to achieve the same result.
Causes Clinton Fein Supports
First Amendment Project
The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS).
Servicemembers Legal Defense Network