When the photographs of Robert Mapplethorpe were exhibited at the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford in 1989, there were protesters on the street and lines around the block as thousands queued up to pay an extra fee to look at these pictures, which lay at the heart of a heated debate about public funding for the arts.
The frank and intentionally startling homoerotic imagery stirred up passionate arguments about the nature of art and the use of taxpayer funds for it. Now the Atheneum has another Mapplethorpe exhibit. No protests. No fever. People walk by the most shocking photos, unshocked.
So how does shock work? What's the purpose of it, and what does it mean when last decade's shocking performance doesn't raise an eyebrow now.
- David Edelstein - Film critic for New York Magazine and for NPR's Fresh Air, author of the play Blaming Mom, and co-author of Shooting to Kill
- Karen Finley - Artist and author of several books, including a recently-released 25th anniversary edition of Shock Treatment; professor at the Tisch School of Art and Public Policy at NYU
- Dennis Barrie - Cultural historian, museum director at Cincinnati’s Contemporary Arts Center in 1990 Mapplethorpe exhibit, and co-lead of Barrie Projects
Karen Finley will be at the Mark Twain House & Museum on February 17 at 7:00 pm. Call (860) 247-0998 for tickets.
Betsy Kaplan and Chion Wolf contributed to this show.