Shock Art: is it a lasting cultural force to reckon with, or has it become too mainstream to create its desired effect on spectators? When Marcel Duchamp put a urinal on display and gave it a title way back in 1917, could anyone have predicted that Piss Christ would become a direct heir of its controversial legacy 70 years later? Our notion of what’s shocking appears to be fluid (forgive the pun), and the lines artists cross are constantly being redrawn as society becomes desensitised and re-sensitised to different taboos.
Beginning on 15 March, Shock Art, a series of webisodes from director Sam Bodhi Field, will air on ABC iview as part of Art Bites, a venture between the ABC and Screen Australia to explore the nature of the genre. Shock Art asks if shocking and offensive art can be considered ‘legitimate’ art, or whether it goes too far to get a reaction from audiences and critics. It asks pertinent questions about the nature of art, such as ‘can shocking art have the power to change the world?’ and ‘can these challenging art experiences shine a light on preconceptions and taboos we struggle to face as a nation?’
Director Sam Bodhi Field, whose documentary Candidate Games, about City of Perth’s lord mayoral election of 2015 which aired on ABC 2 in December of last year, says, “I realised that at the extreme end of the scale, ‘out-there’ art can cause immense outrage, disgust, torrents of abuse, and even lead to criminal charges. Love it or hate it, controversial art has serious power.”
He wends his way through vaginal knitting, penis contortions and artworks using excrement to make audiences squirm and think, both about the Australian psyche and their own.
For more on the Art Bites series, head over to ABC iview’s ABC Arts channel page here, and check back in on 15 March to get an art shock to your system.