But he’s an artist! She’s a “drunk cow”! What do you MEAN he can’t rape her?

Image of two Star Trek guys with their hands on their foreheads, seeminly out of frustration.

Sexual assault trigger warning. You know the drill.

Last month, I was graciously allowed to write a guest post here on Feministe – about Russian artist Ilya Trushevsky, and how people are defending him much like the fools who defend Roman Polanski.

Gee, I had no idea how right I was. I mean, I knew I was right. But to paraphrase Whoopi Goldberg, I wasn’t just “right,” I was “right-right.”

You see, Ilya Trushevsky, who is accused of an attempted rape of a 17-year-old, just got a special Hey He Still Presents a Commercial Interest, So Screw It, You Know? Moral Support Prize from Winzavod Contemporary Art Center – a venue that’s kind of a big deal here in Moscow. You can read about the details in my article for The Moscow News.

I’m not really sure if I have anything clever to say about any of this, because I’m tired and deflated and stories like this one make me want to go camp out in some birch grove in Vladimirskaya Oblast and not encounter any human beings for at least a week or so.

In a way, this is so much worse than a stupid petition for Polanski. The award was presented publicly. By a dude who had previously referred to the 17-year-old girl who was beaten and sexually assaulted as a “drunk cow.” And I’m not going to use the phrase “alleged victim” here, because Trushevsky was pretty open about what happened on his Facebook & LJ. He made fun of her bruises. The media reported that he admitted what happened to the cops.

The stated point of the Moral Support Prize (I feel dumber every time I type it out, truth be told), apparently, is to show solidarity with artists who are in trouble. “REMEMBER, HE’S AN ARTIST! We should still totally hang out with him and do coke, or whatever” – that sort of thing. It always strikes me as really interesting, how someone inevitably thinks that these gestures are very important to make when a Guy Who Glues Rhinestones to Turtles Great Artist is involved. Please won’t somebody think of the Goddamn Rhinestone-Covered Turtles ART?!

What bothers me about that – aside from priorities that are just as messed up as the “but we can’t let the parish know that there’s a predator priest in our midst, it’s bad PR, gaiz” thing – is that a particular artistic community indicts itself when it engages in such apologist hand-wringing. The art should be able to stand on its own. Always. And in many cases, it does. “Rosemary’s Baby” is still a good movie. The fact that I’m somehow “supposed” to defend Polanski because I think it’s a good movie is, on the other hand, idiotic. I’ll defend him to people who think he’s a crappy director – because he’s not. But those pesky laws that dictate that it’s illegal to rape people weren’t created as a springboard for a referendum on some Great Man’s Great Work.

Everyone on this planet does, to some extent to another, live in an unequal society. Rich folks can, as F. Scott Fitzgerald taught us, retreat into their money. People like Polanski and Trushevsky, on the other hand, can retreat into their art – or at least attempt to use it as a fig leaf. This is a social justice issue as much as anything else, I believe. Is talent special? Yes it is, I am certain of it. But if I write a play you happen to like, the most I expect to get away with is a spilled drink at your house party – or maybe the possibility of nagging you into buying me a drink (I like Ukrainian vodka, champagne, Trappist beer – I hope you are taking notes). Not, uh, rape.

I’m just a silly woman, of course, what do I know? It’s not as if I possess a penis – that great tool of rationalization for violence, both sexual and otherwise – when other tools of rationalization fail. And hey, perhaps we’re all misunderstanding poor Ilya Trushevsky anyway. Perhaps my addled lady-brain just doesn’t get that that whole rape thing was an elaborate bit of performance art. Us women couldn’t possibly understand the artistic impulse anyway – the best things we can hope to create are babies (I’m not just joking grimly – though of course I’m doing that too – these are all arguments for Trushevsky that I have recently heard and read).

It’s good to know that a bunch of people who have since signed that anti-Winzavod petition are artists as well. It may be a small comfort, but I’ll take whatever I can get.

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18 comments for “But he’s an artist! She’s a “drunk cow”! What do you MEAN he can’t rape her?

  1. Sheelzebub
    June 11, 2010 at 10:26 am

    Seriously? Someone called a 17-year-old girl who was beaten and raped by a much-older douchey man a “drunk cow”? It’s not like you can even say that she consented, Ilya fucking admitted to beating the shit out of her and raping her. And yet she still “deserves” it and douchey artist fuckstick “deserves” our sympathy.

    Actually, the only thing he and his supporters deserve is a good swift kick to the face. Pig fuckers.

  2. Trish W
    June 11, 2010 at 11:27 am

    The art should be able to stand on its own. Always.

    Thank you for saying this! I wholeheartedly agree.

  3. Niki
    June 11, 2010 at 11:27 am

    *applause* This piece – and particularly the third-last paragraph – is probably the best rationale I’ve seen for separating the artist from the crime. Well done.

    I would indeed like to buy you some champagne for your art! But only if we can share. ;)

  4. Andrea
    June 11, 2010 at 11:32 am

    Second everything Sheelzebub and you, Natalia, said. And also? His art ain’t that good. So don’t worry about having to defend it ;-)

  5. Niki
    June 11, 2010 at 11:43 am

    *Self-correction: Separating the ART from the crime. Not the artist. Oops.

  6. Watch the Toes
    June 11, 2010 at 4:34 pm

    Excellent post. I get so tired of hearing about ‘special people’ getting away with murder (both figuratively and in some cases literally… OJ) just because they can make a good movie or create a work or art or excel in sports. Like you and most of the other posters have said, I can appreciate what these people have brought to their fields, but it doesn’t give them permission to destroy whatever and whomever they want. I personally believe in karma and reincarnation, so in my eyes what goes around comes around, even if it take a few lifetimes to catch up with the person.

    There is one silver lining in this gray cloud – at least this rape has been brought to light and not silenced like many are. Even if it is being treated like a joke by the media and the art world, rational non-victim-blaming people know better, and like you said, can protest Ilya (even though that doesn’t bring about justice)

  7. PrettyAmiable
    June 11, 2010 at 7:04 pm

    Am I the only one who actually thinks less of art when I know the artist is an asshole? It’s not just rapists. Like, there’s a book my environmentalist friend loves and recommended to me as someone who is trying to reduce my carbon footprint. But, Gingrich co-wrote it. He’s an asshole. Lots of art is created by people who aren’t assholes, so while I won’t chastise myself for having enjoyed the art of said asshole, I actively avoid it when I know of its creator. I suppose once I know, it’s because I can’t divorce it from “Oh, was he thinking about raping women when he painted this?” or “Was he writing this to detract from the fact that he’s a misogynistic, racist sack of shit?”

    Also, was Fitzgerald a rapist?

  8. Andrea
    June 11, 2010 at 7:15 pm

    Unfortunately, PrettyAmiable, if you’re going to pass over, at least paintings, because they’re made by misogynists, you’re not going to have much left. But I totally get you. This is why I Hate Renoir with a capital H (well that, and because I find him intolerably boring)

  9. Flowers
    June 11, 2010 at 7:36 pm

    Prior to your post, I had no inclination to go to Moscow… except for, ironically, the art. Now I want to fly there just to take you out for a drink! Well said! Well said!

  10. Invisible Vectors
    June 11, 2010 at 7:37 pm

    Am I the only one who actually thinks less of art when I know the artist is an asshole?

    Nope. I agree with your comment. Art is subjective, anyway.

  11. eilish
    June 11, 2010 at 11:25 pm

    I find it difficult to seperate the art from the artist: anything you create is personal, it comes from what you know and your interpretation of what you see.
    The very first depiction of rape in a film I saw was in Polanski’s ‘MacBeth’. I was horrified by the mundanity of the act, (it occurs in the background, it’s a detail, diminished by the murder which is the essential horror) and my teacher’s confirmation that rape of women ‘was’ mundane in war. I was shaken by the revelation that women’s horrific experiences were unimportant.
    I thought Polanski had made a powerful point. Nowadays, I’m not sure he meant to.

  12. sean
    June 12, 2010 at 1:28 am

    The relevant case study to me in these things is always Ezra Pound. Ezra Pound was one of the greatest poets of the early 20th century. Ezra Pound was also an American citizen and an avowed fascist who broadcast his support over Italian radio during WWII. The response? His poetry gets taught in every modern poetry class, and his ass got thrown in jail for treason.

    (though not all that easy, in any of those classes you have to briefly go through that “we’re looking at the form, ignore the fact that it’s an ode to the greatness of Mussolini” bit)

  13. June 12, 2010 at 2:38 am

    F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote The Great Gatsby – in which Tom & Daisy effectively retreat into their money following the death of Tom’s girlfriend and Gatsby’s death. They wash their hands of the situation, because they can afford to.

    Moscow is great – both for art and other things.

  14. Agnes
    June 12, 2010 at 1:28 pm

    The fact that I’m somehow “supposed” to defend Polanski because I think it’s a good movie is, on the other hand, idiotic.

    This reminds me of how serious academic musicologists will often bend over backwards to try to prove that Wagner wasn’t really anti-semitic, as if they think that his music will suddenly start sounding like crap if they admit that, actually, he probably was.

  15. eilish
    June 12, 2010 at 8:49 pm

    Wagner’s music does sound like crap.

  16. Jha
    June 19, 2010 at 2:14 am

    …. Glued rhinestones to turtles.

    I know this is an awful thing to focus on after the so-very-spot-on rant, but…. rhinestone-covered turtles.



  17. June 23, 2010 at 12:07 am

    So, I’m an artist (writer) complete with the artistic temperament and passion and all that. What crimes am I allowed to commit?

    *tumbleweed rolls by*

    Oh, right – I’m a woman! Different set of rules, sorry.

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