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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