Thursday, September 24, 2009
I went to this amazing, AMAZING Ai Wei Wei exhibition this afternoon and saw his excellent video piece (well, documented performance piece?) Fairytale and it got me thinking.
The exercise was to bring 1001 Chinese who had never traveled outside of China to a contemporary art festival in Kemmel (I think it was kemmel) Germany. It's a small town in germany of about 200,000 and it's the birthplace (?) of the Grimm brothers. Hence Fairytale, plus it was like a fairytale for these people to be able to go to Germany. Plus it was a chance for them to see if Germany - a place they had only heard and read about - was everything they thought it would be. To see if the fairytale was true or not.
Anyway, Ai Wei Wei documented the stories of all these people and their journey to Germany and then at the end they interviewed a bunch of random Germans from Kemmel asking them their impression of the Chinese visitors. And most people were flat out what we would call racist. Just saying something like, most Chinese are very loud and rude, but these 1001 visitors were very well-behaved.
Or one lady said: They should learn from us. Not the other way around. They should learn from Europeans etc etc. (I don't remember the exact quote, but i remember the 'learn from us, not the other way around' and the word 'europeans' was in there somewhere)
And then one man said something like: I think they are being objectified.
And it got me thinking. Because they interviewed a lot of the Chinese visitors, too, and they didn't feel that they were being objectified. They were excited to be in Germany and to be part of Ai Wei Wei's art project. They were just like regular tourists; they all had cameras and maps and were enjoying their stay. They were all sad to leave once the trip was over.
So it makes me wonder: if the 'object' (here: Chinese visitors) does not think it is being objectified, is it? And if someone else (here: the man) decides that the object is being objectified, isn't he himself then objectifying the object? By making it an object that is being objectified? In deciding that those who are objectifying the object are wrong in their objectification, he is himself agreeing that the object is being objectified in the first place and is therefore objectifying the object.
Therefore, the only way not to objectify an object is to reject the possibility of objectification.
And then this leads me to conundrum #2: If you witness a crime that you are able to stop and do nothing to stop it, you are, by law, aiding and abetting that crime. While the dictionary definition of both aid and abet assume active participation, in practice both words have come to bring non-action under their definitional umbrella.
Now, let's take this scenario and place it on conundrum #1. If I reject the possibility of objectification, but person A does not and we both witness an instance of 'objectification' and I am not outraged, is it fair for person A to be outraged that I am not outraged? Am I, in a sense, aiding and abetting objectification by my non-outrage? Which would assume that objectification is not subjective. It is Truth with a capital T. Which, personally, I don't think it is. In the same way that murder is not (when is murder murder and not self-defense? Revenge? Etc.?)
This is the proverbial dilemma. Subjectivity vs. objectivity.