I was remembering some of my art school education the other day and remembering how subversive art and sexuality can be in a Western countries education system. Even if you look at Classical painting it can seem like soft porn if you had another cultural background. I remember a friend was studying erotic Roman poetry and found that the books you get in most bookshops were edited at some stage by Monks so a lot of the juicy swear words were omitted. He found academics who had re-translated these poems with all of the swear words still intact. The Romans really knew how to swear! When you look at Ovid’s Metamorphoses you see a collection of stories full of violence and perversions. These things can’t really be edited out of our culture. So when at University you learn about all aspects of art and art history which can be full on. For some reasons the subversive stuff stuck in my mind. Not in a titillating way mind you but purely a subversive way. That was why when I wrote my Honours thesis I drew in graffiti and some 70s conceptual artists as a way of looking at ever changing boundaries of art. The problem is I don’t want to be stuck forever in these ideas. My own work really deals with graffiti and its unpredictable yet quite predictable nature. That is the way it subverts materials and technologies. Since 9-11 subverting technology is seen as a bad thing. I think the current master of subversion in graffiti is the artist ‘Risote’ he still follows that lineage. My own work is just chopping and changing which isn’t that surprising.
When I visited some Classic Chinese texts and historical fiction there were little to no perversions. Mostly if a character had perverted ideas they were killed off in the story or beaten close to death. I have only read a couple of key texts so far mind you. I have enjoyed them quite a lot. I will need to read more and that is why I wonder why in my own culture we are always trying to subvert and when I read Ovid for example I saw how it reached back into Western historical traditions. Even these days if you consider conspiracies people say that certain elite people eat babies or kill children. These kinds of elite people have become mythological figures of our times. We still live within our early traditions casting them onto our modern world. It makes me think of Goya and some of his key works. To my mind I think the Western tradition is so dangerous and maybe that is why we are at the point we are. It isn’t that cleaning up subversive ideas is the answer. It is more about considering our place in the world and contrasting that with other cultures to keep our own ideas in check. To know our place in the world and not try to project that out onto others.