Amsterdam museum will rename any artworks with offensive titles

Discussion in 'Art & Culture' started by Plazma Inferno!, Dec 21, 2015.

  1. Plazma Inferno! Ding Ding Ding Ding Administrator

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  3. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    When the Communists did this, we called it "rewriting history." So no, I'm not in favor of it because it literally destroys history.

    A huge controversy is brewing in the USA right now. There is tremendous sentiment to remove the names of Confederate officers (the Southerners who fought the Civil War in order to retain slavery) from streets and buildings, because it implies that these people are being honored. But it's not quite the same as renaming a painting. These people's names will still remain on other buildings and streets, just not quite so many. They will not be forgotten, merely not celebrated.

    Many state government buildings in the South continued to fly the Confederate battle flag, and this was perceived as an insult to the Afro-Americans whose ancestors were kept as slaves. But it's not quite the same thing, because flying a flag implies that you approve of what the flag stands for, and for some people it actually means that they still wish that they had won the Civil War and could continue to keep Afro-Americans as slaves: property, rather than human beings. A painting is not interpreted the same way. We all understand that it's an image from the past.

    The flags are coming down.

    There used to be a road called the Dixie Highway that ran more-or-less the length of the Atlantic Coast, through the states that had seceded and formed the Confederacy. Over the years many segments of it have been torn up or moved, but there are still a lot of roads named "Dixie Highway" in towns throughout the South. "Dixie" and "Dixieland" are names for the Confederacy, and "Dixie" was the name of the Confederacy's national anthem.

    Just recently, the residents of a tiny community in Florida voted to rename their portion of the road, which is actually only two blocks long. The majority of the people are Afro-Americans, and they renamed the road "President Barack Obama Highway."

    This is especially amusing because President Barack Obama Highway intersects with Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue, another street that they had renamed.

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    Last edited: Dec 21, 2015
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  5. Edont Knoff Registered Senior Member

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    No. The titles must be seen in the context of the time when the works were made. A title that is seen offensive nowadays might have been pretty ordinary 100 or 200 years ago. Titles that were offending all the time should also be kept, because it obviously was the artists intention.

    People who can't think that far that works must be seen in the context of their time and society won't be helped with new titles. Instead of changing the titles, the museum should try to explain the context of the works to the visitors, or at least give hints, that for a better understanding of the works, knowledge about history is required.

    I know, if I go to a museum with historic art, I want to see the original, not an adapted version that fits our time. And that includes the original title.

    Language is always a mirror of the people using it, the society. Thus the original words are important.
     
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  7. Yazata Valued Senior Member

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    They are going to change the name of 'The Negro Scipio' because it contains the intolerable forbidden word 'negro'?

    It's striking how people of African descent have been repeatedly renamed by our guardians of decency, in hopes that whatever new word is chosen will only have good connotations and no bad connotations. So 'colored person' became 'negro' (Spanish for 'black'), which became 'black' (English for 'black'), which became 'African-American', which seems to be becoming 'person of color', returning us almost back to where we began.

    Never mind that a now-intolerable older word was still in use when an art-work was named and its choice probably indicated no hostile intent at all.
     
    Last edited: Dec 21, 2015
  8. C C Consular Corps - "the backbone of diplomacy" Valued Senior Member

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    An era will select / sanction its own profane, vulgar or emotionally injurious words if the older ones happen lose their shock-value from gratuitous overuse. Ludicrously mistaken, any media prognostication which once declared that taboo speech and other patterns were on their last knee after the diminishing of classic standards and their countercultural trouncing of the '60s and '70s. The profit and poll motives of litigation and mud-slinging alone (respectively) would demand an offensive aura be placed around this or that, even if sacred affairs and their accompanying sacrilege weren't inherent human needs.
     
  9. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

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    The title of the painting is part of the perspective of the artist at that time. These titles need to be preserved as much as the paintings do.
     
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  10. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    The word "negro" is not forbidden, although it has fallen out of vogue. After all, it's nothing more or less than a garbled pronunciation of the Spanish word negro, pronounced NEH-gro, which means, simply and actually, a black man.
    You've got those a bit out of order. The Spanish word negro came first, pronounced incorrectly as NEE-grow in the north and as NIG-ger in the South. Other slang words arose in the South--perhaps the best remembered is "darkie." "Colored people" came along at the end of the 19th century, when our ancestors struggled to invent something that would not imply disrespect, and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (better known as the NAACP) is still proudly helping Americans of African descent improve their lives. "Afro-American" debuted in the 1960s, a rather compact, easily pronounced and easily understood name, which unfortunately was replaced very quickly by the tongue-twisting "African American."

    "Person of color?" Yes, I've heard that and it is indeed used in respect, but it hasn't really caught on. It sounds like somebody who accidentally or deliberately had a bucket of paint dumped on his head.

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  11. sculptor Valued Senior Member

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    PC crazy is still crazy.
     
  12. iceaura Valued Senior Member

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    If the artist named it, the name stays along with the paint the artist put there, the chisel marks left by the artist, etc.

    If somebody else named it, then somebody else can rename it - no problem. History is satisfied with a record of the namings and changes.
     
  13. spidergoat Venued Serial Membership Valued Senior Member

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    They are literally destroying the art in their collection. Art is the name of the piece as much as the piece itself.
     
  14. Schmelzer Valued Senior Member

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    Why so inconsistent? Artworks with evil names should simply be burned.
     
  15. iceaura Valued Senior Member

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    That depends on who named it, and why. A lot of art was named by dealers, purchasers, clients, evaluators of one kind or another, and artists motivated by marketing concerns rather than anything to do with the work itself.
     
  16. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

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    As an example of how important original titles are to the paintings, consider Jackson Pollock's "Guardians of the Secret"..Would the painting be understood properly if the title was changed? Ofcourse it wouldn't. The title IS part of the painting. It tells you what the painting is about. It should never be changed.

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  17. iceaura Valued Senior Member

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    That depends on who titled the painting, and why.

    For example: http://www.pablopicasso.org/avignon.jsp
     
  18. Bells Staff Member

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    I think it is absolutely ridiculous. There are so many reasons as to why this is ridiculous.

    The name of the artwork, like the painting, tells a part of the story and where this painting has been. It tells of the times in which the painter existed or when the painting was exhibited. It is a part of history. To rename artwork because they contain words that have been used to insult or offend or mistreat others in our collective history is also an attempt to rewrite and erase that history.

    They are literally trying to erase history. Of all the good and bad things that happened. To wit, there is nothing bloody wrong with being black or a "negro". I find erasing history in this fashion more offensive than the word "negro". And believe me, I have been called that plenty of times and not in a positive way.

    Racism existed and continues to exist. Changing names of artwork to something more polite is an attempt to gloss over racism and pretend it never existed. This move shows complete lack of recognition of the context in which these paintings were painted and existed and most importantly, were exhibited and more often than not, named by those who exhibited them. And that will do more damage than good in the long term. For example:

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    Has been renamed from 'Young Negro-Girl' by Simon Maris (1900), to 'Young Girl Holding a Fan'.

    This is a rewriting of history. The context of this girl's existence, her history as well and that of other black people who existed at this time and what they had suffered.

    What's going to be next? Cover up nude paintings and statues because the naked human form may offend some?

    I have to disagree with Jonathan Jones.

    The portrait by Maris is a case in point. This work by a minor modern artist is scarcely one of the greatest works in the Rijksmuseum. But look closer. Stripped of its old name Young Negro Girl, it seems a sensitive portrait. The new name allows its humanity and lack of prejudice to be seen – and makes it more accessible, to more people, from more places.

    Besides, anyone who is nostalgic about the word “negro” really is on the wrong side of history.

    According to Jones, the word "Negro" apparently strips the girl in the painting of humanity, renders her to nothing but a black girl, as though this is a bad thing and as though recognising racism when this was exhibited and named is a bad thing.. Now tell me which is more racist? Changing the names of these dozens of artworks are not going to make the horrors of slavery, racism, sexism, and every other ism on the planet disappear. I think trying to erase them from our history will not help combat it.
     
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  19. Schmelzer Valued Senior Member

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    I agree. Simply imagine another situation, where it is not visible from the picture itself who is presented. Assume, for example, it would be name, originally, "a young lesbian girl". And then think about what it would mean for lesbian emancipation if one renames it into 'Young Girl Holding a Fan'.
     
  20. iceaura Valued Senior Member

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    The artist named that painting.

    The new name discards the artist-intended relationship between the name and the portrait, and with it much of the artist's intended meaning.

    Renaming discards the humanity and invalidation of prejudice the painting was intended - by the artist - to portray. The artist intended the contrast between the title and the portrait. One would do better to repaint the face white, and keep the name.

    It would be a sensitive portrait if it were named "Have You Seen This Girl" and printed on a milk carton. Why would one be prevented from seeing this by its name?
    The new name makes its lack of prejudice - such as it has - meaningless.

    If you can't "look closer" at a painting in a museum, renaming the thing is not going to help.
     

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