Works of art are sometimes a focus for the wider discomforts of society. My Dirty Corner at Versailles has been reviled in the press as the “Queen’s vagina” or the “vagina on the lawn”, and has given offence to certain people of the extreme political right wing in .
The vicious voice of the few has commanded too much of the debate, and has resulted in an act of vandalism to the work.
I am left with the question about how I should react. Should the paint that has been thrown all over the sculpture be removed? Or should it remain and be part of the work? Does the political violence of the vandalism make Dirty Corner “dirtier”? Does this dirty political act reflect the dirty politics of exclusion, marginalisation, elitism, racism, Islamophobia?
The question I ask of myself is: can I, the artist, transform this crass act of political vandalism and violence into a creative act? Would this not be the best revenge?
In asking this question I am aware of the power of art and its ability to offend. Dirty Corner is in some ways an act of artistic violence. It attempts to disrupt the tidy surface of ’s Versailles. It engages in a disruptive conversation with the palace’s geometric rigidity. It looks under the carpet of Le Nôtre’s “tapis vert” and allows the uncomfortable, even the sexual.
Political violence, however, is not the same as artistic violence. This political vandalism uses an “art material” – paint – to make actual violence. It could have been a bomb or a hood thrown over someone’s head to kidnap them. Artistic violence is generative, political violence destructive. Artistic violence may scream at the tradition of previous generations. It may violently overturn what was before, but in so doing it follows a long tradition of regeneration. It always advances the language of art.
Political violence seeks erasure. Its aim is the removal of the offending idea, person, practice or thing. Simplistic political views are offended by the untidiness of art. is seen as obscene and destroyed.