In Defense of Shock

What if I take off my clothes, put a wig on and dance with a fire-spouting mechanism latched onto my crotch?

What if I put a dead shark in a tank, fill it with formaldehyde and display it in a gallery?

What if I fill a vessel up with urine, drop a crucifix inside and proclaim it as a work of art?

You will probably be shocked, maybe peeing your pants in the process, and label me as an attention-whore.

Or worse, you may call the police or a mental asylum to drag me away and spare your poor heart from such horror.

There is also a rare possibility of my antics kindling your fascination and pleasing your eyes and Oh-So-Bored-With-This-Routine-World mind.

But will you ever ask WHY you got shocked by seeing my crotch on fire or a crucifix submerged in piss?

Does ANYBODY ever asks why they react the way they do when they see a piece of shock art?

I think they do not.

When Lady GaGa wore the meat dress in the VMAs, my first reaction was of disbelief.

Of course, it was fake meat, right?

Later, when it turned out that it wasn’t, I was utterly disgusted and all I could think to myself was, “This Fucking Rocks!”.

And that’s the magic of shock art — its effect is immediate.

It incites powerful emotional responses; it makes you feel.

But sadly not many people investigate why it makes them feel the way they do.

In my opinion, which was never really humble, shock art shocks us because it dares to probe into our darkest anxieties, fears and desires.

When Lady GaGa wears a meat dress, we are shocked because we are scared of death, and the rotting meat disgusts us.

When Damien Hirst preserves a Tiger Shark in a vitrine and showcases it in a gallery, we are shocked because the shark is dead and yet it seems so alive.

When Andres Serrano takes a picture of a crucifix submerged in his urine, it shocks us because he mixes one of the most sacred symbols of humanity with one of the decidedly profane things of our society.

Shock Art transgresses.

It is disgusting.

It is perverted.

It is the mirror which we never want to see.

And that’s exactly why it is one of the greatest kinds of art in the world.

Shock Art is the slap of truth on the face of the society — it forces us to deal with reality. And maybe even achieve catharsis in the process and get rid of these anxieties and fears.

Thus, Shock Art could very well make our society psychologically healthier.

And in this basic argument lies my defense of the art that shocks.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s too hard writing a blog with fire spouting out of my crotch and a dead Tiger Shark staring back at me.

Adios.

–X–

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