The Importance Of Separating Art From The Artist

As each year continues on and the idols keep dropping like flies, the condolences bring with them a raft of life stories that admonish the dead who meant so much to us. While these are often thrown about in an attempt to be rebellious rather than socially conscious, it’s important that these points are taken seriously. That being said, acknowledging the flaws of our creative heroes shouldn’t remove anything from the beauty we see within their body of work.

This article was born out of a conversation with a friend who told me they didn’t know how to feel about DIIV, describing them as being “everything wrong with music.” When I inquired, he told me about the bassist’s explosion of bigotry on the internet, something that hasn’t been properly addressed by any members beyond veiled comments through Twitter.

Let me be clear when I say that this cunt should not be let off for the hateful things he’s said. My point is that even though this man is a twat for his comments and his comments should not be brushed off lightly by fans or fellow members, it doesn’t take away from DIIV’s body of work. As a creative, follower of the arts or both, you have to learn to separate the art from the artist.

The first half of 2016 has seen an unbelievable loss of genius; I won’t bother listing them all here, instead choosing Bowie as an example for no other reason than he managed to proliferate culture in a way that many others have failed. This meant that even relatively moderate fans felt rocked by the discovery of his death due to his seemingly ubiquitous presence. It wasn’t long before you could see little cracks beginning to form in the dam of loving tributes though, cracks in the form of Lori Mattix, a woman who has become famous for her sexual interactions with musicians during the 70’s. Many were quick to point out that Bowie had famously slept with the underage “groupie” and that this should not be forgotten in the constant love that was being thrown his way.

Without getting into the story, the issue of consent or the validity of the journalism surrounding the matter, this story came as a surprise to most people. Not only was this new information, it was hard for many to comprehend that this genius who meant so much to them could’ve taken part in what they see as abhorrent behaviour. Throughout this melee, I felt I had to tell around five people that Bowie as a human being, Bowie as a celebrity and Bowie as an icon has nothing to do with the music put out by Bowie the musician.

There’s really nothing new about this situation either. It’s now common knowledge that John Lennon, the supposed anti-violence advocate, used to beat woman and terrified his son emotionally. Bob Marley was consistently accused of chauvinistic behaviour towards women; Rita Marley went as far to say that he raped her in her autobiography. Elvis would often hold sleepover parties with women as young as fourteen, claiming that he preferred virgins. Eric Clapton’s comments regarding immigration actually turned Rock Against Racism from an idea into a campaign and Bowie himself made similar comments on stage that he later claimed were due to his problems with cocaine. The list goes on, and that’s only within the music community. Almost all beloved artists and respected creative geniuses have issues that should not and do not detract from their artistic contributions.

The only place I understand struggling with this concept is when it comes to hypocrisy. If someone has written the world’s greatest anti-racism song and then goes on a twitter rant littered with slurs, that song does lose its credibility, and rightly so. However, that artist’s body of work is no less brilliant due to this hypocrisy. I challenge anyone reading this to argue that they’ve lived an entirely moral or truthful life, or that they’ve never had opinions they’ve then changed in later life. Why should any creative be held to a higher standing?

Another thing that has to be taken into consideration here is the element of acceptance on the part of society when someone shows remorse. This can be difficult depending on the severity of the situation, with some actions too abhorrent for many to ever forgive; it seems impossible to see a future where someone can listen to the Lostprophets without being constantly aware of the horrific blemish of repeated child rape. Even this opinion comes with struggles though, as a society is comprised of a series of individuals who have entirely varied moral barometers. A social consensus would not only be difficult to come by, but would bring about a whole plethora of ethical issues too complex to get into here.

It’s important we continue to support and fight for a world which allows the open discussion of concerns or views you may have regarding anything in this world, including artists. Does this impact their ability as artists? Should it permit us to censor or impede their work? Is their body of work affected by them personally? The answer, in my opinion, is no.