At Austin Peay University in Tennessee, the campus erupted in outrage when rainbow nooses were discovered hanging from a tree. Social media exploded and every social justice warrior on campus felt the need to express their displeasure.
But later, it was discovered that the nooses were an art project by a student looking to draw attention to the high number of suicides in the LGBT community.
You might think that the SJWs would hang their heads in sheepish shame and change the subject. Instead, the university criticized the student artist for not supplying a list of instructions on how to view his creation.
“This is a lesson for everyone about sensitivity and respect for all people and how inclusive and understanding we need to be as a campus community,” Austin Peay President Alisa White said in a statement. “While we support the freedom of expression on our campus, we also have to keep in mind that there are symbols that have very specific and negative meanings to everyone, especially if context is not provided. Therefore the artwork was inappropriate and had to be removed for the safety of our campus.
No, this was a lesson in hysteria and ginned-up outrage.
“While we support the freedom of expression…” Well, no you don’t. Every time college administrators stifle free speech, they always qualify their action with a pious declaration of support for the 1st Amendment. Who do they think they’re kidding?
Who says that an artist has to supply “context” for their work? Whose fault is it if some viewers of the work can’t glean the artist’s’ intent?
The university president was even more disgusting:
White, the university president, had called the incident “deeply disturbing” and “hurtful,” arguing that regardless of how it was intended, it did not belong at Austin Peay.
“I am saddened,” she said in a statement Monday night, “and I am sorry for the hurt and offense this has caused and want our students, faculty, and staff to know that it will not be tolerated.”
So art, unless it comes with a swollen list of instructions on how to interpret it, won’t be “tolerated.”
The student artist is mortified, of course, and regrets all the trouble. He’s lucky he’s not suspended.
This “college student” doesn’t give a crap that the artwork was not intended to be racist. It’s racist anyway because they choose to interpret it as such:
“Definitely racist and whoever thought that this is OK. It is not,” one Facebook user wrote. “As a black student attending APSU, I am deeply sadden (sic) by that. They know better then (sic) to leave ropes hanging from a tree.”
Somewhere, Michel Foucault is smiling.
I am not a fan of modern art largely because most artists deliberately go out of their way to be obscure. This artistic display might have been misinterpreted by some, but that’s no reason to stifle artistic expression. Art that requires “explanation” isn’t art and both students and administrators should think about what they lose when they require an artist to toe an invisible line about how they express themselves.