Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Art and Bias

Last weekend was Richard Wagner's birthday. Wagner not only wrote some of the most well-known operas, but also articles in which he condemned Jewish artists, especially musicians.

The Jew, who is innately incapable of enouncing himself to us artistically through either his outward appearance or his speech, and least of all through his singing. has nevertheless been able in the widest-spread of modern art-varieties, to wit in Music, to reach the rulership of public taste.
Does this change how we understand or appreciate his art? How much does the artist affect the artwork? Do you see O.J. Simpson or Mel Gibson's films differently? A classic Woody Allen stand-up album has him introduced as "author, actor, comedian, and despoiler of women." When he was doing his skinny Jewish nebbish routine in the 60s this was a funny line, but in light of events in the last decade one cannot hear that joke and not cringe.

How much does the life and views of the artist change how we understand his or her work?