Letter: Why isn’t the art museum listening? | AspenTimes.com

Letter: Why isn’t the art museum listening?

Why isn’t the art museum listening?

In 1999, the National Atomic Museum in Albuquerque, New Mexico, added “atomic bomb earrings” to their gift shop. One earring was a depiction of “Fat Man,” the other, “Little Boy,” the two atomic bombs dropped on Japan in 1945.

When the earrings were seen on the museum’s website by some Japanese visitors, the discovery resulted in the city of Hiroshima sending a formal protest. The earrings were removed.

I see the current flap about the iPads-on-tortoises exhibit at the Aspen Art Museum as a similar situation. The outrage isn’t about harm to the tortoises, it’s about mockery of life. People are angry because the art piece, like the earrings, trivializes life in favor of a snicker. Some might consider it “cute,” but some also considered the earrings “cute.” The point, however, is that even if harm isn’t being done to the tortoises, harm can be inflicted upon people’s feelings, their sensibilities.

Of course, that’s exactly what art is supposed to do: Make people feel things. But a person would have a choice about being humiliated in a performance art piece in order to manipulate the feelings of those watching; the tortoises have no choice in this “mock turtle” display. Therein lies the debasing of life that so outrages those witnessing it.

The museum in New Mexico responded to a city’s outrage. Why is it that our own city’s outrage doesn’t matter?

Les Helton


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