Should the work stand on its own?


If redemption means righting the wrongs, then no, we can’t change history.

If it means learning from our mistakes, changing our behavior, and ultimately evolving society, yes, virtue is worthwhile.

When I’m feeling down about humanity, I like to listen to Hans Rosling (rest in peace).


The more-apt comparison would be

Hitler built the Autobahns

Who boycotts the Autobahns for this reason?


Unbridled use of internal combustion engines are a source of all sorts of current environmental problems.


Oh, don’t get me wrong: I’m personally against personal transportation. I’d be happy to eliminate any number of human customs, but my politics are too progressive for most. :slight_smile:

Anyhow, this vector is off-topic. If anyone is interested in hearing my views, feel free to PM me.



and some more characters


This thread has so much amazing stuff in it that I don’t have much to add. I would like to briefly add my voice to a few points.

  • this is an age old problem, and I think one of our virtues is being able to hold this contradiction in our heads and just live with it. It is unresolvable in any generalized way.

  • there is a difference in how we can grapple with it depending on contexts including: is the artist alive and profiting from the work, or not? Are we studying the work in an academic or practice way, or engaging as entertainment? …

  • I believe we can continue to appreciate and learn from the work of bad people. I don’t think we should do that without acknowledging their actions and adding that to the context of their work.

  • humans are complex, messy, contradictory, beautiful, and vile all at once. Artists, inventors, and product creators are all humans. We need to deal with these contradictions every day with everybody.

  • This thread really focused on art in many ways. However, both Synthroyek and Weinstein are far more commerce focused than art focused. does that make a difference? For me it does. Especially with Synthrotek, I see no reason to give him my business, just like I won’t go to a store run by reprehensible people. But we live in a world of deeply intertwined complex systems, so we all have to navigate them in a way that makes sense for our individual context.

I’m sure I could keep going, but most of this has been covered in a really nice way.


Should the work stand on its own?

Well, I think the good news and the bad news is you don’t actually have a choice. Either it will or it won’t.

What I mean is, you’ll either think about the artist’s life as you consider a work, or you’re just unaware of the context the work was made in…and so you can’t fold it in. The third option–which isn’t actually a thing–is pretending you’re unaware of the context because you somehow [fool yourself into thinking you’re] departmentalising those thoughts. But that’s also the work not standing on it’s own.

I think the thread has steered more in the direction of “ok, what do we do now that we know”, which is a good place for this discussion to go.

Personally, I wouldn’t want to contribute financially to a person who has done reprehensible things, but I would be completely incapable of trying to impose a kind of cap (which I’m going to call an artificial cap) on my reaction to a powerful work.

…and if there’s ugliness I’m aware of it’s going to be folded in there with it too. And that makes art not simple, or easy, or always pleasant. I don’t get a choice in this–It’s someone else’s life I’m looking in on.


What did bowie do, can’t find any info online?



Ash nazg durbatulûk, ash nazg gimbatul,
ash nazg thrakatulûk agh burzum-ishi krimpatul.

anyway tolkein is fucking racist!
(his work i mean, didn’t know the guy)


I don’t know about Tolkien but Lovecraft was mentioned once before in this thread and I know I can’t read his stuff, partly because it’s badly written and partly because he was very much a racist. This showed in his writings though, which is yet another step.



We can add C.S. Lewis, T.S. Eliot, Ezra Pound…Heidegger was problematic in this regard too. Even Walt Whitman probably deserves opprobrium for his racial views.

There’s really no end to this. We can return to the “founding fathers” of the United States, most of whom owned slaves and defended slavery through their deaths. Some even raped them. Universal Suffrage was a thing almost unimagined at the time. Do we condemn them too and cease reading their works?

Hard to stop reading those works when one of those is the US Constitution itself.

Which–in my personal opinion–gets to the congenital defect at the heart of this nation, built on the twin pillars of genocide and slavery–but that’s another matter.


i think @Angela and @emenel summed it up well in their last posts.
There’s no possible separation of a work from its context. Depending on the viewer/reader/listener, the context will be known more or less extensively and that knowledge will certainly be a part of the work’s reception.

Sometimes the work is great and it would be foolish to ignore it, or even impossible to not be moved by it, even if the artist doesn’t fit in one’s moral/political worldview / holds offensive views / etc. It’s easier with people past away i guess. (Thinking of Knut Hamsun here.)
If one wants to scrutiny (or even enforce) the acceptability of the deeds of every person one engages with, it is bound to derail quickly into another horrible organization of society.


I was thinking this too. Id add flawed, weak, corruptable and obviously subject to the more general bigotries / politics of their day.

Hopefully a creative work is where they begin to transcend that condition in some way. Naive perhaps and only partially true but I still cant let it go.


this was cool :slightly_smiling_face:
sam harris
admittedly un-musical
seems un-aware
that his arguments spring
from the colonial mindset…

what is 'civilization?
what is a 'work of art?


At the current time, work generally stands on its own for me: the creative act(and all human endeavor, really) is not something that stems fully from the mind, it also stems from the heart/emotion and other aspects of human ‘being’ which aren’t always corrupted by the same influences that corrupt a human ‘mind’ by itself(and it’s impossible for any one human to judge whether another human being was using their mind, their heart, their soul, and whether one or all of these parts were corrupt or not, and at what specific time it all happened… humans are too complex, and they change all the time: one could even say that every single person is an asshole at some point… some of us just get caught more easily).

Case in point: @ioflow performed a questionable act of censoring/deleting content here. @ioflow’s ‘work’ of moderation could call into question his entire character if that one single act or ‘work’ of moderation does not stand on its own: was it a harmless mistake? did he react too quickly and emotionally without thinking it through as to how you can’t keep things positive simply by censoring everything that may seem negative? if so, is this indicative of how his style of moderation shall go from now on? is he not capable of learning from the mistake?
actually, most forums would discipline the moderator who made such a mistake by taking away their privileges of moderation(at least the ability to ‘delete’ things); i doubt we will do that here on these forums… because we don’t judge the person by their work, nor the work by the person, and we respect everyone’s capacity for change and growth… if we didn’t behave this way, i wouldn’t be allowed to post here at all anymore considering all my trolling mischief on these forums :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:
:fu: (<-hey! look at that, these forums have a middle_finger emoji… how ironic, too: a middle-finger stands on its own! :wink: )

This does NOT mean, however, that one couldn’t make more detailed and context-specific decisions about how to interact with any ‘work’:

  • a painting by a rapist might not gain much appreciation by me if the act of their rape is too present in my mind while witnessing the painting(even if the painting involved no rape itself)…

  • then again, there may have been rapists and murderers cheering in the audience applause i hear on Johnny Cash’s “At Folsom Prison (Live)” album, and by buying the album(many times over and over again in different formats over the course of my life), i have, to some extent, supported the idea that even those criminals in that prison deserve some form of respect and consideration(as this is what Johnny himself was implying by playing there for their benefit and entertainment in the first place).

The question itself, “Should the work stand on its own?” is actually kinda ‘meta’: i think there is no black-or-white/yes-or-no answer but whatever answer a person comes up with will both stand-on-its-own and be inseparable from the person answering the question. If I say a work stands on its own, it’s not like my mind will always see it that way. A work can stand on its own, just as an audience’s perceptions can stand on its own just for that one work, and then change later in response to a similar work in a similar context, because time inevitably ushers change in all forms, and allows nothing to stand on its own eventually :open_mouth: :thinking:
But, in my humble opinion, there can be no “should” to any question which involves such vast subjectivity as is involved in the perception of art.


But then how else will I be able to tell someone that they’re wrong about it?


Oh, we are creative people, I’m sure we will find a way. :wink:


There is no truth, only evidence :slight_smile:

I’ve learned a lot about myself from reading this thread, thanks to everyone who has contributed.


To pose a question, is it the obligation of the listener/viewer of art to learn about the artist or artists involved with a work before encountering it, as often you have to pay (support) before hand? Is it morally wrong to not take the time to do that? If so, what do you say about supporting artists who directly try their best to be anonymous? Just some thoughts flying around my head while reading the thread.