FBI photo-redaction is surprisingly artistic


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Are you sure those are redacted?

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I’ve always preferred the black boxes over the eyes.

Good art is communicating an idea, the FBI redaction does that eloquently.

It’s “artistic” because it has something to say, redaction says “we don’t want you to know this”

Most art says little, when it does it is mostly in-jokes between the artist and his friends to share some idea they all agree with.

To make such art even more worthless, the “quality” of the art is judged by whether we agree with the views of the artist, even if those play no part in the creation of the art. If the artist is a “good person” who “believes in the right stuff”, his work will be lauded. BoingBoing is itself the classic example of this, artists who support causes that the editors like are given prominence even when there is no message or even competency in their art.

FBI redaction on the other hand must by its nature speak to everyone, but at the same time it communicates an idea that by design is something that the viewer of the art does not agree with and thus shows more courage.

The value of any idea is based upon its surprise. It you abhor racism or pollution, a picture that says “pollution and racism are bad” tells you nothing you didn’t know. Even if the artist has tried to show shocking racism or pollution or whatever, it does not shock or surprise because you already know that these things are bad, indeed you have chosen to view the works of an artist who shares your views.

A “shocking” picture of racism is the equivalent of someone shouting very loudly “some numbers are bigger than others” over and over again.

One reason so much modern art says nothing to anyone is not the fault of the artists, but the viewers.

We can now choose which art we experience.

So we choose art that agrees with our views on society, the natural world, politics, etc.

Artists want to be experienced (and paid) so they pander to whatever preconceived ideas we want reinforced and an artist who tries to say things we don’t such as “racism is good” or “pollution is acceptable” will be ignored and starve and whatever message he has will be ignored because we don’t agree with him.

Imagine the fate of an artist who puts on a public exhibition that says “Black people should live in polluted places”, compared to one that produces art that complains about black people in bad conditions.

This is a a failure in the art market and market failures are legitimate areas for government intervention and we need an organisation immune to the nepotism, cronyism, corruption and fixed political views of the “art establishment”

So we have the FBI

The FBI does not care if its reaction offends people, indeed it is easy to imagine that the sort of person chosen to do redactions actively wants to annoy the people who see his work.

We can imagine the mindset of someone who joined the FBI to fight terrorism, kidnapping, espionage, corruption and other important wrongdoings and is instead assigned to blanking out stuff that nosey people are asking for.

Unlike a mainstream artist who does not work for glory, indeed his name is a state secret and unlike a mainstream artist he can never hope for riches or even the approval of his peers.

Unlike a mainstream artist in the US he takes risks, for if his art fails to obscure correctly he risks sanctions that include prison. We see a lot of “protest” art, but when was the last time you heard of an American artist prepared to paint something that would get him in jail ?

FBI art thus has an edge and an intellectual depth denied to nearly all modern artists who mostly indulge in graphical masturbation for the benefit of a coterie that already knows what they have to say.

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