Channel 4 heavily followed Jimmy Carr destroys art. Someone must have thought he was smart. The broadcaster boasted that it had acquired works by “problematic” artists, including Picasso, Eric Gill, Rolf Harris and Adolf Hitler, and investigated whether some works should be wiped off the face of the earth.
The idea seemed clear enough. Take a comedian with a reputation for sailing close to the wind – among other things, Carr was recently on the news for making a joke about the Holocaust – then add Hitler, money, and an audience vote, with some “debate.” “on the fact you can separate the art from the artist. Guaranteed gold.
The channel’s head of content, Ian Katz, said the show would continue its reputation for “iconoclasm and irreverence”. A backlash began before it aired. The publisher of the Jewish Chronicle he said he was ‘trolling the Jewish community’. “
“This is not a debate on free speech, this is a desperate call for attention,” said talkative radio presenter Nick Ferrari, who knows the calls for attention.
Despite all the buildup, the show itself was still shocking, but not for the reasons Channel 4 would be skipping. Standing in a brightly lit warehouse, Carr began throwing works of art at each other in a kind of moral death fight, with supporters defending each of them.
Dom Jolly attacked Rolf Harris; Janet Street-Porter attached photos of Sally Mann’s children. In a thousand years, Charlie Brooker and Armando Iannucci could not have invented anything stranger. At the end of each section the audience voted and one of the songs was destroyed.
The destruction – by fire, paintball, chainsaw, etc. – was stupid, but no more than the “debate” that preceded it. If the works are worthy of discussion, they are important by definition. If they aren’t, why bother with them?
The tone was everywhere. Carr kept making little jokes, which were definitely out of place. “If you want to save Hitler, move to the right – this is the far right,” he told the crowd. He couldn’t decide if he was Kenneth Clark, Mary Whitehouse, or an announcer in a rowdy nightclub.
When the “lost” works were destroyed, while playing the bass, the interviewees expressed their sadness that the art was destroyed. You could feel they knew they were uncomfortable. So why do it? The debate on art is almost never about its existence, but about its context.
It was significant that Jolyon Rubinstein, defending a painting attributed to Hitler, came as close to the program as possible to a compelling argument: that Hitler destroyed art. It’s scary to think that manufacturers were limited only by the budget. If they had a billion pounds in reserve, would they have thrown a Caravaggio (murderer) against a Gauguin (pedophile)?
Yes, Carr and his gang of cronies and rabble have destroyed some works of art. But in the process, this pointless trolling exercise did something worse than that: it wasted our time. No doubt some of the creators will be happy with this kind of reaction, claiming it was “provocative”.
It wasn’t, not in any significant way. He was an idiotic, pathetic, depressing little program that should have embarrassed almost everyone involved. He should not be destroyed, but kept as an example. Those who don’t learn from terrible TV are bound to repeat it.