Trying To Understand Acts Of Senseless Artistic Destruction

On Sunday, at London’s Tate Modern Art Museum, a visitor walked up to the Mark Rothko painting Black on Maroon and boldly wrote some words on the painting in black paint, then left the museum.

Today a Russian named Vladimir Umamets claimed responsibility for the act, but said it was not an act of vandalism.  According to the BBC, he was later was arrested and held on suspicion of causing criminal damage.  The BBC also reports that Umamets claims to be the founder of a “movement” called “Yellowism,” which apparently posits that “Art allows us to take what someone’s done and put a new message on it.”

I don’t know if there really is a “movement” called Yellowism, as opposed to one nutty jerk seeking to justify an otherwise senseless act of artistic destruction, but his philosophy is asinine.  Part of the joy of art is its aspirational aspect.  People appreciate art that reflects great talent that they don’t possess.  Anyone who thinks a great painting is just a canvas for their personal aggrandizement is just piggybacking on greatness they could never achieve on their own talent.

What would happen if every museum patron felt free to scrawl whatever they pleased on a Rothko — or the Mona Lisa?  It wouldn’t be long before a Rothko ceased to be a Rothko and instead became a patch of random graffiti.  If I wanted to see that, I would book a flight for inner city Detroit.  Come to think of it, that might be a suitable punishment for whomever actually defaced the painting:  sentence them to a few years scrubbing away the graffiti in British toilets.

Which Way Are The Post-Debate Winds Blowing?

Was the first presidential debate a true game-changer that fundamentally reset a campaign that seemed to be trending in President Obama’s favor?  Or, is it just a bump in the road that won’t have any long-term significance?

The latest polling suggests that the first debate — widely viewed to be a big positive for Mitt Romney — has had a significant impact, in Ohio and nationally.  In Ohio, two post-debate polls show a race in which the candidates are separated by one point — and in one poll, by WeAskAmerica, Mitt Romney actually holds a one-point lead.  To my knowledge, that is the first Ohio poll that has shown Romney with a lead — and those two polls follow a series of polls that showed Obama with an increasing lead.  Nationally, the polls indicate a much tighter race, and the Rasmussen poll gives Romney a two-point edge.

I’m skeptical of the polls this election cycle, because I don’t see how pollsters can forecast turnout with any kind of accuracy.  I’ve thought all along that the race in Ohio is extremely close, regardless of what the polls have said.  But even if you credit the polls, I’m not sure this shift is the result of one debate.  Other things — such as the terrorist attack in Libya and the less-than-flattering stories about security at the American consulate there, increasing gas prices, and the lingering economic doldrums, among other facts — may have seeped into the national consciousness and changed some minds as Election Day draws near.

Whatever the reason, I think the race in Ohio right now is tight as two coats of paint, and is likely to stay that way.  That means more TV ads, more candidate visits, more fliers in the mail, and more polls until Election Day arrives.