Destroy My Art – Cancel culture or paradigm shift?

Date of news: 8 December 2020

In September 2020, photography biennial BredaPhoto opened an artwork by Erik Kessels in a local Dutch skate park, called ‘Destroy My Face’, consisting of dozens of computer generated pictures of women’s faces that were ‘deformed’ by an overdose of plastic surgery. Skaters were invited to ride over these pictures, in order to gradually erase them. The day after the opening, a collective started a petition against this artwork, that invites violence against women. Within a week, the artwork was removed.

In the last five to ten years, a large number of artists have been criticised heavily for ethical rather than aesthetic reasons, be it about the artwork itself or about the behaviour or opinions of the artist. The issue raises a question about the autonomy of art: is 'cancel culture' going too far or is there a paradigm shift going on? RICH-researcher Marcel van den Haak wrote an essay about this topic.