In “When Felonies Become Form” ( ARTnews, Summer 2016) Andrew Russeth provides a sampling of the art / crime nexus. Perhaps most interesting is his point that artists’ privilege usually immunizes them from criminal prosecution–artist Joe Gibbon’s arrest and prosecution for ‘bank robbery as an artwork’ is the exception that proves the rule. Russeth refers to Richard Nixon’s concept of ‘executive privilege,’ which describes presidential immunity from judicial action. This reminds us of Giorgio Agamben’s concept of ‘the state of exception,’ wherein state power excludes itself from the rule of law. Identifying the privilege that protects artists who deliberately undertake serious felonious behavior and call it art is important because it reminds us of how power works in the USA and Europe. Non-privileged persons, marginalized and at high risk for state punishment, would never dream of recording themselves robbing a bank and calling it art.
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