As previously noted, I've had a hard time getting worked up about the Berlin Opera's Mozart jihad because the staging in question seems pretty lame-o. But that's not a problem for Boston College art teacher Martha Bayles, a visiting fellow at the Aspen Institute Berlin and a woman who doesn't sound like she'd wear flipflops to a museum. She's in stratospheric dudgeon—not at the self-censorship but at the artistic transgression:
Ever since the high church of art was founded in the late 19th century, its modus operandi has been M. O. : maximum offense. True believers hold that art is radically free, "capricious" and "not even bound to truth and goodness."
Wait, these words are actually from the pope's Sept. 12 speech at the University of Regensburg, in which he strongly implied that this is how God is understood by all Muslims—and by assorted Protestants and modern theologians, as well. The pope exaggerated: each of these traditions has disputed and debated the idea of God as "beyond good and evil."
But there is no such debate in the high church of art.
Its creed is really quite simple: If law and custom allow 25 yards of freedom in which to make art, and the artist feels that 50 yards is needed to create the work, then he or she must take 100 yards, thereby "pushing the envelope" of what law and custom will tolerate.
Whole hissy fit here. The mystery quote comes when Bayles says "the rest of us…are tired of being pilloried by artists." I can't remember the last time I felt pilloried by an artist, unless you count the time I had my caricature done at Coney Island, and it came out looking even dumber than I'd been expecting.