Letter: Art without tears

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The Independent Online
Sir: The "Sensation" exhibition at the Royal Academy is a bleak evocation of some of the most cynical and distasteful preoccupations in our society. It is an exhibition of necrophilia, the ultimate 1997 collection of dead-end "art". These images do not provoke contemplation, they work by assaulting the mind in a series of "horror bites".

Along with all the other visitors I saw filing past the sculpture of a tree hung with dismembered bodies, I was not moved to tears. I reacted with revulsion, not pity or compassion. We do not know these victims and we are not encouraged to know them. We are coerced into viewing this scene of abject horror with a turn of mind akin to the snuff film fanatic. Here is a body with the genitals torn away, "Look!" says the sculpture. "Grotesque but fascinating," replies the mind.

The cynics among us will leave this exhibition exhilarated, they will have been moved and will no doubt applaud those who have had the capacity to move them. Yet to witness violence without experiencing sadness and compassion is to die a little more inside ourselves. But then isn't that what the cult of cynicism is all about?


Seaford, East Sussex