Can You Separate Art From the Artist?

by Evan Sawdey and Brice Ezell

7 July 2015

When it comes to enjoying great art made by not-so-great people, where can you reasonably draw the line?
Sun Kil Moon's Mark Kozelek 

The infamously cantankerous Sun Kil Moon frontman Mark Kozelek added yet another controversy to his name on 1 June 2015. While performing at London’s Barbican venue, Kozelek openly called out journalist Laura Snapes on stage, using misogynistic language—sadly, to the glee of his audience. Snapes later wrote about the incident for the Guardian. This incident no doubt triggered questions about just how much people continue to put up with Kozelek’s grouchy old man routine, particularly as it continues to rear its sexist and homophobic head. More interestingly, however, is the way in which his behavior plays into the immortal query in the realm of aesthetics: “Can you separate art from the artist?” Is it easy for people to make Sun Kil Moon’s Benji one of the most acclaimed albums of 2014 knowing Kozelek’s public persona?
In the latest PopTalk podcast, Evan Sawdey and Brice Ezell pull apart the tricky distinctions that are at play in the “art vs. artist” battle, using examples including Roman Polanski, Lostprophets, and the aforementioned Kozelek. What the conversation ultimately reveals is that when it comes to enjoying art made by flawed people, the lines are never easy to draw.

Brice Ezell and Evan Sawdey are both writers at PopMatters, where Evan also serves as Interviews Editor.

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