Hysterical reactions to “controversial” installations are a fixture of public art, but an ongoing saga in Kansas over a topless and headless female statue elevates the form to an obscene theatrics. The usual mechanisms of public outrage have a special flavor in Overland Park, Kansas, where it’s possible for citizens to empanel a grand jury and pursue charges against the statue, which one conservative interest group, the American Family Association of Kansas and Missouri, is now attempting to do for the second time. The first time around, the Kansas City Star reports, the city spent $35,000 defending the statue, and the reactionaries failed. The law allowing citizens to empanel their own grand juries was passed in the state’s legislature earlier this year.
The sculpture, “Accept or Reject” by the Chinese artist Yu Chang, depicts a headless female body holding a digital camera outstretched and trained back at itself. The piece is part of the China-U.S. Sculpture Park at the Overland Park Arboretum, which was inaugurated in November 2011 and contains 11 pieces gifted to the city by six Chinese artists.
Though it’s inevitable that such dim initiatives bubble up in the vapid arenas of local politics — and, occasionally, surface nationally — it is reassuring that the city has continued to defend the statue, even if that defense comes at non-trivial expense to taxpayers. The petty politics of “offense,” as Salman Rushdie has famously said, are always amusing because they’re premised on a self-imposed problem and yet call for a coercive solution. But try explaining that to the American Family Association of Kansas and Missouri, who had the great sense to produce this baffling piece of YouTube dreck (or is it brilliantly Lynchian?) to commemorate their efforts: