On Lars von Trier, Enfant Terrible of Danish Art Film

  • Mette Hjort


THE PROBLEM WITH PROVOCATION: ON LARS VON TRIER, ENFANT TERRIBLE OF DANISH ART FILM Anyone interested in contemporary art is likely to have spent a good deal of time pondering the nature and role of artistic provocation. Provocation as a crucial feature of artistic practice was largely unknown before 1800 (Walker 1999: 1). The idea of 'shocking the recipient' was, however, 'a dominant principle of artistic intent' for members of the various avant-garde movements that emerged in the early decades of the 20th century (Peter Bürger, cited in Walker: 2), and at this point the provocateur is a well-known and even expected figure in the landscape of art. It is not difficult to think of examples of artworks that are self-evidently about creating a sense of outrage. Let me mention just a few well-known works that prompted a public outcry: Rick Gibson's Human Earrings (1985), which consists of a...