Seems with recent events that this question has been sprung upon the unwitting public to take responsibility for what they consume.
But is it necessary to separate what is created from who created it?
After discussing this very subject with a lazy-eyed undertaker (sounds like a character Tom Waits dreamt up) I realised that there are differing viewpoints on the utility and validity of such an argument. We were both a few beers in and had know each other no more than an hour but the intelectual bout was on. My stance was that separating the two is essential. Context is everything in approaching a work of art however, to reach an understanding (unaffected by opinions of the artist as a person) a separation must be made between the message the artist is trying to get across and who they are as a human being. Some artists have actively sought out this divide, the minimalists being one example.
My opponent, the cadaver-stylist, felt differently. His argument was based on the idea that, if the piece is to have any merit whatsoever, then the author needs to put a part of themselves into the work. I couldn't completely discount his point (nor him mine) yet we continued our intellectual tussle until, inevitably, we had to agree to disagree.
It was a shame as only on reflection did it occur to me he was coming from a performing arts background; that (in his view) the art lay in the actual performance itself and that the creator and the created were inextricably linked - the artist forever tied to his creations.
In some regards he is right; yet to expect to pile, not only an artist's entire oeuvre onto their shoulders, but everything unrelated to their work as well?
This is an unfair and unsustainable requirement.
The earlier mentioned recent events are asking whether enjoying something which has been created (or even represented) by a morally repugnant individual, is acceptable. The current knee jerk reaction is to immediately discount their entire output and to view it with a belief that it was all created with a lingering undercurrent of malice and/or salaciousness. This is where the argument of separation can conveniently step in to absolve the viewer from in effect, becoming an accessory to the wrongdoing of the creator. But is this even something that needs consideration?
I am of the camp that (once something is finished) views an artwork as separate from its creator. Yes it will have the marks of the person/s who bore it however, it must then be judged on its own merits. This conclusion was first reached during group critical analysis while attending art school. I intuitively realised that the work which I had created wasn't me, and when it was praised or ripped apart (as was more often the case) it was pointless to be emotionally affected by it as, after all, it was the work being put under the spotlight. Admittedly, it can be very difficult to criticise a personal piece of work for fear of causing hurt. Even still, the work needs to be viewed in an objective light and a separation has to be made if the artist wants to grow and improve.
Digressions aside, I brought this up as its how I view my own creations; once they are complete they are out on their own to fend for themselves. Neither can be held accountable for the other after the process of creation is over.
If separation isn't made then the logical conclusion is an entire list of crimes, misdemeanors, allegations and general public opinion to go along with everything created. A comedian may say terrible things but they are doing it for the effect, to cause a reaction - using humour and absurdity in their performace to point at different aspects of what it is to be a modern human and to deal with our complicated lives.
I tried to put forth these points to the undertaker yet unfortunately, I couldn't compose the argument as eloquently as I have here. After our stalemate, my opponent and I moved onto other topics despite there both being other points that should have been brought up.
What our argument showed is a testament to the versatility and depth of the subject of art and its place in the world. If it stirs effective debate then, it is in someway doing its job.