AN ERA OF TINY COMMOTIONS

FROM THE NEA FOUR TO THE CAMPAIGN-FINANCE SCANDALS, THE '90S ARE THE DOWNSIZED DECADE

You've heard of the Hollywood Ten, the Little Rock Nine and the Chicago Seven. By fate or design or bad luck, they came to embody their tumultuous times, as we social commentators like to say: the McCarthy era, the end of enforced racial segregation, the street riots of the 1960s. But have you heard of the NEA Four? A generation from now, historians may see that hapless quartet as embodying the less than tumultuous times of the 1990s. For this is the era of tiny commotions.

The NEA Four are "performance artists" to whom, several years ago, the National Endowment for...

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