Monday, February 06, 2006

Apparently Irony Not One of Muhammad’s Teachings

I have continued thinking over this issue and have some new thoughts posted at the bottom, please review them as well.
E. Wenzel
Director & Head Bloggist, Art or Idiocy?

Truly a case of art or idiocy is the recent fury over some political cartoons published BACK IN SEPTEMBER by a Danish newspaper.


Visit the links below for various accounts, timelines and perspectives on the controversy.

Here is a link to ALL of the cartoons, albeit heavily pixilated. While some are admittedly edgy, some are actually quite sweet and straightforward. SEE YOU IN HELL, INFIDEL!

Wikipedia is there anything you don’t know?

It seems the offending paper actually apologized on February 1st.

Excellent reportage from Der Spiegel

MMM That’s Good Satire!


I don’t think the publisher’s intended or even imagined such a massive backlash. Art comes with responsibility. One should always weigh the pros and cons of their actions. That said, I do not find these cartoons offensive at all. Some of them are even funny. None are shocking or particularly clever. Critically, the bomb image has everything you need: direct imagery which requires no explanation, and a dada-like hybrid of objects. I am not Muslim and currently practice the Agnostic faith [sic]. So I can not even pretend to know where those in the Middle East are coming from. But I still think those whose protests led to violence, destruction and even death are out of line and are over reacting. And those who call for the deaths of the cartoonists and editors are totally off base. They are doing so much harm to Islam. Essentially they are living up to, and beyond what the cartoons satirized. Those actions and statements are as damning to Islam as the actions of fundamentalist Christians are to Christianity.

It may also seem odd that the Bush Administration has sided with the Muslims on this, but not really. This is because our current government is interested in curtailing freedom of speech in favor of religious zealotry. Freedom of speech allows us to openly criticize the obvious faults of Bush & co. Religious zealotry roles back civil rights and equal rights; leaves abortion clinics bombed in the name of life and homosexuality outlawed and constitutionally discriminated against.


Further thoughts on the Foofaraw

Very few Westerners can boast any sorting of understanding of the Middle East, its culture, or religious faiths. Watching more and more coverage on this escalating situation, it has become clear there is much much more behind this than simple caricature. These images have touched off tense nerves and strained relations. Essentially what we are seeing is a culture clash that has been building for decades. If not these cartoons, then something else would have caused this eruption.

We Westerners are not viewing the images in a context that at all resembles the context of those who are offended and rioting over it. It has been centuries since the images of any of Western culture’s religious figures have held such importance. But in the Muslim world the image and the idea of Muhammed is very very sacred. We Westerners are miss educated and ignorant. But this is not all the lazy couch potato’s fault. The media, the government and educational institutions have not made the history or ideas of cultures beyond our own very available.

I went to a well respected high school, but my study of history consisted of U.S. History, Economics and Western Civilization. All the years from kindergarten through high school we hear the about same damn Pilgrims, Revolution and Civil War (and those are all subject to question). But only one year to learn about Western Europe. And you can forget Asia Africa and the Middle East. I feel like an idiot.

And so should the President. During his State of the Union last week he took a moment to directly address the people of Iran. He earnestly spoke to them about how the U.S. supports them in their fight for Democracy, their desire to be free and overthrow their dictator. Is he a retarded boy in a bubble? Does his cabinet just say, “yes, yes, Mr. President! Iran LOVES Democracy! Of course, they want to be free of that evil dictator! No, they are just dying to have Haliburton open a branch in Tehran! Sure, sure, we’ll get you another pudding cup, you just rest your little head. OK, let me go through the airlock, we don’t want any News to get in.” I mean fuck. This is the West’s attitude. “Of course they want to be like us! Who doesn't like American Idol? Why, you’d have to be some sort of Freedom-hater to not want our system of taxes and healthcare!”

On top of this is our miss understanding and ignorance of Europe. And this whole catastrophe over these cartoons, I hope, is highlighting how everyone just needs to take a step back and not launch into angry redirect.

At least, for once, the US is staying aloof of things. America is not really at the center of the heat, and today, a spokesman did a very good job of supporting free speech and freedom of the press while stressing the need for religious tolerance. Who was that guy? Let’s put him in charge.

But this is very serious. If you listen to how the violence is spreading, it has quickly moved beyond the cartoons. Christian areas in Muslim countries have been sacked. Palestine is going nuts. Fucking embassies are being firebombed. And many are seeing this as leading to people voicing grievances in general against the West. Iraq, and Gaza strip being the main two. With all that, it is very hard not to give into believing the Muslim stereotype of a mad bomber.

How will all this play out? Is it crazy to fear the worst? Are these cartoons the equivalent of Arch Duke Ferdinand’s assassination (that caused WWI)? At the heart of all this is the Muslim world’s anger an frustration. And I don’t really think many of us understand it or can begin to criticize it. We can at least try to understand it, though. Let me note, though, nomatter what, I can not support calls for murder and beheading over cartoons. As much as the West needs to understand where Islam is coming from, Islam needs to understand it is not acceptable to march through London calling for that.

This may not be the most directly related to art. I am not going to talk about how powerful images must be in order to cause this. What is happening is not some semiotic triumph. But this is art. And this is culture. And it is a million times more important than who LACMA has picked as its next director. Read what Hans Haacke has to say about art and politics below. Art world, get your fucking head out of your asshole and pay attention!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dan Flavin in Marfa Texas. Interesting, captivating?

Or no?