January 31, 2015

Spain: The Opening week for "Immanence"

I streamed reports of my recent travel to Spain via Facebook first before this weblog. I wanted my FB audience to be informed of what had happened during and around my opening at Miguel Marcos Gallery... I suppose that since I don't track my audience in this weblog, my assumptions that breaking news is better suited for FB will go so far on unconfirmed. In any case, here is what I streamed on FB, all in one place:


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This week's trip to Barcelona for my opening at Miguel Marcos is coming to an end. As it always goes here, it's been a whirlwind. Wave after wave of friends and drinks lifted high for welcoming toasts. It's so great to see everyone again.
What I am about to stream are some photos I shot along the way. Sorry FB, it's not my way to update this beast in real time. But I will try to make up a little bit with some illustrations of how things went on this journey.
So for starters, a pic towards the taxi's windshield on the way to Miguel's gallery.

The flight was early and I took the bus from El Prat to Plaza Catalunya. I thought I would drop in on Jack Davidson for morning coffee so I walked the three or so blocks from the great plaza to his place... but with a phone call at his front door, I found him out having a swim. No can do, but we would meet another time. On I walked another five blocks to Nacho Arnó Escribano's moto shop Attack for hug hello. He's doing great, back in the saddle after a short hiatus, so great to see. You really get a feel of Barcelona while initially navigating through the Cerdà Plan, the chamfered city block corners really do force pedestrians to weave into the city in a way few others do.

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Galeria Miguel Marcos is located at the top of the old city on Carrer de las Jonqueres between Urquinaona (just east of Plaza Catalunya) and the Palau de la Musica Catalana (pictured here). When locals ask me where the gallery is, I simply tell them that it's across from the Casa de las Mantas, which never fails to bring out a flash of recognition in their eyes.

The Palau de la Musica is a feast for the eyes, Lluís Domènech i Montaner's design in the very beginning of the 20th century, and I'm flashing its picture here to give you a little bit of the flavor of the neighborhood.

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Once I had arrived at the gallery after noon last Thursday, I found Miguel and his staff buried in a thousand things to do. So I gave the installation a thumbs up (not a hi and bye, but a sincere endorsement, the show looks great) and met up with Ana Revilla and Iñaki Lacosta for a long lunch and stroll through the Barri Gotic to catch up since last we met. They're from Zaragoza, Ana is an art curator who is about to finish her PhD thesis on artist collaboratives and Iñaki owns a visual effects company called Entropy Studio. http://www.entropystudio.net/ Golden hearted polymaths, the conversation never ends and I never want it to, either.

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The show, the show, the show. We had a lot of people come in for the opening at Galeria Miguel Marcos, I met a lot of collectors who have my paintings, and I met quite a few ones who might. I might be a bit shy with social media and perhaps in the openings around town, but if you get me in front of my paintings with sincere questions, I'm a chatter box.

This time, I was a chatter box in Spanish.. or, as it is called in Spain, Castellano. People have been praising me about how I've improved, but I still don't believe it. It's interesting how one can yet go far with a limited vocabulary, rough cutting what little I know into chatter that expresses my thoughts at least 70-80% of the time. Ok, maybe 60-80% It all depends on how much I've been drinking and the jet lag.

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What I am posting -thus far- as photos of my show at Galeria Miguel Marcos are only the few that I could squeeze in mid conversation a couple of times at the opening. Miguel had a photographer working the scene and they will have proper install shots done soon, so once I get them, I'll post them here on FB.

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Here are some 360 Panorama shots of the install of my show at Galeria Miguel Marcos, shorn of people.

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And here's another shot of opening night at Galeria Miguel Marcos, and that's all I've got. The gallery has promised to send me the professional photos asap.

Miguel runs a tight ship on opening night. The door is shut until precisely the opening hour, the staff is on station and completely prepared, bartenders ready to pour. The public flooded in almost en masse and stayed there until just past the close.

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The day after my opening at Galeria Miguel Marcos, I reunited with Ana Revilla and Iñaki Lacosta for lunch. We walked from the gallery to MACBA (Museumof Contemporary Art, Barcelona), a classic Richard Meier building located in the Ciutat Vella just north of El Raval. There are three shows I saw there that I'd like to mention to my FB pals:

1. Ana told me about a show featuring Carol Rama, an artist almost overlooked by history (she's 94, it's about time, people).
link: http://www.macba.cat/.../exhibition-carol-.../1/exhibitions/expo

Great stuff. Weird, twisted, waaaay before her time and supremely of her time... at the same time. Friend of Luis Bruñuel and Man Ray, both an outsider and insider artist. The installation is impeccable and even though I thought I would be irritated by the thematically categorical layout, I was immediately absorbed by it. Her work recalled for me simultaneously many artists to come and many artists long past. Of her work, I could look at her drawings all day long. The link above kind of sucks since MACBA doesn't seem to want to provide images to illustrate the show aside from an all-too-artful short video. Google (or use DuckDuck, my go to search engine) Carol Rama for images, I promise that you won't be disappointed.

2. The museum frames the Plaça dels Ángels and the exhibition continues in a preserved Medieval convent with Sigalit Landau's "Phoenician Sand Dance", where I was arrested by his video "Mermaids, 2011" that was projected onto the floor against the wall as you enter the exhibition. Other parts of the show is cool, but this one I wanted to install in my home. Again, MACBA's website is rinsed of images, so here's the link to the video (maybe you could lay your laptop on the floor and turn out the lights to nearly simulate the effect?):
http://www.sigalitlandau.com/page/video/3%20Mermaids.php

3. Finally of note is not especially the other exhibit in the convent -it is fine enough as urbanist themed investigations go- this one isn't so interesting to me in and of itself. But it's the presentation and exhibit design that I found gorgeous. "Nonument", is set within the wing of the ancient stone building, the new floor is of the raised computer deck variety (a deft modernist intervention into a historical structure, Carlo Scarpa style) , of which specific metallic (galvanized steel?) modules were lifted to form presentation tables that were tight lit above and below (chicken wire inserted to block anything that might fall into the mechanical space below). Enough of this description, check out the images here and click around MACBA's arid website for 14 more, the only one of the three exhibits here mentioned that seemed to merit illustration. (Does my irritation show?)

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After the day walking Barcelona's old city with Ana and Iñaki, I jumped in Nacho Arnó Escribano's car with Alberto Barcia Fernandez and we drove up to our homes in Tossa de Mar. Tossa is a once upon a time fishing village at the base of the Costa Brava as the beginning of the Pyrenees sputter into the Mediterranean Sea. The road starts to wind as you approach the hills surrounding Tossa, forming a natural barrier to mass tourism. As a result, it is nearly a ghost town in the winter time, whereas in the summer there might be a population of, say, 38,000... in the winter the numbers go down to 7,000... which actually feels like 100. But that's cool if you have a taste of vitamin doom, that stark windswept at the edge of Civ kind of thing. And if you're that kind of artist, you could get a lot done there.

Anyways, we met up with our dear friend Kiko (Francisco Noguera Soliguer) and his daughter Nerea. After dinner in one of the perhaps only four open restaurants (if I'm exaggerating, it's not by much), we played pool in one of the perhaps only four open bars in town. Billiards is the in thing to do this year during the winter, other winters featured poker and cribbage. Kiko is the ringer in the double-double tourney, Nacho taught me some skills I never bothered to learn in my sailor days and by the end of the night, I was sinking three and four at a time. I think it was dumb luck but I played it off like it was a natural thing.

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So here's the deal. I've been storing up a sac of photos and stories to tell about the trip to Barcelona for my opening at Galeria Miguel Marcos and I've been squirting the news all over FB this week, poco a poco cuando puedo. I'm, say, a third of the way through.

The thing is, I'm about to board my flight home in about five hours, and you guys out there in FB land might feel like I've fallen off the map. No te preocupes, don't you worry, I will certainly purge this story out... just as soon as I get back, pick up my little dog Mica and maybe sleep a little bit of the lag off.

I've been reeling off posts rat a tat tat because while my pals here in Spain/Catalunya like to party me up until I board the plane home (tonight: beer/wine/gin &tonics). However, they are limited by the fact that they actually have to work tomorrow (ha!), therefore they could only go brinkmanship with me until 3am. So I figured that I have a little storyteller's margin if I ignored sleeping this morning and FB'd instead like a maniac, posting more than I've ever done in my life in one go.

And I can get a jump up on beating jet lag.

(Note on the pic in this post: it's a shot from Nacho and Leslie's home upper terrace, overlooking the muralla, a wall Tossa built around 900AD to repel pirate raids. This is like the old town in Barcelona in miniature. Now, it attracts pirate tourists. What's coming up is a story about the cooking and eating of calçots. Regional winter onion deliciousness.)

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A calçot is a fat scallion (now, that might sound like an epithet, it's not) that has dirt piled up over its' shoot gradually as the winter deepens. This is done to maximize the soft sweet part once it's heated. I imagine that there was once an ancient Catalan who liked the taste of onions figured out this little trick back in the dawn of time.

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The thing is about calçots, is that they have to cook hot and fast. So Nacho, Kiko and I got sacks and hiked up into the hills overlooking the sea, looking for pine cones. Two sacks of pine cones will do for four bundles of calçots.

Top image: cones in fallen dried tree limbs.
Bottom image: what you see when you turn around. (Codolar Cove)

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Now it's time to cook. Pine cones are piled over a thin bed of coals, add fire.

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You can't forget about the Pan Catalan, Pa amb tomaquet in Catalan. Procedure: toast the bread (usually a round farmer's loaf, sliced), rub a side with garlic, a ripe tomato, then drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Kicks butter's ass all around the block.

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Method of eating calçots, continued:
Step Three: wallow the calçot in romesco sauce.
Step four: put as much as you dare in your mouth, savor.

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The day of the Calçotada was Saturday. We finished the dinner with after dinner drinks indoors in front of a glowing fireplace. I stepped out as everyone's posture resembled limp rags, summoning the energy to say hello to other friends in Tossa. I knocked on neighbor's doors. Ana and Tony were out on winter vacation, working every summer (Ana has a swimsuit shop in town) they usually go to SouthEast Asia or South America. Carmen was home and as always she beamed, sat me down by the heater and poured and kept filled a shot glass of whiskey. She's close to 90 years old now, a font of stories about the history of Tossa.

Luckily, I had a rendezvous time set up with my carpenter Ramon Gascón (he makes my panels). Ramon is a delight. Once a guitarist who played in a band, he's eternally interested in languages and a conversation with him usually orbits around etymology and songwriting (often, he would bust out a tune in order to remember and savor the poetry of it).

The next day, my gallerist Miguel and the love of his life, Mirentxu (who is a lawyer, professor of law and a judge who was once top ranked in the list of eligible supreme court judges) drove up to Tossa to see my studio, have dinner and give me a ride back to Barcelona. I had paintings on paper on hand in the studio, Miguel selected a few to take back to the gallery.

Nacho, Leslie and Kiko invited Miguel and Mirentxu earlier that Sunday to eat arroz del bosque (rice of the forest, a transliteration) that afternoon. Invitation accepted with the caution that Miguel doesn't eat meat. Emergency action ensued, we scrambled around town to rig a seafood substitute. Along the way, we bumped into TuTum, a local fisherman (the real deal, a Tossa legacy) who had freshly captured squid for us to toss into the recipe. So we made arroz de la otro bosque: bajo del mar.

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Miguel moved his warehouse from Zaragoza to Barcelona. On a rainy Monday, we took a taxi from the gallery to El Poblenou, a neighborhood just to the NorthEast of the old city, the Arc de Triof (I asked Miguel as we rode past it, "A triumph of what?" He shrugged his shoulders with a comic smile) marking a boundary between the two neighborhoods. I heard from two different people that El Poblenou is considered to be the "next Chelsea" in Barcelona. Words to G-d's ears? Who knows? Why not?

I didn't post the photos I took at Miguel's almacén, his warehouse. I thought it was too private, TMI. But I wish my friends could see backstage at Galeria Miguel Marcos. It's pretty impressive (meticulous, very well done, archives and complete historical documentation, his investment and anticipation of what the next steps should be). But this is about all that can be said with tact on a platform like FB. Buy me a beer and I'll tell you more later.

After lunch with Miguel in El Poblenou, I stopped by Jack Davidson's home and studio in the center of town to catch up and see his new paintings bound for New York and Los Angeles this Spring.

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Jack Davidson's upcoming show will be at THEODORE:Art at 56 Bogart Street in Brooklyn. That's the gallery that has Gary Petersen's show up at this moment, one of the must-sees in NYC at the moment.

Jack had created the poster for his show, adding to the long history of artist-made exhibition promotion (that could be an interesting show in itself, has it been done already?). The title came from James Schuyler, "The Morning of the Poem":


So many lousy poets
So few good ones
What's the problem?
No innate love of
Words, no sense of
How the thing said
Is in the words, how
The words are themselves
The thing said: love,
Mistake, promise, auto
Crack-up, color, petal,
The color in the petal
Is merely light
and that's refraction:
A word, that's the poem.

For Jack, the paint or painting itself is the thing said.

True dat.

The bubble arrangement was pulled from a dog eared catalog from LACMA's "The Spiritual in Art", a 1638 cover page of a metaphysical treatise by Robert Fludd. That's quite a flag planted in the face of the assertion that abstraction is a necessary consequence of our confrontation with ultimate reality. Jack grounds high flown assertions into lived reality, the images suspended in the bubbles are from the years that he once lived in Brooklyn: his studio door, places where he was robbed by thugs, a dear friend who took his own life. Hard, real anchors.

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Here are three photos of Jack Davidson's paintings, shot at random during my visit to his studio in Barcelona this week. It's probably best not to get too much of a jump on his show at Brooklyn's THEODORE:Art this coming March, the full presentation is coming soon.

There was a great many interesting aspects of his painting that we talked about that rainy day. The ideas were like butterflies fluttering around the room and I struggled with contradictory feelings: first, an impulse to capture them somehow on audio and secondly my apprehension about pinning the butterflies down. One day, I might just get over this, to be able to plunk down a microphone and finally see if that would really kill the conversation as I fear it would.

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One last note about Jack Davidson's show this coming March at THEODORE:Art in Brooklyn. Jack showed me his intention to include his design for a bench that he will include in the show. He'll have it fabricated in birch plywood when he arrives in New York. The cushion is made of his studio rags, sewn together into a cover case. He plans to situate it in a diagonal within the gallery and the install will be influenced by the sitting positions indicated by the short backs on each side.

Consider for a second, the proposition of having your backside gloved by the fabric that once removed paint and your head filled with the fabric on which paint was once applied.


Posted by Dennis at 11:18 PM | Comments (0)

Detail

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Posted by Dennis at 10:51 PM | Comments (0)

January 23, 2015

Studio Wall

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I've been traveling to Barcelona last week for my opening at Galeria Miguel Marcos. I'm back in New York, back in the saddle.

Posted by Dennis at 9:36 PM | Comments (0)

January 14, 2015

tiny moments unnoticed by most

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tiny moments unnoticed by most
2014
WOP 3-14
12"x10"
Oil on Paper

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Posted by Dennis at 12:42 PM | Comments (2)

East of the Sun

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East of the Sun
2014
WOP 2-14
12"x10"
Oil on Paper

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Posted by Dennis at 12:28 PM | Comments (0)

Immanence

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Posted by Dennis at 11:22 AM | Comments (0)

coils of paint

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In preparation for the exhibition of the past summer's painting in Tossa de Mar, Spain, Miguel wanted me to write about the paintings and render a title for the show. When it comes to titles, I usually probe the archives of this blog and divine a moniker for subject at hand. For example, this is how I titled my 2008 exhibition at Miguel Marcos, . My "divining rod" twitched significantly when I perused the blogpost documenting a night dive round Cap Tossa, the flash of lighting at night, at sea, the sudden illumination of your surroundings... that vividly describes moments in the studio as well.

This time, took a different tack. I wanted to flash a light on the significance of a seemingly slight change in process and what that might mean in regards to my overall project, the arc of this now long in the tooth alla prima, impasto, phat painting. Miguel's staff had based their press release on my notes and necessarily, the official release is terse and to the point, an acorn of the oak tree but still an oak. Here is a little more of the DNA of that oak, my original notes sent to Miguel. There is much more of the oak to delineate, I will try to write about it as I travel during the coming week... that is, if my friends don't get me too drunk along the way.

Immanence

Until early last year, for almost twenty years, I had been painting in what could be called a discovery procedure. Paintings had emerged from blank canvas to image as if they were conjured. My practice had undergone a sea change in 2014 with the inscription of an image at the beginning of painting via the use of drawing and masking. If the former approach could be considered transcendent with the arrival of the image, the latter by its contrast would then suggest immanence. Eschaton, reversed. With the incarnation implanted into the beginning, facture becomes better focused, the kind of painting that I have always sought. The seven paintings in this exhibition at Miguel Marcos Gallery are a précis of this focus, this shift.

Throughout, my orientation and attitude to art and painting have remained constant. I had emerged from art school in revolt against a disbelief in painting bestowed by the previous generation, a disbelief that had manifested itself in relentless negation, an aporia induced by a romantic fascination with limitlessness and a strange desire to dematerialize painting into "pure visuality". Instead and against this, I reveled in an entanglement of the physical body of paint, and sought to realize the paradox that a window to the infinite could be engineered by an interrelation of limits.

Facture itself is the interrelation of limits, it is the very quality, handling and execution of painting. By front loading the image of the painting, I hope to see better and show better the beauty of the entanglement of paint. I can only refer to my intuition to justify the recurring image to my mind of Agesander's marbled Laocoön and his sons ensnarled by Minerva's serpents, he must have yet felt some kind of joy as the witness to truth against the tide of history, I see the coils of paint much in the same way.

My procedure ensued as follows: Drawing precedes the mask and onto this, paint embroils the surface of the canvas, clouding the initial sketch to obscurity. The mask is removed, recovering the drawing in negative and virgin canvas (I salute Cézanne, who always let his ground breathe), a measure of simplicity is restored. Monads fall onto the face, tempering and editing away imperfections with a quantum of complexity. All the while, as paint is expended from an initial refinement and marbled into mud, the excess paint is reserved to the side. With a final gesture, this cache, this surfeit is flung back onto the painting in vertical strings, an ecological loop or a dirty martini (take either one as your choice of metaphor, I like both).

Throughout all of this, the image (of G-d?) is embedded in the beginning and in the end is entangled in knots of paint. Facture become better entwined with image. Both are inherent, pervading and sustaining in the paintings. This, is immanence itself.


Inmanencia

Hasta principios del año pasado, durante casi veinte años, yo había estado pintando en lo que podría llamarse un procedimiento de descubrimiento. Pinturas habían surgido de lienzo en blanco a la imagen como si se conjuraron. Mi práctica había sufrido un cambio radical en el 2014 con la inscripción de una imagen en el comienzo de la pintura a través del uso del dibujo y el enmascaramiento. Si el primer enfoque podría ser considerado trascendente con la llegada de la imagen, el último por su contraste entonces sugeriría inmanencia. Eschaton, invierte. Con la encarnación implantado en el principio, facture llega a ser mejor enfocada, el tipo de pintura que siempre he buscado. Las siete pinturas de esta exposición en la Galería Miguel Marcos son una précis de este enfoque, este cambio.

En todo momento, mi orientación y actitud ante el arte y la pintura se han mantenido constantes. Yo había salido de la escuela de arte en la rebelión contra una falta de fe en la pintura otorgado por la generación anterior, una incredulidad que se había manifestado en la negación incesante, una aporía inducida por una fascinación romántica con lo ilimitado y un extraño deseo de desmaterializar la pintura en "pura visualidad" . En lugar de ello y en contra de esto, me deleité en un enredo del cuerpo físico de la pintura, y busqué a darse cuenta de la paradoja de que una ventana al infinito podría ser diseñado por una interrelación de límites.

Facture en sí es la interrelación de los límites, es la calidad muy, manejo y ejecución de la pintura. Por delante de cargar la imagen de la pintura, espero poder ver mejor y mostrar mejor la belleza del enredo de la pintura. Sólo puedo referirme a mi intuición para justificar la imagen recurrente en mi mente de jaspeado Laocoonte de Agesander y sus hijos enredado por las serpientes de Minerva, debe todavía haber sentido algún tipo de alegría que el testimonio de la verdad contra la corriente de la historia, veo el bobinas de pintura mucho de la misma manera.

Mi procedimiento se produjo de la siguiente forma: Dibujo precede a la máscara y en esto, pintura enreda la superficie del lienzo, enturbiando el boceto inicial a la oscuridad. Se quita la máscara, recuperando el dibujo en lienzo negativo y virgen (Saludo a Cézanne, que siempre dejaba respirar su tierra), se restaura una medida de la simplicidad. Mónadas caen sobre la cara, el temple y la edición de las imperfecciones con un cuanto de complejidad. Todo el tiempo, ya que la pintura se gasta de un refinamiento inicial y jaspeado en el barro, el exceso de pintura está reservado a un lado. Con un gesto final, esta caché, este exceso se arrojado de nuevo en la pintura en cuerdas verticales, un bucle ecológico o un martini sucio (tomen cualquiera de los dos como su elección de la metáfora, me gusta tanto).

A lo largo de todo esto, la imagen (de D'os?) Está incrustado en el comienzo y al final se enreda en nudos de pintura. Facture ser mejores entrelazada con la imagen. Ambos son inherentes, impregnando y sostener en las pinturas. Esta, es la inmanencia misma.


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Posted by Dennis at 10:06 AM | Comments (0)

here and now life

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here and now life
2014
WOP 1-14
12"X10"
Oil on Paper

WOP-1-14-853x1098.jpg

Posted by Dennis at 9:11 AM | Comments (0)

January 7, 2015

Immanence

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I will be traveling to Barcelona next week to attend the opening, very exciting!

Posted by Dennis at 10:53 AM | Comments (0)

Lines, Drawn.


This morning we awoke to the horrific news that Paris' Charlie Hebdo was attacked, 12 killed and 20 wounded.

Below the fold, I'm reposting my 2006 blogpost about the spark of 12 cartoons, the recurring clash between freedom of speech and yet another totalitarianism.

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Line, Drawn.
February 8, 2006

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This foto pretty much sums it all up.

It's remarkable that it was the act of drawing was the spark that inflamed the streets of this civilizational war. Remarkable, in that it was a cartooonist that pulled us across the ramparts instead of a Clancy-like Special Forces operator.

The art world is separate from a cartoonist's world and yet the ambiton of the art world often extends into every modality of life, especially that of the graphic arts. I thought that it might be interesting to take a closer look at those incendiary drawings.

Let's take a peek:

First, a llittle background. Austin Bay of StrategyPage does a good job with a tight description of the circumstances leading to the currrent furor:

Why did the editor of JP decide to publish the cartoons? In actuality they where solicited by the editor after he heard a story of Danish illustrators refusing to do artwork for a children's book about Muhammad. The artists had refused to do the work because they feared reprisals. Their fears were based on the murder of the Dutch filmmaker Theo von Gogh. Von Gogh had produced a film critical of Muslim attitudes towards women.

Twelve illustrators responded to JP's request. The cartoons were printed along with an article explaining the self-censorship story.


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This cartoonist is clearly saying: "Relax (angry Islamofascists). I'm just a Dane from Southwest Dennmark." The fear is palpable.

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This one is strange. This artist is poking fun at the magazine that commisioned his artwork. Worse, he is fingering the paper (Jyllnad-Posten) as an enemy target! It is as if the cartoonist is saying: "The reactionary provocateur newspaper made me do this."

Fear, again.

Fear, indeed. Coersion is in the air and all of the mainstream media in the USA and large chunks of the EU have demurred from including the very images they were writing about (although it was the EU press that first stood for their rights). Self censorship is so much more elegant than a muzzle.

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This guy is drawing his fear, straight out. Amazing that he chose to go ahead with the project.

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This artist is having a hard time identifying the face of Mohammed, period. He's saying: "I can't do it." or "I'm not doing it."

Fear.

I surf:

It seems to me that the real debate should not have focused so much on the boundaries of free speech as on the wisdom of reproducing those cartoons in other Western publications (though important they are). After all, Western media routinely publish things that are not so wise or sensitive to expose. From intelligence leaks to mockery of foreign nations, passing through derision of religion and religious beliefs (and those who entertain them), there is plenty to choose from. Was anti-Americanism ? so rampant in many European media especially in the last four years ? always wise? Is the anti-Semitism that occasionally surfaces in commentary on the Middle East something wise?

But should the answer be censorship? Obviously not. Should the aggrieved parties torch embassies and media centers, or threaten to behead any repeat offender? Again, no. In a truly free society, grievances find legitimate ways of expression and sometimes, if their case is sound, of redress.

In the West we do not believe only in freedom of speech, no matter how silly the speech is. We also believe in the power of ideas to expose the silliness of some speech through robust, but civilized debate.

(This, from Emanuele Ottolenghi, who teaches Israel studies at Oxford University)

Check this too, from the Washington bureau chief of the German newsweekly Die Zeit:

By last week it was not an obscure topic anymore but front-page news. And it wasn't about religious sensibilities as much as about free speech. That's when the cartoons started to show up in papers all over Europe.

Much of the U.S. reporting about the fracas made it appear as if Europeans just don't get it -- again. They struggle with immigration. They struggle with religion. They struggle with respect for minorities. And in the end they find their cities burning, as evidenced in Paris. Bill Clinton even detected an "anti-Islamic prejudice" and equated it with a previous "anti-Semitic prejudice."

The former president has turned the argument upside down. In this jihad over humor, tolerance is disdained by people who demand it of others. The authoritarian governments that claim to speak on behalf of Europe's supposedly oppressed Muslim minorities practice systematic repression against their own religious minorities. They have radicalized what was at first a difficult question. Now they are asking not for respect but for submission. They want non-Muslims in Europe to live by Muslim rules. Does Bill Clinton want to counsel tolerance toward intolerance?

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Well, this guy broke rank. But it's a strange cartoon. At first, the message is "Stop, stop!" And then, it's: "Stop, stop! There's nothing more to sacrifice yourselves for!" But does this mean that the cause is over... or worse, that inexhaustable heaven has been exhausted of G-d's* supply of virgin women? Heavens, no! If I were Muslim, the implied insult to the chaste capacity of the fair sex of my people would have me involuntarily reach for my scimitar or AK or explosive gel packs or whatever.

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This one has the eyes blacked out like it was porn. Not that I know porn, you know... I'm just saying. But we don't get to see the murder in the eyes. Was this to make it better for us or the cultural "Other"?

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Now, this one has a classical air about it. The image looks like it was lifted from a historical artwork and collaged or altered by the addition of the bomb. An old style bomb, ye-olden days Spy vs Spy kind of device. No cell phone detonator, plastic explosive bomb belt harness thing. A cast iron ball packed with gunpowder with a string fuse lit to go.

Pretty good though. It's my favorite.

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Now, this one is all sweetness and light. I'd look for wisdom in Islam if I thought Mohammed was kind of like this. He's a searcher, kind of like Quixote or Kwai Chang Cain or Don Juan Matus.

No fear here.

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Trippy.

I don't know what to make of this except to associate it with images of Russian Constructivism or something. The Star of David and a Crescent Moon coming together to make a face-like aspect of several individuals? A message of unification and hope?

One could only... hope.

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Another self parody, it seems. The cartoonist mocks his ability to draw Mohammed. And the orange dropping into the turban? It must mean something in Denmark, I suppose.

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Another benign image of the prophet.

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And another, the last of what was shown in the Danish newpaper back in October.

What's up here? The riots can't be about this. Muhammed has had his image reproduced before in history.

Well, it seems a lot of this was ginned up. Manufactured. Consider this, from the Telegraph's own blog.:

As this blog has reported in the last couple of days, there have been sharp questions in Denmark about the role played by these Danish Muslim delegations that made repeated trips to the Middle East late last year. There have been still sharper questions about the 43 page dossier on "Danish racism and Islamophobia" they carried with them, in meetings with scholars, officials of the Arab League and senior clerics in Cairo and Beirut.

The delegations were publicly criticised by the Danish prime minister, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who said he was "speechless" that his fellow countrymen could tour the Arab world "inciting antipathy towards Denmark".

Above all, there have been serious concerns about three mysterious cartoons that were included in the dossier, in addition to the 12 images that started the row when they were published by a Danish newspaper, Jyllands-Posten, in September.

The extra cartoons, whose origins remain obscure, included an image of Mohammed with a pig's snout, one of a dog raping a praying Muslim, and one depicting Mohammed as a "Paedophile demon".

As I report in today's Daily Telegraph, several media organisations, some in the Arab world but also including the BBC and the Australian SBS television network, have mistakenly reported that the pig-snouted cartoon was one of those published in "Jyllands-Posten."

Ah so. There it is. What is sold to the West is a different story when it's sold to the insular Ummah. Arafat style.

I'm with Ayaan Hirsi Ali (check out her blog, fantastic), a hero of mine:

SPIEGEL: Was apologizing for the cartoons the wrong thing to do?

Hirsi Ali: Once again, the West pursued the principle of turning first one cheek, then the other. In fact, it's already a tradition. In 1980, privately owned British broadcaster ITV aired a documentary about the stoning of a Saudi Arabian princess who had allegedly committed adultery. The government in Riyadh intervened and the British government issued an apology. We saw the same kowtowing response in 1987 when (Dutch comedian) Rudi Carrell derided (Iranian revolutionary leader) Ayatollah Khomeini in a comedy skit (that was aired on German television). In 2000, a play about the youngest wife of the Prophet Mohammed, titled "Aisha," was cancelled before it ever opened in Rotterdam. Then there was the van Gogh murder and now the cartoons. We are constantly apologizing, and we don't notice how much abuse we're taking. Meanwhile, the other side doesn't give an inch.

SPIEGEL: What should the appropriate European response look like?

Hirsi Ali: There should be solidarity. The cartoons should be displayed everywhere. After all, the Arabs can't boycott goods from every country. They're far too dependent on imports. And Scandinavian companies should be compensated for their losses. Freedom of speech should at least be worth that much to us.

SPIEGEL: But Muslims, like any religious community, should also be able to protect themselves against slander and insult.

Hirsi Ali: That's exactly the reflex I was just talking about: offering the other cheek. Not a day passes, in Europe and elsewhere, when radical imams aren't preaching hatred in their mosques. They call Jews and Christians inferior, and we say they're just exercising their freedom of speech. When will the Europeans realize that the Islamists don't allow their critics the same right? After the West prostrates itself, they'll be more than happy to say that Allah has made the infidels spineless.

I agree with Ibn Warraq in a recent Spiegel Online:

How can we expect immigrants to integrate into western society when they are at the same time being taught that the west is decadent, a den of iniquity, the source of all evil, racist, imperialist and to be despised? Why should they, in the words of the African-American writer James Baldwin, want to integrate into a sinking ship? Why do they all want to immigrate to the west and not Saudi Arabia? They should be taught about the centuries of struggle that resulted in the freedoms that they and everyone else for that matter, cherish, enjoy, and avail themselves of; of the individuals and groups who fought for these freedoms and who are despised and forgotten today; the freedoms that the much of the rest of world envies, admires and tries to emulate." When the Chinese students cried and died for democracy in Tiananmen Square (in 1989) , they brought with them not representations of Confucius or Buddha but a model of the Statue of Liberty."

Freedom of expression is our western heritage and we must defend it or it will die from totalitarian attacks. It is also much needed in the Islamic world. By defending our values, we are teaching the Islamic world a valuable lesson, we are helping them by submitting their cherished traditions to Enlightenment values.

Freedom and the concept of an objective right and wrong are the defining ideas of the West, the Judeo-Christian turn in the world that moved us out of the tribal, patriarchal honor/shame societies that placed a premium on "face". Hardwired to this is the value of the individual over the group... the bane of those atavistics among us who prefer to go down fighting... killing, to preserve the dominance of whoever is strongest enough to call themselves our boss.

So far, only the newsweeklies have stepped up and published these images, here:

PARIS (Reuters) - A French satirical weekly reprinted cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad on Wednesday and published one of its own on its front page, further angering Muslim groups which say the caricatures are blasphemous.

French Muslim organizations tried to prevent Charlie Hebdo reprinting the 12 cartoons, which were first published by the Danish paper Jyllands-Posten, but a court rejected their suit on Tuesday on a technicality.

President Jacques Chirac condemned "overt provocations" which could enflame passions, but did not name Charlie Hebdo in his latest appeal for restraint in a dispute that has triggered violent protests across the Muslim world.

Charlie Hebdo carried the new cartoon on its front page, depicting the Prophet Mohammad burying his face in his hands and saying: "It's hard to be loved by fools".

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Funny name for a paper: Charlie Hebdo. I wikipedia. Picture from Gateway Pundit (check out the link).

...and here:

* Four top editors at the New York Press, a weekly in New York City, resigned Tuesday after being ordered, they claim, to pull the Danish cartoons -- from an issue that centers on the dispute. Editor in chief Harry Siegel charged that the Press leadership "has suborned its own professed principles. For all the talk of freedom of speech, only the New York Sun locally and two other papers nationally have mustered the minimal courage needed to print simple and not especially offensive editorial cartoons that have been used as a pretext for great and greatly menacing violence directed against journalists, cartoonists, humanitarian aid workers, diplomats and others who represent the basic values and obligations of Western civilization."

Oh yea, plus the New York Sun and a couple of others nationwide.

And finally (there is so much out there and so many more connections to draw!), it's worth remembering the words of the Jordanian editor who lost his job (among many others in the EU) for publishing these images:

Jordanian independent tabloid al-Shihan reprinted three of the cartoons on Thursday, saying people should know what they were protesting about, AFP news agency reports.

"Muslims of the world be reasonable," wrote editor Jihad Momani.

"What brings more prejudice against Islam, these caricatures or pictures of a hostage-taker slashing the throat of his victim in front of the cameras or a suicide bomber who blows himself up during a wedding ceremony in Amman?"


It's too bad this guy is in jail now. The Jordanian police took him into custody:
Reporters Without Borders called for the immediate release of Jihad Momani, who was arrested in Amman on the orders of public prosecutor Saber al-Rawashdeh today, two days after being fired from his job as editor of the weekly Shihan for reprinting some of the cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed that have triggered an outcry in the Muslim world.

?We already objected to Momani?s dismissal, but his arrest is utterly unacceptable,? Reporters Without Borders said. ?He was just doing his job when he chose to reprint some of the controversial cartoons, as have dozens of other publications throughout the world. Imprisoning him for an editorial decision is totally unjustified.?

The guy named to replace him has resigned. I wonder if King Hussein and President Bush talked about this during their visit today?

And finally, a cherry atop this ice cream sundae of fear and coersion:
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I guess it had to happen, an incursion into the issue by our artworld. I guess Damien Hirst is well branded. The BBC reports:

The mayor of Middelkerke, Michel Landuyt, said the work could "shock people", including Muslims.

He said he decided to ban Czech artist David Cerny's sculpture before the row over cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.

The Saddam piece, which echoes British artist Damien Hirst's famous shark suspended in formaldehyde, was first shown in Prague last September.

'Too shocking'

But Mr Landuyt felt its exhibition would be too much for the small Belgian seaside town. "In my view, it was too shocking," he said.

"They wanted to put this piece in a location where many children come, so that couldn't be allowed," he told the BBC.

He added that the work was now going to be displayed in a museum in the Belgian city of Ostend.

"When you go to a museum and are prepared to see those things and there is an explanation, perhaps there is no problem. But when you come somewhere where you don't expect that, it can be a problem," he said.

Mr Cerny is an anti-conformist artist. His previous works have included a man hanging from a pole using just one hand, a series of "kits" including one of Jesus, and a pair of naked bronze figures urinating into a pond.

An anti-comformist artist.

OK.

Whatever.

It's probably best to clip this one off right here before we slide down the slippery slopes of "transgression in art history", a humongous topic. Andre Serrano beckons from my grad skoolm daze, compelling, commanding me to make this post a doubledoubleplusgood one.

***

The upshot is that a line is being drawn. Distinctions are being made. The violence pegged to the cartoons is a message addressed primarily to the ummah. Which side will they choose? Freedom or slavery? The same line is being drawn at out feet here in the West as well.

***


I... must... resist... expanding this topic, slave to blogging that I am.

(I'm free!)


(All twelve cartoon images from StrategyPage)

Posted by Dennis at 10:16 AM | Comments (1)