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Sharpen Your Pencils!

Cartoon riots! Who would have thought? If you ever doubted the power of visual art to have an effect on society, here is your proof. How many times was I told to stop drawing those silly cartoons and focus on a real career? Wait, that still happens. A disturbing aside for me is that the imagery doesn't even have to be good! The cartoons I saw were lame. This is of course not entirely about the drawings, but it magnifies the frustrations and perceived insensitivity of the West towards Muslims and Arabs. Not totally unjustified thinking.

In retaliation an Iranian newspaper is holding an international contest for Holocaust cartoons. It's interesting that it's an international contest. The editor of the Danish newspaper that first published the cartoons wants to publish the Iranian contest winners simultaneously. Now that's a twist. I believe it to be a better approach than violence. Have the contest, show us what you come up with, and let the discourse begin. We can assume from the start that the finalists for this contest will be hateful and unenlightened at best, but hopefully the art will be good. I envision lots of swords and blood. There always seems to be that "death to the infidels" approach. Let the contest begin! Ink not blood: blood doesn't copy well.

This also points to something that never ceases to impress me and goes in the life lesson column, and that is, You never know what’s coming next. Who could have predicted the impact that a few, really lame cartoons would have on relations between the Arab/Muslim world and the West? This is not over by any means. With the sad state of diplomacy in the world, this insignificant event could spiral out of control. Amazing! We can't excuse ourselves from this type of reaction to art either. It wasn't long ago that Rudy Giuliani made a pompous stand against Chris Ofili's painting and several others, in the Sensations show at The Brooklyn Museum.

Sharpen your pencils! There’s no turning back!


Anonymous said...

It may all be for the best i.e. these "frank discussion" in the language of Foggy Bottom.
I am optimistic that out of these "frank discussions" will come a whole new way of relating.

Anonymous said...

anonymous is cryptic. i myself wonder if "Sharpen Your Pencils" is a vailed call to violence. And if "Make Art, Not War" (or "Draw Cartoons, Don't Riot") is really a sufficient answer. what's the message here, anyway? are the radicals to blame or the publishers of amature (reader-contributed) cartoons? or the imams that took more cartoons on a tour of the middle east (this time muhammed with a pigs face, one as a pedophile, one as a bestialist) and passed them off as part of the same batch?

Mark Barry said...

I think it's a little bit of everything and nothing, jfl. I wouldn't be the first time a civil war broke out over nothing much at all.

Anonymous said...

i am not sure if i agree whether it is civil war (the masses don't seem to turn on each other but have well confined their hatred and destruction to scandinavian/western countries, so far). and the "nothing much at all" is of course so difficult to pin down. the toxic mix of an aggressive, intolerant, all-too-easily excited mind-set in the middle east (turned that way not the least for lack of expressing public anger and participate politically in any other way) and the questions of freedom of expression vs. freedom from not being offended (which should never be a right) does of course touch elements that are fundamentally important to us.

Anonymous said...

I didn't mean to be cryptic.
I am just an optimist by nature and I am trying to find some good to come out of the cartoon affair.
The best possible scenario is that it simply gets people talking.
Sounds vague; it is.
In practice it seems to me that the issue is to confront the Islamic bullies forcefully without further inflaming them. Republishing the cartoons is the natural impulse and maybe it is the only way forward. But unfortunately it is also seen by many as deliberately insulting.
I wish there was some very forcefiul stament we could make which they would not see as insulting.
Maybe that is impossible.