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zvi mazel at the tears of things

Post #220 • February 23, 2004, 6:48 AM • 9 Comments

The Tears of Things has a thought-provoking two part post on the Zvi Mazel incident. I'm not on board with all of Tears's conclusions, but I think the post ought to be read.

While we're in the neighborhood: Painting removed after outraging Holocaust survivors.

A Norwegian art gallery removed a painting Friday from its exhibition "Anti-Semite in the Name of God," saying it had infuriated Jews, including a Holocaust survivor. The painting, by Norwegian artist Chris Reddy, includes the text "Israel" and "USA," with each "s" replaced by a swastika. ...

In Norway, Israeli Ambassador Liora Herzl sent a letter to the gallery, saying Reddy's painting was unacceptable because it linked Israel and the United States to Nazism.

Norwegian news agency NTB said Reddy was furious at the decision to remove his artwork. "It is questionable that Ambassador Liora Herzl has taken the fascists' tool, censorship, into use," he was quoted as saying.

Here's that censorship thing again. Herzl, being an ambassador, does not enact law upon the people of Norway. Her capacity is to express the sympathies of her constituents. So listen up, Reddy: Herzl's condemnation of your painting isn't fascism. It isn't censorship. It's protected speech, the same thing that allows pathetic specimens like yourself to make facile insults about the only functioning democracy in the Middle East, and the nation that bailed you out when real Nazis had your country bent over a barrel. And if I were to tell you where you can stick your fury, that would be protected speech as well. Aren't human rights wonderful? If it weren't for the USA, yours would be far from assured, and if it weren't for Israel, neither would anyone else's in the Middle East.



Jerome du Bois

February 23, 2004, 6:53 PM

Thank you very much for the headline, Franklin. And way to go: you once referred to our "angry erudition" in a comment about some post. Well, right back at ya with this nice, controlled burn on Reddy; you toasted him.

Jerome du Bois



February 24, 2004, 8:28 PM

the bothersome thing isnt that the work was removed (it sounds like a pretty stupid piece), but that the gallery thought it was ok to show until a govt official weighed in. So it does look a little like the gallery giving in to govt pressure.

and not to stir up a hornet's nest, but I would think the hundreds of thousands of decades-long Palestinian refugees wouldn't exactly call Israel a democracy. Well, maybe like ancient Athens...



February 24, 2004, 10:38 PM

I'm not about to tell Jews how to react to or deal with the kind of inflammatory works under discussion. Their response to both works in question has been completely understandable.

However, it seems the presumed artists got precisely what they wanted--major attention, which their talent per se, such as it is, would never have attracted. It may be that withering scorn and/or studied indifference may be more effective.



February 25, 2004, 1:53 AM

Shreve: Indeed, they might not, but they'd be mistaken - the Knesset has about ten Arabs of Israeli citezenship, and a remarkable number of the Jews speak Arabic. (Care to take a guess at how many ruling bodies of Arab nations have Jews as members, and how many of their non-Jews speak Hebrew?) If it weren't for the current tactics of the people claiming to act on their behalf, participatory democracy could actually be working for them. Many Palestinians agree.



February 25, 2004, 2:01 AM

Another thing - the bothersome thing [is] that the gallery thought it was ok to show until a govt official weighed in. So it does look a little like the gallery giving in to govt pressure. Well, the gallery claims it was the Holocaust survivor that made them change their minds, although they could be trying to save face. But otherwise, they thought it was okay to show the work until a Holocaust survivor weighed in. Did they think it was a good idea up until then? For crying out loud...



February 25, 2004, 2:11 AM

Franklin: you're right of course about some Arab participation in the Knesset, I was just reacting to the idea of "How dare anyone criticize Israel!" in the original post. It may be the brightest hope in the Middle East, but that doesn't mean it's perfect. Just like us in the US...

The thing for me is how this stupid art piece got in there in the first place.



February 25, 2004, 2:19 AM

Just to be clear, I have no problem with people criticizing Israel or the US. I do it myself. It's likening them to Nazis that I have a problem with. And yeah, I'm right there with you about the art.



February 25, 2004, 4:24 AM

I wonder if the better approach, instead of publicizing such art by complaint, is to subvert it. Why not buy it surreptiously, and ridicule it. Imagine in the year 2015, a new museum opened in midtown Manhattan, The Museum of Bad Art by Stupid Artists (MBASA), with dozens of works acquired during the previous ten years (and incisive wall texts by Franklin!). With any luck, it might even destroy a few careers.

OK, maybe it's a silly idea, but all I'm trying to say is, I think subtle ridicule might be better than vociferous impeachment. Objections can make the other party look aggrieved, draw fair-weather allies to the cause, and make the attacker look petty or aggressive, while subversions can make the artists look foolish and unfashionable, and the complainants look clever. It's probably better to act as though you're in a position of strength and control, than backed into a corner, lashing out at the world.

Sigh. We could really use a guy like Philip Guston again.


Jerome du Bois

February 25, 2004, 10:23 AM

Franklin, this is your blog and I won't use it for a soapbox, but I've got a piece of this thing, too, and I want to say something to Hovig. I'll be brief.


There is only one part of your unbelievably pretentious and condescending post that I want to isolate: Zvi Mazel did not lash out like someone backed into a corner; confronted by a situation with no up, no win, no out, he actually acted out of a "position of strength and control." Not as though. It was real, Hovig, real, serious life, in which making artists look "foolish and unfashionable" has a very low priority, considering the alternatives for the attention of a world-class diplomat.

Talk about fair-weather allies.

Sorry about the intrusion, Franklin.

Jerome du Bois



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