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The Brandeis situation

Post #789 • May 16, 2006, 11:40 AM • 6 Comments

The Weekly Dig does a column called Bean Counter, which tallies up the plusses and minuses of the week's events in Boston. It notes:

Brandeis removes an exhibit of paintings by Palestinian kids after an Israeli Jewish student complains the works only showed one side of the conflict. Hmm. One solution would be for the school to find Palestinian kids with a more balanced perspective. Another solution would be to give us a fucking break. It's art. It doesn't need to be fair and balanced. MINUS 2

The whole problem serves as an example of how poorly art serves politics. The organizer, Lior Halperin, put the show together as the final for a class called "The Arts of Building Peace," which, according to the Globe, "explores how music, painting, and poetry can help resolve conflicts." Halperin:

This an educational institution that is supposed to promote debate and dialogue. Let's talk about what it is: 12-year-olds from a Palestinian refugee camp. Obviously it's not going to be about flowers and balloons.

But one of the images, included in the Globe article, has a Star of David made out of snakes, and one might have anticipated that peace wasn't going to build when it went up at a university with a 50% Jewish population. Samah al-Azza, author of the work, may perceive the Jews as evil, and she'll find plenty of Jews ready to return the favor, but I fail to understand why anyone thinks that the mere expression of these sentiments will resolve conflicts.

On the other hand, taking the show down after four days instead of letting it run its allotted fourteen turned this into a national story. People never seem to learn the lesson of 2 Live Crew - no matter how lame the act, you will immortalize it through your efforts to remove it. So, yes, we should see how little Samah hasn't formed a connection between her presence in a camp and her own terrorist government, and perhaps never will. We should see how certain cartoonists in Europe have equated Islam with terrorism in an astonishingly simplistic manner. And we should let Luther Campbell rap about booty until nobody cares anymore, which would have happened in 1986 if not for the tireless efforts of the Broward Sheriff's Office. So I concur with the Dig.

Comment

1.

Marc Country

May 16, 2006, 12:08 PM

I agree with the Boston bean counters as well (although I'd like to register my disapproval of exhibiting bad children's art, whatever the subject matter)... I hear the show's up at MIT now (or perhaps, has been up and down already, without further controversy).

2.

oldpro

May 16, 2006, 12:51 PM

Well, I remember those good old days of yore when fights over art were about the art, not about the subject matter of art that sucks in the first place. These political art scandals are a bore and are almost always transparently self-serving.

3.

Marc Country

May 16, 2006, 1:30 PM

I'm not sure "anyone thinks that the mere expression of these sentiments will resolve conflicts", Franklin. I think the hope is that the ensuing discussion will clarify the issues... then, the question becomes, does discussion and dialogue resolve conflicts, or just lead to more?

I don't think this has anything to do with art, per se, but I do think there is surely some educational value in exposing a largly Jewish university student audience to the views and expressions of Palistinan children living under Israeli occupation (whatever those views might be), if only to perhaps gain a fuller picture of reality.

And now, this (inter)national story is not only about twelve-year old arabs in camps, but the (admittedly smaller) issue of the intellectual and ethical integrity of Brandeis.

www.democracynow.org did a segment on the story, with a debate between Halperin and Daniel Terris, director of Brandeis University's International Center for Ethics, Justice, and Public Life... I was stunned to see that an 'ethics director' could defend a position so blatantly, smarmily unethical...

4.

Brian

May 16, 2006, 2:07 PM

Hey there, been reading the blog for awhile and I'm a big fan.

[Thanks, Brian, but if you really loved me you wouldn't post huge press releases on my blog. - F.]

5.

KH

May 16, 2006, 5:52 PM

Aaaah! Brian! Dude! Edit!

6.

renata

May 18, 2006, 2:38 AM

My oppinion that artists are shoud been separately from politics
In other case artists can lost his inspiration and run after big money becouse politics pay for there ideas very good

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