Tuesday, 12 April 2005

Art I didn't see in Chicago

I apparently missed the big excitement in the Chicago art scene last week; the Secret Service, however, didn’t:

Organizers of a politically charged art exhibit at Columbia College’s Glass Curtain Gallery thought their show might draw controversy.

But they didn’t expect two U.S. Secret Service agents would be among the show’s first visitors.

The agents turned up Thursday evening, just before the public opening of “Axis of Evil, the Secret History of Sin,” and took pictures of some of the art pieces—including “Patriot Act,” showing President Bush on a mock 37-cent stamp with a revolver pointed at his head.

When isn’t a death threat a death threat? When it’s an artistic statement, apparently. Thankfully, exhibit curator Michael Hernandez de Luna has his priorities straight:

“It frightens me… as an artist and curator. Now we’re being watched,” Hernandez said. “It’s a new world. It’s a Big Brother world. I think it’s frightening for any artist who wants to do edgy art.”

Hernandez said he hopes the public sees the exhibit as a whole—and not just about one man or even one country. Some works Hernandez thought would be more controversial challenge Pope John Paul II and the Catholic Church. Others look at Nazi Germany and the killing fields in Cambodia.

He refused to talk about the 2001 incident, when he was suspected of being involved in a fake anthrax stamp that shut down an area of Chicago’s main post office. Hernandez and another Chicago artist routinely sent fake stamps through the mail, then sold them for thousands of dollars.

Man, I can so feel my free speech rights being trampled even from here.

Update: Jeff Quinton, who inexplicably hasn't trackbacked, has a roundup of posts.

Meanwhile, this guy doesn't seem to get the point; if I create an image of the president (George Bush, Bill Clinton, whoever) with a gun to his head, I'd pretty much expect a visit from law enforcement; there's this little thing called incitement to imminent lawless action, you know. If the image were of John Kerry or Hillary Clinton, I’d imagine the David Niewarts of the world would be screaming for the feds to investigate—and I’d agree with them.