21 November 2017

Stuck in traffic on a dark wet evening. Before I succumb to the usual moaning I try what a friend has offered me this morning, take ten mindful breaths and see where it gets you. I struggle and cheat a bit (eight, ten, wait, concentrate, was that twelve?) and then I resign and fiddle with the radio stations.
A report about an art exhibition. In one of the big wonderful cities on our planet. All of the eight artists have been prisoners and most of them for the last 15 years without trial and from the little I know this will remain so for most of them. In recent years, they have been given the opportunity to attend art courses and this exhibition is a first show of their work.

I listen as the reporter tells me that these men paint the sea, again and again, that in fact, almost all the work on display concerns the sea. Yet, none of them can reach it, none have been able to see or hear or smell the sea in all their years of imprisonment.
I also hear that the work is considered controversial, that it was scrutinized at length for secret, harmful messages and that not all of the intended paintings were accepted by the authorities.

And I hear that none of the work can be purchased or will be given back to the artists or their families.
No, the government of the country where this exhibition is currently on show has decided to burn all art from this exhibition and all other work from these artists.

Burning art, paintings, sculptures, drawings. In the 21st century, in a democracy. Back home, I find the website and scroll through the artwork, looking for any dangerous secret messages. In vain. But what do I know.

Eighty-four years ago, In Mai 1933, the nazis staged the first of their massive book burnings. Five years later, in 1938, they banned all art they deemed degenerate. Not so long ago.

more here


  1. No. Not so long ago. And we have not learned a thing. This is offensive to all of humanity.

  2. We never learn. And history will continue to repeat itself but I will hope.

  3. Thank you for bringing this art work and accompanying petition to our attention. I am deeply moved by the way these men can speak so eloquently without words. Surely this work can be saved from burning. That is my desire.

  4. One of the only programme I watch regularly on TV at the moment is M*A*S*H. It looks like the spirit of Major Frank Burns is alive and well. It's a serious point really: the satire running through M*A*S*H dates from 35 years ago. It's still relevant.

  5. Sounds like the wrong people are locked up...

  6. Infuriating. I *wish* i were shocked. :o/. USA has become a hypocracy. We've done away entirely with due process. (One of the capstone tenants of the Magna blooping Carta, is all.) I agree with Molly Bon.

    We all know the dangerous hidden message is the humanity in it.

    Thank you for finding and sharing that petition!

  7. It's why those of us who see things differently must never stop talking and writing about it - nobody should ever be forgotten.

  8. This bums me out. There seems to be no justice anywhere. I do see hidden messages in those paintings. It's that longing to be free. I so wish I lived in a different world. Sigh.

  9. Thank you for telling me about this. It's in my city and I will be sure to go and see it. How awful that the plan is to burn these emblems of the soul. I can get over the logic of that. Sigh.

  10. Shocking! I hadn't heard about this exhibit, or the new rule about the art, at all. This Guantanamo situation is so outrageously unjust, and has been for so long, that I just don't see how the USA can even call itself a land of justice and freedom anymore. It's certainly not the embodiment of the democratic ideals I was raised with. Ludicrous, and frightening!

  11. Of course the secret messages are there, quite openly. All art, even bad art, even perverted art, is an affirmation against non-art. Without art we are left with a void. Before we were able to chatter with each other round the globe, art eliminated distance and mocked time.

    I remember visiting caves near PĂ©rigueux in France to inspect paintings created by what we are pleased to call primitive man (at least we don't say primitive woman, there's a shred of feminist comfort there). Marvelling that he or she - who was and is you and me - had taken time off from a brutish life to paint that which was familiar. Could the artist possibly have known he/she would speak to me - a dull-minded tourist who had simply bought a ticket - down the centuries?

    Ironically, to the side of these works of art, someone had done their initials, "a barbarous act" said the guide. But these additions dated back to the seventeenth century (Should I use Roman numerals? XVII looks so much more knowledgeable.) and the lettering had a style I for one couldn't aspire to. What had started out as a perversion of art had become, simply, art.

    I suspect your artists knew what they were doing, at least I hope they did. That they were creating something that would outlast their privation. It is their jailers who are the innocents.

  12. What the fucking fuck? Thank you for bringing this to our attention.