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05.09.2012

Colonel: self censure / the documenta trash, 2012, 18 x 24 cm, Ink on paper.

Kassel: Is committing self censure a solution?

Mean while we are following arab revolutions seeing every day terrifying reports of repression
Mean while we travel from politically engaged contemporary art show to the next
Mean while posting on Ai Wei Wei and Pussy Riot 
Mean while we applaud the documenta enormous success

2000 people are working in the weapon industry in Kassel: Producing, designing and selling weapons like tanks specially designed for firing at urban riots. Sales men are send to arab dictatures to sell their treasures of creativity technology and decades of savoir faire that should have capacity to stop by force eventual coming uprising. The past weeks have revealed that those business men were talented and successfull (800 urban fight panzers from Kassel almost sold to Saudi Arabia and Bahrain).

Those morale issues are sometimes debated in the local, national and international press. The proximity of the factory is very, very near from dOCUMENTA (the first one is 10 min walk from Fredericianium), but inside the art pilgrims circle the silence is floating like death, the "happy happy great wonderfull show no critic to be done" has taken over the debate of the context of production of this leading art show and forgotten to dig in real time and proximity space the thematic of "wars and conflicts" (theme of dOCUMENTA 13). We are talking about 1 million visitors expected during the 100 days in Kassel. To have a full undestanding of the show theme on "war and conflicts", they should all know about the issue of the Kassel weapon industry as much as they should know that Venice is a city on water. But the fact is that most of them don't. Why not? Did you know?

I did not know either. In june, through my Biennalist and Emergency Room missions, I did some critical thoughts about how dOCUMENTA was promoting ecologic love through a Volkswagen marketing campaign, and about how the bank was "creating" the navigation tools to visit dOCUMENTA, but the weapons made in Kassel - I never heard about it before June 2012.

When I was in Kassel I was visiting exhibitions about nazism and reflected upon genocides already committed. My emotions went up and down, I was touched by almost every art pieces, I was crying and shaken by some genial master pieces. I got inspired by seeing "great art" in such a charming place and such a well present art show. I also understood that the city was destroyed once because of it's weapon factories, but I did not think about the weapons created today (and tomorrow) and that they may be used for coming repressions - or that they are produced just beside the exhibition venues.

My ignorance towards this topic was very shamefull and I feel really embarrassed to have experienced this art show with it's theme on war and conflicts without knowing that. Fortunately (or unfortunately as ignoring this fact would have been more confortable) my Spanish friend Jose told me and now I know. Of course I am not any happier, now my life is a mess as I lost trust in this art show and feel abused.

I also understood that we are in a historic moment where the German government is considering accepting a huge deal with a regime on top list of human right abuses. Selling weapons designed for urban fights is not a totally harmless activity. Since now I know about the Kassel main industry, I can not stop thinking about what I will feel if tomorrow I see a tank from Kassel at work in Bahrain. My life is now miserable. I am a chicken artist, that has no courage. I try to express something but then I feel strange. I want to do art about something and then I feel it is too far, to unreal, TOO MUCH, not an interesting subject and I should keep away from it. I want to use words like cool, awesome and great, but I cannot anymore. I actually feel the opposite. I try again to express something about it, to make myself usefull or feel some peace inside by releasing what I know, but at the end I commit self censure, I feel I am in a fiction. Like I am wasting my time with those unhappy thoughts or that I am disturbing so much. I feel it is expected that I express my anger about the imprisoning of Pussy Riots or Ai Wei Wei, but not to express what I know about the weapon industry in Kassel - like this is going too far. Why do I feel like that and could it be true?

It would be more simple if this issue was a top priority to debate in the art world, especially in a grand exhibition like dOCUMENTA, that are even branding itself as "working on war and conflicts". dOCUMENTA has even opened a franchise about war and conflict in Kabul and Cairo. dOCUMENTA should encourage the debate to be able to include matters of urgency even if not everyone will like it. Exhibiting on wars and genocides in the past while forgetting about recent matters should be seen as a mistake. dOCUMENTA is like a computer without hard disc. Or a democracy with one party.

Does dOCUMENTA use the magic of art as sleeping pills to create a cloud of non self critic gas? When we think about Kassel-Kabul: is art used as a charme tour to open up new markets? Does the artist have a role or a function? Is this art show going to create a better world with more self critic and actions to change it or a worse one with more secrets and hypocrisy?

Oh no, I'm sorry, I should not think like that. I am wrong, wrong, wrong and deserve self censure, but as an artist I am not allowed to do self censure - it is a terrible situation.

Yes, I am an artist, not an activist neither a journalist, but I am sad to think of the consequences all this weapon could produced in the wrong hands. Instead of living in the past, instead of being an entertaining experience, can art "be in advance of the broken arm" and avoid accidents? 

Read recent report from German media on the subject

Colonel: WHY IS A DEBATE ABOUT THE KASSEL TANKS NOT AN ISSUE FOR DOCUMENTA?, 2012, 9 x 6 cm, Ink on carton.

Colonel: self censure / the documenta trash, 2012.

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