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Art, Anthem and the Police

June 5, 2007

I don’t know much about art. Yet, the whole fuzz about an artistic video that was presented in a Greek art exhibition, drives me nuts. In short, the video seemingly depicts someone masturbating while Greek national anthem is used as musical background. The reaction to this according to the Reuters’ report (and consistent with my local books) was:

Police stormed the Art Athina show on Saturday, shut down the video exhibit, which combined pornographic material with the Greek national anthem, and arrested curator Michalis Argyros who spent the night in jail.

I’m not a ferment patriot. ‘Scuse me, but I value living things more than symbols. This doesn’t mean that I don’t respect what others recognize as sacred. This means that I equally detest insulting Muslim prophets and the Greek national anthem. Let’s repeat that: I find equally detesting to insult Muslim prophets, Turkish flags, USA flags, Metallica, Iraq flags, Pope, Greek national anthem and all. I very well realize that what is void to me may mean a lot to someone else and either way insulting won’t ever dethrone Pope or Metallica. Subversives throughout history have been working in much more subterranean ways (1) than outward insults and take that as a tip if you are in fear that insults towards your favorite symbol may indicate a subversive mindset.

This is the little I know about art. Art is supposed to cross boundaries. Furthermore modern art is supposed to shock. Like it or not you have to accept it or join forces with fundamental Christians and Tallebans. Art (or at least certain fields of it) is supposed to wake you up. Products advertising, lightweight cheap music and boom-boom blockbusters are supposed to make you sleep. Different things, different aims. Artists are bound to wake us up, bound to shock us out of coma.

And shocking this video certainly was. It’s message (or at least what I perceived by the hearing of it) was “We are being self consumed into nothingness while being fed with void national pride”. Insulting? Well, maybe. But not because Greek anthem was used as its means. I think it’s insulting because it’s like calling us assholes which, well, it’s kind of insulting. And shocking. But, then again, I can’t feel a lot more asshole (and maybe that’s why I wasn’t that much insulted by the video itself) because for the past few days I felt like an asshole more than once. Just look at Amalia’s story and the story of the newborn that died due to lack of ambulances. See, in a way the artist was right, if I wasn’t masturbating (well I prefer hotties and career daydreams over the national anthem), and had been working to make our medical system better then Amalia might not die and that newborn might be alive and I might been working for better wages and, and, and… Em, what did I just say? Shit man! Giving up wanking?! That’s more than insulting. It’s torturous.
nowanking.jpg
…Seriously now. Responding with such heat against an artist that just showed us that we swim into nothingness while our world is collapsing, is hypocritic and hysteric to say the least. Sure, she could use milder ways to say the same thing. But then, please answer this. WOULD WE HEAR?

UPDATE (17 June 2007)
I changed the title of this post which created a steady flow of readers that came by searching for w@nk, ways to w@nk, girls w@nking, public w@nking and the like. Gee man – a bit (unwanted) google trickery and your counter is on fire. Anyway. Not honest for those searchers – not honest for me. W@nking title is off.

Notes/Credits/Etc:
1. That’s maybe because insulting causes nothing but sympathy and this serves in uniting under the insulted symbol. Simple and tested. Want Muslim riots all over the Earth? Just publish some Prophet comics.
2. As I hear the artist comes from Thessaloníki. A beautiful Northern city of Greece with marvelous people. Thessaloniki, despite its marvelous people, is being economically drained for more than a decade now. Thessaloniki, despite its marvelous people, got to be the home of the most “patriotic”, right-wing and nationalistic parties and ideologies that you can find in modern Greece today. I rarely hear of people fighting for better wages in Thessaloníki or articulating the unemployment problem. In fact the most notable articulation of the problem I ever saw came from the fans of PAOK, generally considered as the worst hooligans in Greece. (Oh, yeah. After that, I’m for PAOK.)
3. There were several bipeds that threatened the artist and her family, according to her. Not impressed. Tough to be called an asshole, especially if you’re really one.
4. This is to prevent stupid comments from, my otherwise smart, compatriots: I love my country and I’d possibly be mad if I were abroad and see someone burning its flag or making fun of the national anthem even though that my love towards Greece has nothing to do with any of them. This insult, as you saw it, though, came from a Greek. That’s like a member of my family getting up on the kitchen table in the middle of dinner yelling to us all that we are assholes. Don’t you think that asking her why she says so and checking to see whether our father is alcoholic and our mother a junkie, would be a smarter thing to do than just lock her up?
5. Image found here.

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11 comments

  1. Just when i was about to congratulate you for your excellent analysis Mr G with which i couldn’t agree more, I saw “After that, I’m for mPAOK” and i completely changed my mind.

    Yes, your thesis sucks, man!!!

    What do two-headed chickens have to do with art?

    Anyway…

    From a different point of view we should be happy about police’s storming in the exhibition because it was totally legitimate and for once, oh god, they managed to do their job properly. Yes they made a good application of the law as they are expected to. Do you really think that they can do the same thing with the new KOK? I doubt that…

    However the real problem lies with society’s tolerance of a stupid and obsolete law enacted about 70 years ago by dictator metaxas and with the greek legislation in general which gave rise to that shameful, for modern standards, incident. Moreover, im afraid our constitution isn’t exactly the most liberal, as far as freedom of speech is concerned, constitution in the world. Far from it… And don’t forget the role of the greek media either… They’re crap, for those they don’t know


  2. 😆 OK, OK. I’ll might reconsider about being for PAOK if I see such clever announcements from other fans.

    😆 Well, yes. Police did a fine job (as a matter of fact the whole fuzz was created by its intervention – I doubt whether we’d hear about anything otherwise).

    I don’t know the origins of the specific law but I suspect that you went around investigating so I’ll accept your point and say Yaaac! Gee, man! It’s at least funny for a democracy to keep till this day laws enacted under dictatorship.

    Greek media crap?! Oh, come on now. You’re being too polite I think.

    Thanks for commending pal 🙂


  3. “…Seriously now. Responding with such heat against an artist that just showed us that we swim into nothingness while our world is collapsing, is hypocritic and hysteric to say the least. Sure, she could use milder ways to say the same thing. But then, please answer this. WOULD WE HEAR?”

    well, your analysis is good… and, seeing all these harsh reactions, i have to say i find the exhibit very good.

    i don’t get it why did you make such a fuss of it. i find this police reaction totally inappropriate. if something like this happened in belgrade, tomorrow you’d have dozens of ppl protesting in front of the ministry of police and this would be considered as major violation of freedom of speech…


  4. I don’t get it either dear Dule. Most fellow Greeks I know are pretty cool about it.

    About reactions: There have been quite a few indeed (not ppl protesting though). Maybe not many people considered this whole thing important enough to mobilize.


  5. anyway, what’s happening to my colleague? is he still in jail?

    ok, i know that my profession is a dangerous one -you can easily get fired for doing a good job… but i has never crossed my mind that you can get arrested for doing good job…


  6. No. I don’t think so. She never got jailed. The curator passed a night in jail. I believe there will be a trial in one or two years as is the case for stupid cases like this.

    Well, getting arrested for doing a good job might be a little weird but it may indicate that you did a good job. Anyway I think that one should be a bit careful when deciding to get out something that might be insulting. A bit of lawyer coverage never hurt anyone.


  7. no wanking now, either? watch out people, next we’ll not be able to poop or sneeze. i think art should be exempt from legal boundaries, since it’s well-

    ART!

    on the other hand it HAS been used as a form of very damaging propaganda in the past and i’m not sure how i feel about that.

    same as i feel about TV i guess. if you don’t like it don’t watch it…but that’s not really happening is it?

    i guess it’s the flag that was the real issue. i think generally people need to lighten up about these things you know.


  8. ok, now there’s just one thing i don’t undrstand… on what basis are they prosecuting her!? … there can’t be a low against selecting an artwork for an exhibition…


  9. @ Michelle: I have the same second thoughts dear Michelle and like you I think that it’s a matter of “take or leave it”. We certainly need to lighten up, yes.

    @ Dule: There is an old law about insulting national symbols. Personally though, I think that nothing’s gonna happen. Matter seems to have been forgotten the way that it popped up.


  10. we have a quite difernt problem – since our national anthem is not politacally correct a lot of ppl (including me) don’t respect it at all and do all kinds of stuff with it 🙂


  11. I guess then there will be remixes, versions and all. Quite interesting situation 🙂



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