I AM A DANE? I AM AN ARTIST? I AM A DANISH ARTIST?
As an act of solidarity to the danish people on the day after the tragic killings in Copenhagen on february 14th, the french newspaper Liberation, wrote on its front page: Vi er alle danskere. We are all danish. The chain of events leading up to the tragic event makes me doubt this, at least for myself. I don’t want to part of the danishness that is now being projected unto the global media surface. I don’t want to be that danish artist everyone is now claiming their solidarity. I feel that this danish-artist-identity of mine has been corrupted. It has been hi-jacked. Why so?
I AM NOT DANISH
On sunday afternoon, the day after the killings, I heard a political debate on the danish radio. Representatives from all political parties were present, discussing the tragic events. Or they weren’t exactly dicussing. Everyone, from the far right to the far left, from Dansk Folkeparti to Enhedslisten said the same: The freedom of speech is threatened, democratic values must be defended and in this we stand united. We oppose islamic fundamentalism. It was kind of strange. All parties stated close to exact the same. Political debate on one of the most important issues in danish politics reduced to a completely identical repetition of an exact identical statement of 3 or 4 sentences. To me this is the significate state of danish politics at the moment.
The so-called cartoon-crisis in 2005 – or Mohammed-crisis as it termed in Denmark – and the ensuing defence of the so-called freedom of speech is a hoax. A deception that has paralysed danish democracy and has send a whole nation in the arms of a small group of right-wing fundamentalists.
How dare the editor of the nations largest newspaper claim that his freedom of speech is under pressure? This person, Flemming Rose, was at that moment in time, back in 2005, in absolute control of his own freedom of speech, he had a daily open access to the largest news media in the country. A newspaper that was in a close alliance with the government at the moment. A newspaper that was being read closely by the complete top of the danish power hierarchy. Printing the original Mohammad-drawings can in no way be considered as an act of free speech. Freedom of speech is the right of the opressed to criticize the powers to be. That the most powerfull newspaper editor in Denmark used his open access to national media to ridicule and harrass the religious beliefs of a cultural minority can in no way be termed as an act of free speech. It is hate speech. Nothing more and nothing less. To promote it as an act of free speech is ridiculous.
The complete array of danish parliamentarism has bought this hoax without any critical consideration whatsoever. Over and over again it has been claimed that this freedom of speech is a specific quality of danish democracy. That this version of democracy is a specific feature of danish culture. That this version of danish culture is an absolute quality that can in no way be negotiated. Neither within the public debate in Denmark, nor by anyone who want to become integrated into danish society. It is an absolute signifier of danish culture, of danish democracy and of danish identity. We are all danish. If we don’t buy into this version of freedom of speech, if we don’t buy into this version of danish democracy, if we don’t buy into this version of danish values – well, what then? Am I not danish then?
If every danish politician, from the far right to the far left, agrees upon these so-called danish values, agrees upon those 3-4 lines of identical feel-good-spin, how can they claim to engage in a critical dialogue on these issues?
I don’t think the Muhammed-drawings were an act of free speech. I think they were an act of hate speech. I don’t think the ensuing debate and the ensuing international clash with islamic fundamentalists are a struggle on free speech. Its a cultural war and its a cultural war instigated by a small elite of right-wing intellectuals that projected their hatred to a minority unto a global media space.
I AM NOT AN ARTIST
By claiming his presence in media as a conceptual art work swedish visual artist Lars Vilks abducts the concept of art. What is produced here is a figure of the artist as a warrior of free-speech. This is ‘the true artist’. The rest of us – all the lame left-wing artists – practice self-censorship, because we don’t offend islam. Vilks has teamed up with another swedish artist, Dan Park, who was prosecuted and jailed in Sweden for his racist paintings. Both Vilks and Park is now being resurrected in Denmark, where both the organisation Trykkefrihedsselskabet and a circle of right-wing intellectuals instrumentalise them as the true artist-martyrs of free speech. Vilks and Park thus figures as the ultimate free-speech-artists, that dare to break away from political correctness and reveal the surpressed truth about the invasion of islamic fundamentalism. In this bizarre abduction the figure of the (swedish) artist is merged with the pure identity of danishness. Vilks and Park are the true danish artists, the uncorrect frontline warriors in the struggle against islamism and multiculturalism. They are the defenders of the specific danish virtues, democracy and free speech.
I don’t think the first Muhammed-drawing of Kurt Vestergaard was art, but mere illustration, produced on demand by scrupulous editor-in-chief, Flemming Rose. I don’t think Lars Vilks infamous drawing of Mohammed as a dog was anything but a lame appropriation, a strategic media stunt. I don’t think Dan Park qualifies as anything, but an unintelligent racist, without any artistic nerve whatsoever. By playing the free-speech card all 3 artists gains immediate media attention, but are in the same instance instrumentalised, even self-instrumentalised, by the core right-wing fundamentlists of Trykkefrihedsselskabets and their cohordes.
In this discourse the figure of the artist as free-speech-warrior is central. It is this figure that secures the inherent logic of the free-speech argument. The artist has a personal agenda that overrides all other concerns. No other individual can claim such an agenda. No one else can claim the ’necessary expression’ of the artist: A necessity that secures an artistic expression as true and legitimised beyond any trival concerns, such as political correctness, tolerance, respect and humanism. It is a defining aspect of this artist figure that the subjective need to express himself overides any other moral or ethical concern. This is why the figure of the artist is so central to the discourse on free speech. It is only the artist who can claim legitimacy to a subjective expression that overrides any other concern. In this logic it is irrelevant to discuss or moderate any kind of hate-speech. It is the very definition of this artistic figure that it must seek maximum provocation – racism and islamophobic utterances being the absolute formats of the political uncorrect. The right-wing discourse on free speech needs artists to perform this figure. Vilks and Park are the willing coalition – a marriage made, not in heaven, but in Denmark.
I don’t produce any islamofobic art. This is not self-censorship. As a danish artist I reject the instrumentalsiation of my professional identity, that is going on inside and around the fundamentalist turn of danish politics.
I AM NOT A DANISH ARTIST