Friday, June 6, 2008

The Man Behind the Madness

Early this morning word broke out about a controversial art exhibit entitled "The Assassination of Barack Obama." Here is text from the news story:

A controversial art exhibit was raided and shut down before it could be viewed in NYC yesterday.

According to the NY Times blog: Cityroom, Boston-born performance artist, Yazmany Arboleda, tried to set up a provocative art exhibition in a vacant storefront on West 40th Street in Midtown Manhattan with the title, "The Assassination of Hillary Clinton/The Assassination of Barack Obama".

The artist thought his racist views were protected under the Constitution because he was expressing himself through his art. Wrong.

Not 30 minutes after Arboleda set up the gallery across the street from the New York Times building, police, feds and secret service swooped in to shut the art exhibit down. While police covered the offensive storefront window with brown paper, Arboleda was led away in handcuffs to be "interrogated".

Arboleda, 27, learned the hard way that freedom has its limits. Later, in an interview, he said: "It's art. It's not supposed to be harmful. It's about character assassination — about how Obama and Hillary have been portrayed by the media." He added, "It's about the media."

Here some pictures from it:

Hmmmm. What do I think about this? In fairness to dude, he also had an exhibit called "The Assassination of Hilary Clinton" as well, so both of them caught it. But of course, the Obama one is gonna catch the most flack.

I mean, I'm not an artist, well, yes I am in a way. Either way, I have an appreciation of artistic expression and license. When I heard about this display, I thought I was going to be appalled. Especially judging from how people were reacting on the Warren Ballentine show and blog today. Then when I saw the pics, I wasn't as enraged as I thought I would be.

Call me crazy, but...I kinda see where buddy was trying to go with this. After all, its been the media putting the idea out there that something might happen to Obama if he's elected. Its been the media promoting the "is he black or black enough" ideologies since he declared. As far as the Black penis pictures go, I want to say that ol' boy might be trying to show that most White Americans are scared to death of the thought of a Black man running the country. Much like prejudiced whites in the past were scared to death of crazed, overtly sexual, well endowed Black men wanting their women and raping them of their "pureness."

As far as the "Nappy Headed Hoes" picture. Yeah, that's done in poor taste, he should not have used a picure of Barack's daughters for that. At the same time though, I'd like to think that the artist was trying to show that Don Imus' remarks and view of Black women is shared by many. In addition to that, "the media" which includes any company with the capital and reach to influence through mass marketing, has been very instrumental in bombarding young Black girls with derogatory images of themselves, leading many of them to think that its ok to grow up and become a "nappy headed hoe."

I've been saying for years that Character Assassination is the new assassination. I wasn't around in the 60's but, I highly doubt that the news was constantly talking about Martin Luther King being adulterous, John Kennedy banging Marylin Monroe or that Malcolm X ate pig feet and pork chops in his spare time. Back then, if you were a threat, you just got taken out.

Since people were alot more active back then, they would raise hell when shit like that happened. Fearful that the people might get a little too strong, the powers that be stopped killing leaders off. Instead they just got them strung out on dope or assassinated their character.

Think about it, if your leader was killed tomorrow, you'd be inclined to raise some hell afterwards. Now, if you find out that your leader was cheating on his wife and getting women pregnant, you're more prone to stop fucking with them altogether, giving up hope in them and their message altogether.

That's why I never feared anything happening to Obama. That's dumb nigger talk anyway. Niggas talking about "they gonna kill him" sound like scared slaves to me. But, you notice, they've thrown everything but the kitchen sink at Obama since he entered the presidential race. But what fucked them up is that he beat them to the dirt by putting most of it out himself. That's why they keep popping up with preachers and shit. If the media and powers that be can get enough people to not believe in him and question his character, their mission is accomplished.

Sorry, I'm rambling again. Anyway, how do ya'll feel about this exhibit? Do you think he had good intention at sparking dialogue and thought, but just fucked it up? Or do you think he's an idiot, racist or whatever you want to call him?

After visiting the artist's blog and seeing what talks about and does, he just strikes me as one of those middle of the road folks that accepts everything and criticizes it at the same time. You know, one of those "it is what it is" types that just presents information to make YOU think with out necessarily asking them what THEY think, because half the time they have no clue either.

But, in defense of the artist, he's been planning the shit for months and he thoroughly explained it last-October on his blog when he said:

The exhibits will be composed of imagery that speaks to how during the campaign trail for the presidency both Obama and Hillary have had their character 'assassinated.' The choice of words for the titles is absolutely intentional. It is through systematic consumerism that the American populace goes through celebrities and political leaders like they go through big Macs. It seems to me that we are amassing a history filled with corrupt leaders and dysfunctional celebrities, reflecting the fact a society that digests information and food in much the same way a microwave heats up food rather than cooks it. We are made hungry by a parade of empty calories through a socio-political system unwilling to trade in its capital for substance.

The work that will be created for these two exhibits is bold, unapologetic, and offensive. Each piece is made to make you feel uncomfortable. It is all very intentional.

Judging from the words people are using to express their disgust with the exhibit, I think alot of people are assuming that the "Boston-born artist" was a Nazi White Boy, thus making them feel like their misguided anger is justifiable. But, as you can see, he's far from it. What do ya'll think, I really want to hear ya'll on this.


Eyez said...


RAHZILLA said...

After reading his statement from back in October before his artwork was exhibit, I do not think he was talking about assassination in the physical sense.

However, I do not agree with it and I believe his timing was wrong. The man just won the Democratic nomination.

To use his daughter in that picture was a low blow if I ever seen one.

Rodney said...

funny that his blog is called "assassination of art" and that's just what happened.

The images alone are thought-provoking as hell. That's the funny thing about art. It's always about intention. Sometimes that's more important than the product. I took a photography class in college once and I was of the mind that you should let the artwork speak for itself, but the prof would always put a high stock in people's verbal explanations. Which was sorta wack. Like you could put some BS up there and say the right thing and have everybody nodding their heads.

But dude, I clicked on your link to "nappy headed hoes" and the Bust It Baby audition tape was ridiculous. If they arrested this dude, they need to arrest PLies and every chick at that audition.

And that character assassination breakdown was heavy, too. I hadn't thought of it, but that is worse than the real thing.

Looks like it's going to be a long hot summer.

b.ING said...

art is meant to be thought - provoking. period. he completed his task whether we agree or disagree w/ the images. Using pictures of his daughter is no more wrong than the 'bros before hoes' pictures floating through this illusionary campaign.

no- i'm not offeneded. we claim
'ethics' one moment, freedom of speech' the next. dude explained the exhibit fully. psuedo reporting resulted when they omitted that very fact.

i'm mad it closed down.

Monk said...

I would've LOVED to see this exhibit in it's entirety as it is kind of unjust for the artist's work to be only shown without its full effect. I don't see a problem with any of the images posted (or on th Hillary link) because as it may appear "wrong" when taken at face value, we should always desire to look beneath the "surface".

The media, which is empowered by rich republicans for the most part HAVE pit Obama and Clinton against each other in a battle they did not balance with the repubican race. (BOTTOMLINE: Black Man vs. White Woman = More Controversy, More Ratings, and More Interest) When it comes to that battle, it's the ol' divide and conquer technique that's been used time and time again which may result in McCain bing elected.

Yes, I may be biased because I'm an artist myself and history shows us that in many times, art is up to one's perception and I don't see anything wrong with an artist giving his reasons and intent before or after the exhibit is even presented. Also, I feel the artist has the right to not say anything at all if he/she choose to.

If dude was given the space for his exhibit, he should be able to show it. Arresting him and shutting his joint down I think may be a symptom of him being white and black folks' reations. I'm not sure. I do know if dude was black, a lot of blacks would have more interest in the matter and it would be yet another "mainstream" media subject.

Andrea said...

CRAZY as HELL that you and I had almost the exact same reaction about this... but i see some of your other readers do as well...

I would've liked to see this exhibit as well, and do we know that this dude is racist???

Torrance Stephens - All-Mi-T said...

freedom has no limits neither does liberty

Nadine G. said...

I think that the issue I had with it at first was the fact that it wasn't too long ago where leaders DID get assassinated, so the use of that term is... Well, yeah, it's gonna be looked at like "Wow, what the fuck?" All in all, it IS performance art right? It's all done for the sake of shock value, I don't think that dude is a racist, I do believe in free speech. I just think that he had to have known that his getting yoked up was coming. It's a sensitive topic that most people don't wanna pull the scab off of. Everyone isn't as intelligent to put together what performance art is, and what profound ideas it can produce. As with everything you gotta be responsible, there are a lot of crazies out there.

Chris said...

It seems like you should of been buddy Director of Public Relations.
I know what buddy tried to implicate but people really need to read the 1st ammendment it does not say that you have free speech. It says Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. Read that carefully no where does it say that you can say what you want. They just said that they can't make it a law saying you can't talk. That's totally diferent. See buddy considered his exhibit a peaceble event to display his opinions and speech. BUT he who decides what's peaceable ? Not us the Government does.So if the Government thinks that people are going to get excited about it they will shut it down. If you talking about racism, war, and politics that's going to get people excited. But if you talk about Micheal Vick, Brittney Spears, and The new Ironman and Hulk movies. Then that's not going to get people exicted just distracted.

Anonymous said...

Just like reading one verse in the Bible gets women bowing down to serve their does the Freedom of Speech statement. READ THE WHOLE CONSTITUTION. Freedom of Speech comes with HELLA RESPONSIBILITY. For one the responsibility to help KEEP THE PEACE! This exhibit, regardless of the belief of "well intention" is harmful. It would not keep the peace. Look at the interpretation of it alredy.

And since when did the word "art" include in it's definition 'vulgarity'. If you read the dictionary the word specifically speaks of "beauty". People have taken freedom of expression and art is in the eye of the beholder too far.

That's why our society is going to "hell in a handbasket" (as my grandma would say:-)

Face it. People don't fully read, they half use their senses. I'd be surprised if one could tell the difference between a rose and frisa. We are not OVERALL an observant people. So, we only get part of the message (case in point--only one part of this exhibit will be shown--which could be intentional too).

The exhibit is harmful. It requires moral censorship and probably a lot more censorships. Why? Because we are responsible to protect each other from harm. I know no one wants that responsibility but, people, we have to start caring about each other a little more than just saying -- "oh he should be able to say what he wants." No. We should really be praying for the sick minds of the world.

How about this for freedom of speech. Child pornography. There are a lot of people who believe you infringe on their right to freedom of speech/expression with this. I know you will say, "Hey that's different. It's harmful to children."

It's not different. It's harmful to people.

The more negativity you impress on the mind, the more your mind becomes like it.

We are not immune to the power of the subconscious mind. (read the studies on flashing a picture of coke and popcorn to make you buy it). So we must be more responsible with the images we allow to be implanted in our mind--regardless of the intention.

The subconscious does not read intention. It takes what it sees and hears as fact and has your physical body and spirit begin to act as such. This is science. Not hokey pokey -- factual science.

We need to be a lot more careful what we allow our minds to injest. EVERYTHING that goes in the body (mind, physical, etc) has a way of showing up on the outside.

I'm not saying be running "scared like a slave" but, I'm saying be empowered like a Freedom Fighter and stand for something instead of regergitating what the media is doing. Take a stand to stop it instead of telling them how wrong it is. Stop watching it. Or write and tell them that it's trash. Take a POSITIVE STAND instead of explaining why the negative is okay.

Let's care for each other better than this. Let's care for our leaders in more respectful ways. Let's care for our children with dignity and love. Hey, let's care for each other. Is that so hard? (Darn, I feel like saying, "can't we all just get along) hee, hee, hee....

Okay, I'm off my soap box now.

Come on y'all that crap was a regergitation of trash. There wasn't an original thought in the whole exhibit and that my friends, is NOT art. That's somebody spreading propaganda. But, hey, I bet he gets hired somewhere and makes a bunch of money--but then that was probably intentional too!

Beverly said...

I think one of the things that the artist has over-looked in his quest for media attention - because make no mistake, it's not about opening up issues and making people think, it's about making someone, any one, everyone look, "Look at me!!" type thing. It is offensive, really offensive and not because of the images he plays on but the really, really old tropes that he plays on. A giant penis? Really? That's a fascination, an anxiety of white America that's been played, replayed, recycled, reused, rehashed over and over and over since this nation *started*. Nooses? "Nappy headed hos"? "...Black Hope..."? What it really tells you is that:
1)this artist has no new perspective to bring to old ideas, they play like, "Oh, I've seen that before".
2)he's not above using "blackness" as a negative, if he were to identify as black, if he were to stand in the shoes of blackness, compassion and understanding would have produced a more nuanced work than this, maybe it would have made people think.
3)It's not art. It's advertising. Art's sole purpose is not the self aggrandizing of the artist, this is self propaganda at best, republican propaganda at worst. It reeks of someone who is trying too hard.

In the end there will be a great deal of bad political art. I think a better example of political art that has worked well is "It's Raining McCain". It was really and truly baffling - are these supporters? is this parody? It was really bad, and that's what made it good. In the end the artist should know that he failed when he hears "it's terrible that he used such-and-such" because it is a superficial assessment - your art is not saying anything, it simply is taking up space.

rosmar said...

I totally agree with you, and I am relieved to find a blog that sees the artist's intentions (which he actually told us) and that, however hamfisted some of the pieces are, they are clearly intended to call attention to racism and sexism rather than to be racist or sexist themselves.

I found you via another blog, and I'm glad I did. I'm adding your blog to my rss feeder.

rosmar said...

Also, on the idea that he is only saying what has long been said--yeah, that is also the point. "Nappy headed hos" didn't come from some 1890s political speech--it came from this primary season. As did the nooses. As did the obsession with Hillary's pantsuits. He's only commenting on what the media has actually been doing these past fews years.

Anonymous said...

I agree w/ you when you said you're not really offended. He was trying to make a point about how we need to look deeper than what the media is portraying in the news today and do some research ourselves. One thing for you-can you stop cursing please, it's not necessary. Why d@man the CREATOR that wakes you up everday-JESUS!