Sunday, November 23, 2008

Lars Vilks in the Crosshairs, Yet Again

Lars Vilks and his infamous Modoggies have been out of the news for a while, but the controversial artist (and ruler of Ladonia) has returned to the headlines today with the long-awaited opening of his musical Dogs.

According to The Local:

Swedish Artist’s Muhammad Musical Courts New Controversy

Swedish artist Lars Vilks is at the centre of a new controversy as his new musical Dogs premiered in Stockholm on Saturday.

Meanwhile, an exhibition of his Muhammad caricatures has been blocked by Kalmar Art Museum.

At a panel discussion after the premiere of the musical — a filmed documentation of events occurring after the drawings of the Muslim prophet Muhammad as a roundabout dog, chaos reigned on Saturday.

A ModoggieThis is no surprise. All the previous incidents involving Lars Vilks — in which each new ridiculous roundabout dog drawing caused a new furor — demonstrated the impossibility a civil discussion in Sweden about even the mildest mockery of Islam.

The artist has further confounded his critics by making cryptic utterances, engaging in elaborate pranks and jokes at the expense of the press and the public, and in general refusing to become the Islamophobic ideologue that his critics expect.

If the trailer for Dogs is any indication, another free-associative Vilks masterpiece can be expected, this time in musical form.

In the wake of the premiere, the discussion turned ugly:
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When Vilks stood to address the several hundred people gathered in the ABF building in Stockholm, a young woman rose to her feet, made threatening gestures with her key ring and screamed at the artist.

One of the debate’s organizers seized the woman in order to escort her from the premises.

“She then scratched her keys over his underarm, cutting him in two places,” said Filip Björner for the event’s organizers, the Swedish Humanist Association.

According to Björner the association had reached an agreement with the police to deal with any demonstrators gently. The woman was therefore allowed to join other demonstrators outside the building in central Stockholm.

But after the woman was removed from the debate, another woman swiftly took her place. She was permitted to participate in the debate and took the opportunity to verbally abuse the co-organizers, the Ex-Muslims, a group known internationally as “Muslims for Christ.”

After the conclusion of the debate, Vilks was obliged to leave the building by the back entrance in the company of a police escort.

Furthermore, local media reported on Saturday that a retrospective exhibition by Vilks had been stopped at Kalmar Art Museum.

The move has caused controversy as the museum’s board overruled a decision by the head of the museum, Clas Börjesson, and the museum’s curator, to support the exhibition.

The head of the museum’s board, Sven Lindgren, denies that Börjesson’s authority has been undermined.

“As a rule we should not get involved but in this instance, and with a new art museum which has attracted a great deal of attention, it is important to be careful with the exhibitions that are chosen,” he said to Sveriges Radio Kalmar.

Lindgren denied that the decision was made due to fears over the consequences of showing the controversial artist’s work, and explained that it was a question of quality.

He argued that Vilks’ work simply displayed insufficient artistic quality to be shown at the Kalmar museum.

Lars VilksThis is blatantly disingenuous. Anyone who has researched Mr. Vilks’ oeuvre will confirm that the Modoggies are entirely consistent in style and technical execution with works the artist has created previously. The sole objection to them is that they point to a topic that the cognoscenti have deemed out of bounds. This particular topic — the mockery of Islam — simply can’t be touched.

The very reaction of the museum and other cultural gatekeepers proves Mr. Vilks’ point: Muslims enjoy special protection that is granted to no other group. Christians and atheists may be mocked without restriction, but Islam is off-limits.

Undeterred by a slew of death threats, Vilks began working on a musical about the controversy, a move he explained at the time to Dagens Nyheter:

“It is part of the rules of the game to be able to criticize religion and politics. It is nothing personal and I do not have it in for anyone.”

Vilks intends for the musical Dogs to have further showings but has said that he expects interest to wane and the attendant controversy to ease with time.

“Looking at the bigger picture, you should see that something is happening. The more cartoons and drawings are made, the less interesting it will be. In the end people will get used to it,” Vilks told The Local in March 2008.

We shall see.

If a Motoon or a Modoggie were to appear in the newspaper every day, public interest — possibly violent public interest — would increase for an indefinite period. But such an eventuality is impossible — the newspapers and magazines of the West, even if permitted by their governments, will not publicize such material. Only the censorship and censuring of the artist will be described in the press. The blasphemous images themselves will remain hidden behind the MSM firewall.

Except in Denmark, of course.

Mr. Vilks is light-hearted and whimsical about the whole affair, but he’s well aware of the underlying seriousness of what he’s doing. Last year, during the height of the Roundabout Dog Crisis, someone asked him if drawing the Modoggies was worth dying for.

In reply he said simply, “Yes, it is.”


For previous posts on Lars Vilks and the Roundabout Dogs, see the Modoggie Archives.

3 comments:

Graham Dawson (Archonix) said...

Kalmar! I'll be there by the middle of next month. Perhaps I should ask about it and see what happens.

Czechmade said...

Vilks - sounds Latvian to me.
Is he an immigrant? His name means "wolf".

Derailed Cluetrain said...

Perhaps his family was originally from Latvia, but the man is as Swedish as you get without shouting Allah Akbar these days.