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Bonfire of the Vanities

May 2, 2017

It’s one thing to be upset with art that appropriates the sacred teaching tools of oppressed indigenous people – to be part of a dominant culture that is essentially a 150 year military occupation, whereby indigenous Nations have suffered genocide, and now those who remain cling to life at the very bottom rungs of the socio-economic ladder – to then idealize them – as a people – and make white art in their sacred traditions, and then sell it as a commodity – is, not only culturally insensitive to the point of willful ignorance, but is also some of the worst ramifications of colonialism.

But to confuse appropriation with art you simply find uncomfortable is another matter entirely.

Some of the best art in the world directly challenges the status quo.


Rokeby Venus by Diego Velazquez

Venus, Diego Valazquez – banned by Spanish Inquisition

To suggest that religion, violence, or eroticism should also be banned from a gallery moves one into dangerous, censorious neighborhoods.


These are the neighborhoods of the Totalitarian bureaucrat, the Soviet administrator who has been given power to decree “what is Art” and “what is not Art”.

The Trench warfare by Otto Dix

Trench warfare, Otto Dix – banned by Third Reich

Bertolt Brecht, Charlie Chaplin, Thomas Mann, Arthur Miller, Salvador Dali, Diego Velazquez, Cravaggio, Otto Dix, and many many many others have had their art, their writing, their movies, their ideas, banned in the name of proper social convention.


The last Judgment by Michelangelo

The Last Judgement – Michelangelo – Vatican was initially outraged and wanted the work destroyed if genitalia was not covered.

In Hitler’s Final Solution for the total elimination of the Jew from Europe, he planned on keeping the Jewish Quarter in Prague as a museum of the vanquished people. That is why he ordered that Prague not be bombed during the war. Prague contained some of the oldest synagogues in Europe – they would be perfect spaces to venerate a disappeared people.

This is why the indigenous communities of Canada get so upset when they see white people appropriating and idealizing their culture. It is a safe and comfortable place from which to view “these people of the land.” (No matter that most of the indigenous population in Canada now lives in urban areas.)

That is an important concept to understand.

But in your haste to eradicate appropriated culture, you then also want to include any art that makes you uncomfortable, which is a slippery slide into only producing art that is meaningless.

Just how much more generic, inoffensive, landscape art do you want me to put up with?

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