The hazards of Political Art [part MCMXII]

Even for the most accomplished of smart ass, wise guy, artist provocateurs, political art is dicey. Art can be political. But if it is, it better also be very good.
So… Banksy has a hotel in the West Bank city of Bethlehem called Walled Off. Okay. And he threw a street party to mock-celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Balfour declaration:

People from the nearby Aida refugee camp said afterwards they objected to the way the event had used Palestinian children as the centrepiece of the performance. “We came because we didn’t like the use of the British flags or the way they were using Palestinian children,” said Munther Amira, a prominent activist from Aida who planted a large Palestinian flag in the middle of a cake.

Banksy’s rendering of a British street party was intended to satirise other celebrations, including the dinner on Thursday, at which guests will include the British prime minister, Theresa May, and her Israeli counterpart, Benjamin Netanyahu.

Several dozen Palestinian children had been invited to the event, which included scorched bunting and flags, cakes and helmets painted with union flags set at a table beneath the looming concrete separation wall.
The event also included the unveiling of a new work by Banksy, etched into the concrete of the wall: a mock apology from Queen Elizabeth II to the Palestinians reading “Er … sorry”.

The Balfour declaration was the result of discussions between British Zionist leaders seeking political recognition of their goals for Jewish statehood and British politicians embroiled in the first world war.

Whoever Banksy is, his instinct to bring attention to Palestinian suffering is well-chosen but also lousy with pitfalls. Once any artist begins to make statements of expression using actual people, their stories, histories and emotions, they are using much more than words, paint, film or movement. I’m not convinced that it can’t or should not be done – it has and will again. But again: err first on the side of excellence. Good work is easily marginalized if it can be dismissed as manipulative self-promotion.

Bike People

See… that sounded like an admonition, but you add a ‘for’ in there and it’s just a website.

Maybe in the same way that Republicans do things like pay $200 for a ticket to hear Sarah Palin speak not because they like her (yeah sure, even they aren’t that stupid), but because they know it pisses off liberals, maybe people will buy and ride bikes just because they know it will piss of conservatives.

Okay, I guess because we don’t derive joy in that way – or is it that we just get our kicks in other ways? – that won’t work. But you have to admit it is a kind of icing on a kind of cake.

The Wow and the Now

New thematic posting alert, and I can’t promise this isn’t a slacker work-around to something a little more considered and original.

Nonetheless, two of the integrated sensations of living in our present age are the often-overlapping phenomena of “Wow, that’s amazing,” and “Now they tell us!” You can decide which is which.

Examples A-D:

A patent-pending device by which you can project your own bike lane.

Ant mega-colony has colonized much of the world, without becoming indifferent or uncivil to one another.

Having sex daily is the key to fertility.

A solar cell that can be tuned to the light of a particular latitude.

* * * – combining exasperation with excitement since sometime last spring.