Monday, April 18, 2011

Iconoclasm in Avignon

As everyone knows by now, two works by Andres Serrano, including the famous/notorious "Piss Christ," were destroyed by vandals Catholic activists this Sunday in Avignon. The works had been displayed in the city before without incident and had this time been hanging in the Avignon gallery for three months without arousing any particular ire until the archbishop of Avignon, Mgr Jean-Pierre Cattenoz, objected to their presence, setting in motion a mounting tide of emotion ending in the destruction of the works.

Serrano's work is not to everyone's taste (including mine), but many tasteless works escape auto-da-fé. The passions unleashed in Avignon are similar to those unleashed by the Danish cartoons mocking Mohammed or the burning of the Koran in Florida. It seems rather beside the point to take refuge behind the supposed "sacred" status of the "work of art" when the point of the work is at least in part to provoke, just as surely as the cartoons and the burning were intended to provoke. Art can no more abdicate its capacity to provoke than religion can. The artist chooses to avail himself of that power in full knowledge of what he is doing, and if the provocation results in the destruction of the work, it paradoxically enhances its own power as well as the standing of "art" in general. In the age of mechanical reproduction, moreover, destruction may not be permanent. The mockery of death and resurrection may itself be born again. I prefer to reserve my outrage for other matters, since I share neither the passion for nor the passion against "Piss Christ." Speech is free, and those who would suppress the artist's freedom to speak now stand before the courts. Life goes on.

Franco-Italian Border Skirmish

Italy has issued temporary passports to several hundred Tunisian refugees who want to go to France. France yesterday suspended train service across the border at Vintimille to prevent their entry, although it says that it recognizes the "conditional" legality of the passports under the Schengen agreement. What I suspect is happening here is that France simply wants to publicize its "resistance" to the "influx" of refugees but recognizes that in the end they will come. So we'll see some skirmishes like yesterday's to minimize the number of mass arrivals with banners waving, but eventually individuals will filter in with their legal passports and that will be that, but the Front National will do what it can with the news.

UPDATE: The European Commission backs France.


Indefatigable, the peripatetic philosopher-diplomat-general returns from yet another trip to Libya with an explanation of the rebels' lack of success. It's NATO's fault:

4. Les frappes. J'ai eu le privilège d'être admis dans la Control Room de l'état-major de la Libye libre. J'ai pu y consulter le livre de bord où se trouve consigné l'historique des opérations demandées par les Libyens et mises en œuvre par la coalition.
Et j'ai clairement vu qu'il y a eu une première phase : celle où chaque pays avait la maîtrise de ses avions et où, entre le moment où Younes et son adjoint, le général de brigade Abdeslam Alhasi, donnaient la position d'une pièce d'artillerie et le tir qui la neutralisait, il s'écoulait à peine une heure. Puis une deuxième phase qui s'ouvre avec le passage du commandement à l'OTAN : le délai moyen devient de 7 heures – tout le temps qu'il faut à la "cible" pour bouger, voire disparaître ou se fondre au milieu des civils. 

Of course there are a few other problems as well: lack of training, poor arms, poor organization, Qaddafist infiltration, etc. But a few more BHL shuttle missions to deliver hope and hype in equal measure should suffice to turn the tide.

ADDENDUM: Here is another account of life inside the rebel camp to contrast with BHL's.

Can't Help Himself

The FN has changed, Jean-Marie Le Pen claims, thanks to his having given up the reins.

F.-S. Votre fille Marine veut, dit-elle, « dédiaboliser » le FN. Pour vous venger ?J.-M. L. P. J'ai le sentiment d'avoir été toute ma vie une cible. Marine a-t-elle souhaité que cette agression cesse ? Sans doute. Comme j'ai cristallisé tout cela sur moi pendant des années, le fait d'avoir passé les rênes a pu servir à cette « dédiabolisation ». Avec un dirigeant nouveau, le FN peut être plus libre.

But he's doing his best to make it clear that he hasn't changed one iota:

F.-S. Condamnez-vous le communautarisme ?J.-M. L. P. Savez-vous qu'il y a des villes en France qui sont déjà majoritairement étrangères ? Roubaix, 60 % d'immigrés maghrébins ! Si vous attendez le jour où ça brûle pour en prendre conscience, il sera un peu tard. Vous avez vu les foules en Egypte, en Tunisie, en Syrie ? Le jour où vous avez une foule comme ça qui descendra les Champs-Elysées ! Ce n'est rien, pour eux, à la limite, d'avoir 300.000 personnes. Qui les arrêtera ? Et s'ils descendent les Champs-Elysées, ce ne sera pas pour faire joujou. Par exemple, ils veulent sodomiser le Président. Ils se donnent ça comme objectif : arriver jusqu'à la grille du Coq, l'enfoncer, et ensuite « le » sabrer ? Je répète : qui les arrêtera ?

The "logic" of this little fantasy is astonishing. We go from speculation about the ethnic composition of Roubaix to televised images of the uprisings (pro-democracy uprisings!) in Arab countries, to an unstoppable march down the Champs-Elysées (the Occupation!) to a charge that "they" (antecedent unspecified--the citizens of Roubaix? the pro-democracy demonstrators? the Nazis? immigrants?) have as their goal the buggering of the president (borrowed from Stéphane Guillon?). The mind reels. And J-MLP remains the "honorary president" of MLP's FN.