Weekly musings on the arts and current events.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Culture Clash

The immensely gifted Columbian artist Fernando Botero created a numbered series of paintings and drawings of the prisoners' sufferings and humiliations at Abu Ghraib, his adipose style evoking Christian iconography. He has donated the collection to the University of California at Berkeley where they are now on display. "Art is a permanent accusation," said Botero, and certainly it will never be possible to consider these works apart from their shameful context.

Across the street from the Berkeley Art Museum is Boalt Hall, the scene of ongoing demonstrations against Professor John Yoo because of his participation in the writing of legal memoranda, during the Bush administration, authorizing enhanced interrogation techniques. Protestors have labeled Yoo a war criminal and demanded that his tenure be revoked. For his part, Yoo has said: "I saw that a small group can now attack us with the violence of a nation…the Geneva Convention never recognized this kind of enemy."

Let's take a step back. On the same campus two eloquent voices are being heard on the subject of torture. Each raises troubling questions for us to deliberate and neither should be silenced. This is what academic freedom is for and why universities exist. Let's all go back to class.

Abu Ghraib #44, 2005. Click on the picture for a closer look.


DUTA said...

When I look at the pictures I see three chubby, naked bodies; I fail to see here torture ,humiliation, suffering. Even the rope hardly indicates torture , it looks more like wrist and ankle rope bracelets that are fashionable in certain parts of the world. Only the bars of the windows are a sign of a confinement place where very bad things could happen.

I'm not happy with what's happening to the americans or because of the americans in Irak and Afghanistan. But this is war going on, not some academic picnic. War, any war is brutal, bloody, terrible.

The Muslims used to call Mr. Bush 'majnoun' meaning crazy. Since no one knows what to expect of a crazy man, they feared him , and that was good.
Now they know for sure what to expect of the american President - Nothing; so if and when the americans will retreat from these awful places that generate terror, I won't be surprised if the Muslims and their friends in South America & Korea turn the USA into theit main target.

TallTchr said...

Thank you for your comment, Duta, but I can't agree with you on the paintings. The "chubbiness" is Botero's style. Keeping prisoners nude, blindfolded, and in stress positions is part of the abuse they suffered. At Abu Ghraib, it often had nothing to do with interrogation; it was sheer perversity. As for Obama vs. Bush, I'll reserve judgment for now.

Paula Slade said...

I thought the paintings are a powerful and shameful reminder of what has been done, and should not be forgotten by those who call themselves 'civilized.'