Saturday, September 26, 2015

And that is why we need Passion For Freedom

Passion For Freedom is not an organization many people know about it, which is a pity. This is what they say their aim is:
What we do:

Create space for artists and writers who discuss subjects omitted in politically correct circles.

Invite people to open and uninhibited discussion. Nothing is more important than critically informed debate. It’s how society has advanced through the ages. Gather like-minded people creating a network of actively engaged citizens who hold high the value of individual’s freedom.
On the whole, I rather dislike the phrase "politically correct". It is meaningless and is used all too often on the right (roughly speaking) in the same way as the word "fascist" is used on the left: to silence arguments that cannot be answered.

In any case, a good many of the causes Passion For Freedom espouses: support for bloggers and journalists like Raif Badawi or opposition to the invasion of Crimea and eastern Ukraine by Russia are widely described and reported. Other causes, such as the fate of women in Islamic societies tends to be mumbled over by many people, particularly though not exclusively on the left but are still discussed. Nevertheless, we all need to support people who are fighting for freedom in conditions that are considerably less favourable than those in this country.

As this blog maintains: За Вашу и Нашу Свободу - For Your Freedom and Ours.

Passion For Freedom is holding its annual (we hope that is still true) London Art Festival at the Art Galleries and I went to the special VIP evening yesterday. (No, I don't know either why I was considered to be a VIP but I had a good time met several friends and chatted to some interesting people. So, I am not complaining.)

I am sorry to say that I do not agree with Douglas Murray's ecstatic review of the exhibition. Most of the art was anything but stunning, though I am delighted that people can produce the art that means so much to them about issues that mean so much to them. But if you want to see a wonderful painting that tells us all we really want to know about lack of freedom and having to create in code, look at this late work by Kaziemir Malevich. Back in the Soviet Union he was arrested twice for espionage and "encouraged" to paint in the more acceptable figurative way. (As a matter of fact, he might have gone back to figurative painting, in any case, as abstraction and suprematism could go only so far.) This is his 1932 work, Harvesting.

That truly is stunning and courageous beyond what most of us, certainly in this country, ever have to display.

Anyway, back to Passion For Freedom, who cannot help that Malevich died a good many decades ago, of cancer and rather prematurely, but at least not in the Gulag or an execution chamber.

On the other hand, the situation is not quite as rosy as we would like it to be. Apparently, one work of art was not there because Mall Galleries and Westminster Police because it was deemed to be "too inflammatory". Well, yes, I guess, works about freedom can be somewhat inflammatory. Oddly enough, there could have been nothing controversial about the point being made in Mimsy's tableaux that were removed as they showed - goodness me - that peaceful citizens are at risk from that murderous organization called ISIL or ISIS, whichever you prefer.

This is what the Guardian wrote:
Isis Threaten Sylvania is a series of seven satirical light box tableaux featuring the children’s toys Sylvanian Families. It was removed from the Passion for Freedom exhibition at the Mall galleries after police raised concerns about the “potentially inflammatory content” of the work, informing the organisers that, if they went ahead with their plans to display it, they would have to pay £36,000 for security for the six-day show.

In Isis Threaten Sylvania, rabbits, mice and hedgehogs go about their daily life, sunning themselves on a beach, drinking at a beer festival or simply watching television, while the menacing figures of armed jihadis lurk in the background. “Far away, in the land of Sylvania, rabbits, foxes, hedgehogs, mice and all woodland animals have overcome their differences to live in harmonious peace and tranquility. Until Now,” reads the catalogue note. “MICE-IS, a fundamentalist Islamic terror group, are threatening to dominate Sylvania, and annihilate every species that does not submit to their hardline version of sharia law.”

The decision to remove the work from Passion for Freedom came after the Mall Galleries consulted the police, who raised “a number of serious concerns regarding the potentially inflammatory content of Mimsy’s work”. The gallery cited a clause in the exhibition contract which allowed it the right to request removal of an artwork.
Ironic, is it not, that the Mall Galleries put this up on its website in connection with the exhibition:
The annual PASSION FOR FREEDOM Art Festival is a rare collection of international works of "courageous artists" who have answered three pivotal questions:

What is freedom?

How easy is it to lose it?

How hard is it to get it back?
The gallery is now in an excellent position to answer question two and possibly even three.

The Telegraph, I am glad to say, also covered the story and has even given readers the chance to vote on the issue. I hope readers of this blog will do so and vote the "right" way. Remember: Your Freedom and Ours.

In the meantime, here are two of the tableaux that have been banned from the Passion For Freedom exhibition:

Truly controversial. I feel more than a little embarrassed by this story.

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