Wednesday, 25 September 2013

The Black Duck


From what I remember about ducks in classic iconography back at uni, ducks appear in pairs as a symbol of life-long love and thus faithfulness. With faithfulness or fidelity in play we are within the terminology of power, which has rather fittingly been given the personification of a certain duck lately.

In Danish cartooning ducks have their own storyline of peaceful beings not quite adapted to modern times, as drawn by Jørn Villumsen. He constantly puts mother duck and her ducklings into new shocking situations and we eagerly follow what is happening to them every day in the paper Politiken.

As it turns out, even Jørn Villumsen's drawings of al-Assad fits very much into his main storyline. The mail accounts of the Assad-couple were hacked in February last year, revealing that her nickname for her husband was duck. From then on his symbol was a given, as drawn from Egypt by Doaa Eladl:


Doaa Eladl, Black Duck, February 1, 2013.

A struggle for freedom is not about the despot per se, he is insignificant once he is from power. Of which of course he is painfully aware, as Hannah Arendt settled, and so his actions are all the more desperate. And action is the key word here, right now he is an agens, he is responsible for what is taking place.

So the Black Duck can be singled out on the surface of the flag to which he no longer belongs. His head breaks the outer contour. Jørn Villumsen has drawn the conflict twice with a year in between as an interpretation of the elements of the Syrian flag. The stars are the gunfire exploding while the red is bleeding into all layers - and from the roof tops into every home of the terrified citizens.


Jørn Villumsen, Syria, February 29, 2012.

There is a sad reason why Europeans insist on the ban on chemical weapons. As always when it comes to violence, we were the first to use them. We regrettably tested chemical weapons on each other back in World War I, learning the lesson when the veterans died in massive numbers every year as long as 20 years after being exposed to the gas, creating a personal and social catastrophe long after the fact:

William Roberts, The First German Gas Attack at Ypres, 1918.
National Gallery of Canada.
- the canvas is over 6 meters high and 5 meters long,
it overwhelms its beholder with the nausea of the gas. The colouring is of course a sickening yellow-mustard with elements of green and pink, making the painting one of the very strongest from WW1.

All the while the despot today is "busy":

Jørn Villumsen, Stealer of Time,
Bashar al-Assad is now ready to find and destroy his chemical weapons,
but insists that it will take time finding them
. September 20, 2013.
The text within the drawing: "Oh, well, this was not a chemical one, I'll try another". 

His pointy fingers are leaving bloody prints where he has been, stalling time. Do click on the image, his eyes shine deadly sculls.

For about half a year now this has been seen as the old flag, the one of the regime, while the protesters has put a revised version into play:

Preparations for graffiti complete with duck and spray cans,
hiding from recognition behind the new version of the Syrian flag,
the calligraphy is here shown with the victory sign. Nabek in Damascus.
- notice the size of the stencils,
the one on the right is the same design that was brought to the streets by protesting women.
Photo courtesy of Tarek Alghorani.

- and lastly the four in action.
Photo courtesy of Tarek Alghorani.

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