Saturday, 25 October 2014

The Right Way to See Life and Art?


Per Marquard Otzen, The Self-Sufficient Dane, April 14, 2009.


This autumn the Swedish artists have decided it is time to be no longer silent on a problem which has been growing for two decades now. The threats, bullying and personal onslaughts from the extreme right-wing party Sverigedemokraterna (i.e. "Swedish Democrats"). The verbal version of their conduct was articulated in public this summer when one member of the Swedish parliament Margaretha Larsson declared from the rostrum a particular artist ought to be imprisoned. But their condemnations are not new per se, and at times their tactics take on a very direct form. The assaulted artists are labelled as a disease (as in "unhealthy" and "degenerate") and as being "foreign" of character with the insistence that they should go live elsewhere.

Sadly, we know those words all too well here too. Persons are declared foreign and sick, not sufficiently "Danish" as if one group of people owns the right to define what is true Swedish or Danish to all of us.

On the Danish side of the Sound we are discussing a war baptized 1864, a discussion prompted by a new (and dramatically weak) TV-series. The likewise right-wing party here Dansk Folkeparti (i.e. the "Danish Folk Party" or "Party of the Danish People"?) initially endorsed the project; now they act as if offended on a personal level. Just as their Swedish counterparts, they blame the "radicals", around here denominated as "Cultural Radicals", and as usual too the said radicals are declared a "powerful opponent", leaving Dansk Folkeparti the victims.


Per Marquard Otzen, Flygtninge? Dem skider vi på!/ Refugees? We shit on them!
October 16, 2014.


Per Marquard Otzen has nailed the problem in the cartoon above. The left side of the drawing is a visual display of the retorics of Dansk Folkeparti. They create a confined room defined as THIS and nothing beyond. This is healthy, this is the correct vision of life. Behind the politicians we see an amass of artworks on the 1864-war. The sculpted Lion, the painted Brave Defeated and the portrayed Hero leading the Said Brave Defeated.

Only, those symbols were never ours. We know them and we know of them, but we do not recognize ourselves in any of them. The artifacts had nothing Danish about them in the first place; they were the fashion of the day and can be found in any European country. Secondly, the war was a sick idea back in 1863/64 when it was declared and it continues to be a sick idea, as the museum-founder, landowner and right-wing politician Johannes Hage wrote in 1920. He was a veteran himself and could not be written off as a coward.

The Swedish author and editor Anders Rydell draws a direct line between the newspeak of the Sverigedemokraterna and the Nazis 80 years ago. Contrary to all other parties of the Swedish parliament they have an anthropological take on art with their focus on cultural heritage, common norms and conventions, collective memory and myths. Images are seen as of the highest order and as such the carrier of ideals. This was once how the idea of "race" first found an expression.


Per Marquard Otzen, Man skal høre meget... før ørerne falder af/
Well, what you have to hear ... your ears may fall off, October 13, 2014.


We need an antidose to the smallness of the mental room of the right-wingers. I enclose a drawing by Per that we have already enjoyed. That yellow, that ear, that passion, that too larger than life-life of pain and necessity. Such is art. This is us.

And please note, in direct opposition to the actions of their attackers the Swedish artists are not condemning them. This it is speaking up before it is too late about their own right to have a presence and a voice in the public not risking their life nor art.


The cartoons shown are courtesy of Per Marquard Otzen and must not be reproduced without his permission.


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