Wednesday, May 11, 2011
There was a time, and not so long ago, when it was virtually impossible to turn around without being confronted by an impossibly obscene cartoon, usually involving one famous figure or another. Remember all the cartoons of Clinton and Monica? Jacko and Bubbles? Prince Charles and a tampon? Those were the days....
Maybe it still goes on. But, if it does, it is buried beneath so much other "information" that it simply doesn't receive the attention it deserves. Maybe the slow and lingering suicide of magazine publishing, as every publisher becomes hell-bent on making his magazine look identical to every other one, has ensured that the day of the truly brutal cartoonist is now dead. Or maybe it's the fear of legal action that has seen a nation's worth of flesh colored crayons tucked away out of harm's reach?
We're not talking Tijuana Bibles here... or even Robert Crumb. Just some good old fashioned celebrity smut... the kind of smut, in fact, that has been creating such a stir in Denmark recently, following the publication of a new portrait of the Royal Family - that is quite unlike any portrait they could ever have dreamed of sitting for.
Or maybe they could. It was a Danish cartoonist, after all, who raised the ire of the Islamic world with his depiction of the prophet, a while back. And now two of his countrymen are sticking a similar pin into the hide of the Danes themselves.
The cartoon is the work of the already-controversial artistic duo Surrend, Jan Egesborg and Pia Bertelsen, and was intended for inclusion in a retrospective exhibition of the group's work - 100 old posters and 15 newly-created pieces - at the Poster Museum in the Old Town in Aarhus last fall.
And then Surrend delivered the poster and all hell broke loose. The exhibition was canceled, and if you look closely at the work, you can probably guess why. Or can you?
Look in the center - Queen Margarethe masturbating. There;'s the Crown Prince doing the doggy with his son... oh, and there's Prince Joacim with a sheep. And so on and so forth, beneath a banner that translates roughly as "pubes are back." Which may or may not mean more than my poor old Danish-English dictionary lets on, but it's funny either way.
And yet - it was not the abuse of their royals that seem to have got the Danes hot and bothered. It was the question of - was the museum right to cancel the show and, effectively, censor the artists? Or should artistic freedom be sacrosanct?
"It's grotesque and says something about Denmark, when the Old City already had displayed posters which are satirical towards Jews and Muslims," Surrend's Egesborg remarked. "But when the royal family members and patron of the Old City should feel stepped on toes, then the answer is censorship." (Possibly coincidentally, the Queen is that patron).
Unfortunately I've not been able to find any English language coverage of the controversy, and that despite seven months having elapsed since it began dominating the Danish press. But it's an issue that we should all pay attention to. After all, if even the ever-liberal Danes, the inventors of the modern porn industry, have finally found a prudish bone in their body, what chances do the rest of us have?
(Thanks to Luna the Otter for bringing me this!)
Posted by Jenny Swallows at 6:40 PM