A lot has been said this campaign season about freedom of speech. What with so many problematic pastors espousing their incendiary views left right and center, and candidates citing tyrannical regimes at every opportunity “where the freedom of speech we take for granted is withheld from the people”, it’s a surprise anything other than the first amendment has been debated over these past six months. However, it would appear that although the two parties are willing to invoke the first amendment at every opportunity for the benefit of their campaigns, they are far less keen on it being exercised by the citizens they wish to serve.
A young Boston born artist by the name of Yazmany Arboleda, who is apparently quite the cause célèbre among the chattering classes, has just had his exhibition closed down by New York’s finest. The two fold exhibition entitled The Assasination of Hillary Clinton/The Assisination of Barack Obama, was to have occupied a store front in Midtown Manhattan. But, unfortunately, it was closed down before it could open. Apparently, it’s incendiary title emblazoned upon the storefront window was to much for the NYPD who carted Mr Arboleda off to the Mid Town precinct.
The provocative exhibition draws into sharp focus media attitudes to both presumptive Democratic candidates. The display includes, among other things, a picture of a giant black cock, apparently designed to draw attention to media attitudes towards Barack Obama’s race. It also includes unflattering photo’s of the candidates with provocative titles. One such example being the famous picture of Hillary looking less than her best with the title, The Face of Experience. It has to be said, it does not in any way promote or advocate the assassination of either candidate and to suggest as much is plain idiocy. As Arboledas puts it, “It’s art. It’s not supposed to be harmful. It’s about character assassination, about how Obama and Hillary have been portrayed by the media. It’s about the media.”
This is not the first time Arboleda’s exhibition has run into trouble. It was first shown in March of this year at the Leah Keller and Naomi Gates galleries. The galleries were forced to close the exhibit under intense legal pressure, presumably from the Democratic nominees respective campaigns. Now it appears his exhibit has been thwarted once again.
I can’t decide why the powers that be are so incensed by this exhibition. But the candidates do appear very keen to keep a check on what kind of freedom of speech our society is allowed. I certainly don’t think this Is another Catcher in the Rye moment. Is a lone nut job really going to read the words and immediately act upon them (because if that is the case, surely we should be banning advertizing toot sweet!). Is this more about image and the control of said image. Are the questions the artist is asking to problematic for our ordinary brains. Are these questions only to be asked by the political elite, people who know how to manage such things?
Personally, I think the exhibit is both compelling and challenging. It may not be subtle, but it does get the artist’s message across. Arboleda says he wants “to be the most influential artist of the 21st Century”, so, if the NYPD let him out, we may be hearing from him again.
Anyway, make up your own mind. I am only the messenger and you know how the saying goes, don’t assassinate the messenger. You can view both The Assassination of Hillary Clinton and The Assassination of Barack Obama online.