The Lileks Zone

Take that, soldiers! Ha!

Art today: a lousy mural by a “street artist” has been painted over by the museum that commissioned it. Controversy! Censorship! Here’s the mural: a crudely drawn series of coffins draped with dollar bills. Get it? Not flags, but the Almighty Dollar. As one of the defenders put it:

The mural makes the point that most soldiers in the US are consigned to their deaths to support an even more powerful flag, which is all green. Whether or not you agree with the point that Blu is making, the message is clear and thought-provoking.

It’s “thought-provoking” if you’re 15, perhaps, and have never been exposed to the usual tropes of professional cynics. If you’re wondering whether the mural was removed for being lame – i.e., because it was recycling something that might have made a stoner say “whoa” in 1967 –  here’s the official response from the Museum of Contemporary Art:

The Geffen Contemporary building is located on a special, historic site. Directly in front the north wall is the Go For Broke monument, which commemorates the heroic roles of Japanese American soldiers, who served in Europe and the Pacific during World War II, and opposite the wall is the LA Veterans’ Affairs Hospital. The museum’s director explained to Blu that in this context, where MOCA is a guest among this historic Japanese American community, the work was inappropriate. MOCA has invited Blu to return to Los Angeles to paint another mural.

Yes, that’s right: the mural was across from a VA hospital, so maybe someone might not want to stare at dollar-draped coffins. As you might expect, defenders are insisting that this was the perfect location:

Putting it across from a VA location makes it that much more powerful by exposing the hypocrisy of unnecessarily exploiting American soldiers to danger and then “caring” for them afterwards.

Incompetent art is always given a boost when it “exposes” “hypocrisy.” Incompetent art is ignored unless it does something good ‘n’ transgressive. But since it’s a given on the left that the US fights wars for oil and other nasty things, wouldn’t it be transgressive to draw a mural about individual heroism, or the camaraderie of troops, or integration of women into the military? There’s got to be something good you guys can say, right? No? Well, work on that one for tomorrow’s class. As for that whole blood-for-oil thing:

Last month, the Iraqi government held its second round of auctions for its oil fields. Mid-month, seven fields were awarded to international oil companies.  American companies did not win any new leases in this round, but Petronas, a state-owned Malaysian company; Sonangol, of Angola; and Lukoil of Russia and Statoil of Norway did. Petronas and Shell won the the Majnoon field with more than 12 billion barrels of oil; and Petronas, CNPC of China and Total (French) got Halfiya, in the south, with 4 billion barrels. Last week, it was reported that  Lukoil and Statoil had actually signed for their West Qurna oil field, much faster than BP and China signed for the Rumaila oil field this summer.

Before that round, two American companies had leases. France and Norway got leases? Maybe drape some Euros on those coffins next time.

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December 2010