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Whiteout and the Madness of Truth

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Violet_Crumble Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-25-04 05:48 PM
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Whiteout and the Madness of Truth
by Doris Reader
May 25, 2004

Interesting follow-up to the Flinders Street art project and the issue of censorship.


Fifty Six appeared in Flinders Street, a main city thoroughfare, in a town with a significant Jewish population, so it was hardly surprising that within a day both the Liberal Party - conservatives in opposition in Victoria but governing the country - and the State Zionist Council had issued statements decrying the work. Danny Lamm of the State Zionist Council described Fifty Six's text as "made-up nonsense" while Victorian Liberal leader Robert Doyle insisted, both in a letter and at a press conference in front of the display, that it be withdrawn and an apology issued, warning that it might breach the State's 2001 Racial and Religious Tolerance Act.


Figures are a hotly-contested matter in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and if you are going to use them, it is essential that elementary mistakes are avoided and credible sources are to hand. Yet no one has a right to insist that every such display should contain all the additional facts they consider relevant, any more than someone has a right to insist that Manet's Execution of the Emperor Maximilian should always be displayed alongside Delacroix's Liberty Leading the People, so that an indictment of French realpoliticking is "balanced" by a heroic image of the Revolution.

Bernstein's outrage over the Star of David also ends up telling us more about him than about Fifty Six. While he is right to say that the star is an emotive and complex symbol (the kind artists tend to be drawn to), his insistence that the blue star presented here necessarily refers to the yellow star of Nazi anti-Semitism, and to all Jews as well as Israelis, reckons without the blue stripes above and below the star; as the artists themselves have pointed out, what is depicted is not some universal Star of David but specifically the flag of the State of Israel.

For Bernstein to insist, as he seems to, that one cannot use the star in this way without also being culpable for its other symbolic attributes, begs the question: how might an artists refer to Israel as a nation without incurring the grave additional charges of anti-Semitism and denying or disrespecting the victims of the Holocaust?
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