Pussy Riot.

The East Village in NYC is credited with being the birthplace of punk music, which was popularized at CBGB club in the mid-1970s. Allthough I lived in the East Village at the time, I attended my first punk rock concert tonight here in Oslo, some fifty years on in time: Pussy Riot. In this way I continue my support of dissident artists inside Russia, and non-politically vocal Russian international artists in the West who are met with skepticism — solely because of their nationality. While I admit that art and sports (like all else) can most often be political, and is used in political marketing and propaganda, I maintain that sportsmen, artists and composers who have nothing to do with the current politics in Russia should not be generally and arbitrarily penalized. I have recently attended many concerts featuring Russian artists, conductors and composers, as well as Ukrainian artists in temporary exile in the West due to the advent of war while on tour. I am against war in general, and I am against the current Russian aggression in the Ukraine in particular. We who are outside of Russia need to consider that this Western censorship of all Russians who do not risk their lives (and those of family members) by publicly denouncing him and his regime actually serves Putin’s (and other such regimes’) program very well, because they then can gain even more control over free thinking, and this control thus can become institutionalized. Putin’s regime could point to foreigners’ hatred of Russians in order to reinforce nationalism, and to destroy any possible notion of hope outside of what he offers them.

Boycotts of artists because of their political leanings is in itself a controversial issue, due to the inherent nature and function of Art, as well as the theoretical right to self-expression. Governments have always used art as propaganda and have at the same time often condemned/punished artists whose art was/is deemed a threat to their political agendas. Socio-political public response to political art is conditioned by events and mores of the time, and is also individual and selective as it is not uncommon to direct and base like and dislike of art and literature upon personal experiences and preferences. 

Are Art and politics really inseparable? And does political art not serve society both as a promoter and provocateur of discourse, and as an historical recording of the temperature of society at the time? Much of my art and literature is unabashedly political. That is, in my opinion, not only «my right» but also «my chosen obligation». And I too have reacted critically against art that is racist, sexist, anti-lgbtq, disrespectful of handicapped persons etc. But I prefer to boycott the actual work of art in question, and question its actual functionality, rather than condemn the artists’ right to express themselves. We all have different tolerance levels and our own personalized visions of «a more perfect society and world»; and moreover, acceptance of Art is by definition individual and largely subjective, when not otherwise influenced by political correctness of the era.

Here is an excellent article on the history of censorship:

https://nextbigideaclub.com/magazine/dangerous-ideas-brief-history-censorship-west-ancients-fake-news-bookbite/28327/

These are difficult issues. To me, the insistence of some that Art and sports should never be political is as fruitless and naive as the insistence that one is «colorblind» regarding persons with another skin color and from other cultures, sub-cultures and nationalities. Furthermore it is a lie, and an insult that condemns others to «not being seen» as an important part of human and social diversity. We are human. We are all different. And we must learn to deal with the pleasures, pains, conveniences, and inconveniences of the Human Predicament.

Pussy Riot has trouble in Switzerland:

https://www.blick.ch/schweiz/westschweiz/genf/in-handschellen-abgefuehrt-drei-pussy-riot-mitglieder-in-rubigen-be-verhaftet-id17832607.html

The performance was great, and the audience loved it! They told the story of the Moscow cathedral action, their arrest and trial, their time in prison in the Urals, their release … and then about Russian resistance, Putler’s lies, the young Russian soldiers suffering in the war etc. — with constant video footage, music, dance, etc.

Robert Mapplethorpe – documentary.

In February of 1978 my partner (Don Herron) and I visited Robert Mapplethorpe at his loft in NYC, to deliver this iconic bathtub portrait that Don had taken of Robert – as part of Don’s famous Tubshots series. Robert had a powerful magnetism that shone through easily. He looked like the very definition of health and virility. Eleven years later Robert was dead, of AIDS. And four years after that I began my own fight for my life, after an AIDS diagnosis. Robert was just one of many who died back then … and since — all too many. I was an international and national AIDS-activist for over two decades, and now I am simply known as a «survivor». Sometimes when I think about the many beautiful and talented men I have known who succumbed to the disease and its stigma, I still feel a bit of «survivor guilt». Watching the documentary about Robert Mapplethorpe, and seeing his artwork on my walls makes me feel that guilt. But it also drives me to use every bit of talent that I can muster to create art and literature, and help to encourage others to live creatively. Had it not been for the AIDS diagnosis and my long struggle to survive then my personal courage and conviction would not have been what it is today, and certainly not my art and literature either.

We are all searching for ways to leave our mark on history — both as a confirmation that we did something for humanity, and to justify our minutes/hours/years of consumption and wear-and-tear on the planet. Those who have creative disciplines work to leave behind their ideas and visions in various artworks. And then when we suddenly get a message or diagnosis telling us that we are living on limited time/borrowed time then the urge to produce art and literature becomes manic. That is how I have managed to publish thirteen books and have numerous art exhibitions etc. That is also part of Mapplethorpe’s drive in his last years. I call AIDS “the great Teacher”.

DOCUMENTARY – ROBERT MAPPLETHORPE

ROBERT MAPPLETHORPE

THE FINALE

MAPPLETHORPE’S WORLD OF FLOWERS

MAPPLETHORPE’S OBSESSION FOR BEAUTY