Friday, December 07, 2007

Life Imitating Art

Piece by anonymous English grafiti artist Bansky. Banksy, besides just being brilliant, is known for his graffiti both parodying society and pop culture, and more specifically criticizing authority (he has done a fantastic seriois on the barrier being built between the West Bank and Israel). Here, besides, just being inredibly funny, I would say it is also a commentary on authority's love of power.
Moving on to this earlier piece of graffiti on the Berlin wall . Soviet leader Brezhnev is shown passionately kissing East German leader (and bastard) Erick Honecker. The caption is both German and Russian reads: God! Help me survive this deadly love! A commentary on the close political relationship between the Soviet Union and East Germany (i.e. we say jump and you say how high or we send the tanks in...again) which made any sort of reform or change impossible. Brezhnev is certainly the driving party (the dominant Soviet partner), but Honecker isn't doing too badly himself.
Fast forward to this year when this piece by a Russian photographer, called "the Era of Mercy" was pulled by the Russian government from an exhibition in Paris ahead of the recent parliamentary election. I really like the piece. Here you have two symbols of post-Soviet Russian authority passionately embracing each other in a birch forest: the symbol of Russian peasant culture and Romantic nationalism. So where is the mercy? It seems to be telling the story of power's love of power. it definitely alludes to the two pieces above, but while making the two figures less distinguishable and without the power relationship so integral to the Berlin wall piece. These aren't high ranking officials, but ordinary young police officers passionately embracing each other. Police in Russia are not known for the mercy or diligence, here though we see mercy: mercy towards itself and others with power.
And now fast forward to this week with a celebratory event for the successful election campaign of a member of Putin's majority in parliament. Little similar, no? Good thing that picture was banned.

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