Monday, April 12, 2010

Iconoclasm. The destruction of art for political or religious reasons. Censorship in a sense. It’s an event that reoccurs every so often throughout history. A modern example would be Diego Rivera’s mural in the Rockefeller Center. “Man at the Crossroads”, a large and highly controversial piece, was destroyed for containing Lenin’s head. The Rockefellers were concerned the image of Lenin would easily offend many people. Rivera refused to remove or change this part of the painting and as a result, he was ordered to stop work on the painting and it was destroyed. This was just one painting.

The Taliban destroyed a huge amount of art in Afghanistan, including two giant Buddhas back in 2001. The accounts vary as to the reasoning, but the underlying religious reasons are most interesting to me. Apparently, a foreign delegation offered to fund protection for the statues. The Taliban were outraged because while people were starving, this delegation wanted to fund the protection of a piece of art. The Taliban envoy, Rahmatullah Hashimi, said, In our religion, if anything is harmless, we just leave it. If money is going to statues while children are dying of malnutrition next door, then that makes it harmful, and we destroy it." They also felt the Buddhas were idolatrous, according to other reports. They destroyed many other images for the same reason as well as around 2,500 artifacts from Kabul’s National Museum of Afghanistan. Their main goal was to get rid of art representing anything from Afghanistan’s pre-Islamic past.

This sort of iconoclasm is disturbing to me and also a reminder of how powerful art is. I truly wish there was a general respect for art and culture in the world, but many of those in power have certain works destroyed in fear because art moves people. It’s a sad loss of culture, but not a bad move if you're wanting to maintain serious, repressive control.

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