Friday, March 27, 2009

You Know Times Are Bad When The Irish Lose Their Sense of Humor

In what, from this shore, seems a sad and shocking over-reaction to a prank, an Irish artist is facing possible jail time for creating unflattering nude portraits of Brian Cowen, the Irish Prime Minister, and allegedly hanging them in the National Gallery of Ireland and Royal Hibernian Academy. With his listed "offenses" sounding like they were dredged up from laws written during the Middle Ages, Conor Casby (reportedly a shy secondary school teacher in Dublin) could reportedly be prosecuted for "indecency, incitement to hatred and criminal damage." (OK, so if he sank a nail into the wall of the national galleries, I can see the "criminal damage" charge, perhaps, but "incitement to hatred"? Really? Is the ego of Brian Cowen as fragile as all that?)

From the London Times [via]:

The offending artworks set out to mock Mr Cowen, better known by his nickname Biffo, which stands for “Big Ignorant F***er from Offaly”.

One, which was smuggled into the National Gallery, pictured the Irish leader on the toilet holding a toilet roll. It remained on display for 20 minutes before security took it down.

The other painting, portraying the Taoiseach holding a pair of blue and white Y-fronts, was hung in the Royal Hibernian Academy.

The success of the stunt seemed to provide a welcome respite from the barrage of gloomy economic news, but the authorities took a different view.

Here's an image of one of the paintings:

And here's a photo of the Irish Prime Minister (which I would be much more inclined to press charges for, if I were him. At least the painting is clearly satire [both images from the TimesOnline website]):

Even more disappointing than the fact that the Taoiseach (the Prime Minister of Ireland) is so unable to laugh at himself that he's apparently permitting this abuse of power is the fact that the RTÉ (Ireland's national tv and radio broadcast system) received such a displeased response from the Taoiseach's office that they later felt compelled to issue an apology for the lighthearted way they originally reported the story. (How dare they act, you know... Irish, and find the humor in it?)

Again, from the London Times:
[The apology] was in stark contrast to the jovial tone of the offending news story of the night before, in which the newscaster said with a straight face that the Taoiseach was “not thought to have posed for the anonymous artist”.

The apology prompted fevered discussion on blog sites, with much criticism of RTÉ and the Garda Síochána - the police - as well as caption competitions for the offending paintings. Michael Kennedy, a member of the Irish Parliament for Fianna Fáil, the ruling party, which Mr Cowen leads, insisted that the RTÉ report was “a gross insult to the dignity of the office of Taoiseach”. He called on RTÉ's director-general to tender his resignation.

However, Fine Gael, the main opposition party, said last night that the affair was “more reminiscent of Russia in the 1930s than Ireland in 2009”.
I must agree with Fine Gael on this one.

Lighten up Mr. Cowen...your over-reaction is making you look much more the fool than those portraits ever could.

Labels: artist prank, legal matters


Anonymous Cedric C said...

But you don't know how it feels like!!

You've never been exhibited naked in a musum or gallery!!



Cedric C

3/27/2009 09:14:00 AM  
Blogger eageageag said...

We can only hope that your entry on your art blog will bring about much needed changes in Ireland's legal system.

3/27/2009 09:23:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...



Mind you, that exhibition was extremely uncomfortable for me, but it was also an interesting life experience. (One I'm satisfied to have in the past now, but...)

From what I've read, there's nothing seen below the waist in either painting for Mr. Cowen. So it's the manner in which he's being portrayed more than nudity itself that he's objecting other words, it's the fact he's being made fun of, not that there's anything indecent per se about the portraits.

3/27/2009 09:26:00 AM  
Blogger Tom Hering said...

Laws against "incitement to hatred" should only exist to protect society's usual scapegoats, not the powerful at the top. Perhaps special-label "Guinness Lout" could be released in Mr. Cowen's honor, eh?

3/27/2009 09:29:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

We can only hope that your entry on your art blog will bring about much needed changes in Ireland's legal system.

I hardly imagine it should do more than stir up a bit of art-related discussion. I'll leave changes to the legal system to the people who live there. :-)

3/27/2009 09:50:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like the composition, it has a good rhythm you can dance to it.

A serious political commentary requires serious work, and that requires a serious time investment.

He has enough paintings for an exhibition. (there evidently are others)

3/27/2009 10:01:00 AM  
Blogger George said...

And... The huge media coverage has sparked a flurry of internet activity with nude Cowen T-shirts being sold at €22 each.

3/27/2009 10:07:00 AM  
Blogger Bromo Ivory said...

Interesting how a Prime Minister tries to use the legal system to silence criticism. This is not going to end well. For him. Never does in a democratic country.

Then again ... I think of the US and Valerie Plaine ...

3/27/2009 12:26:00 PM  
Blogger zipthwung said...

Any PR person worth a lick of salt knows blowback's a bitch. Glad to see this wasn't settle with a good curbing like the old days.

3/27/2009 08:19:00 PM  
Blogger C. L. DeMedeiros said...

we are in need of more humor, then ever...

3/27/2009 09:14:00 PM  

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