FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Landscape of Fear

by KEN AVIDOR

I always keep my sketchbook/journal and sometimes a digital camera handy in case I see a person or something in the landscape that I can record and take back to my studio to use in my artwork.

October 24th, a warm sunny day, I was riding my Schwinn Suburban north of downtown Minneapolis near the entrance of the Cedar Lake Trail. I just started sketching and photographing a big, roadside billboard when a a little white vehicle pulled up. The window rolled down and a uniformed security guard told me I couldn’t take pictures of the “the ramp”.

I told him I was taking a picture of the billboard and I asked him what law said I couldn’t take pictures of a parking ramp, assuming I did want to take a picture of a parking ramp. The security guard says “taking pictures of the ramp endangers safety”.

I said the First Amendment of the Constitution protected my right to draw or photograph the American landscape we all live in and look at every day. I asked him if he would have told Rembrandt, Van Gogh and Picasso to move on as well. He responded by calling the cops and turning on the flashing lights on top of his little white vehicle. I really didn’t think the police would bother with this call, so I started sketching the billboard in my journal.

Ten minutes later, a squad car pulls up and two bemused officers step out to question me. They agree that I have a right to photograph and draw the billboard, but they advise me that I would be behaving less “suspicious” if I didn’t draw something “ugly” like the billboard, but instead drew “something nice like the IDS building.”

Up to that point I thought that all this had something to do with terrorism. But if a terrorist was photographing and sketching potential targets, wouldn’t the IDS building, the tallest building on the skyline be a more likely target than a lowly municipal parking ramp? According to the officers that questioned me, the problem boiled down to aesthetics…I guess “ugly” billboards and the parking ramp in the background are not on the MPD list of approved subjects for artistic depiction.

It was really bizarre to have to listen to these art critics with badges telling me which subjects I should portray in my artwork to avoid ‘suspicion”. The cops were very nice and polite, but I couldn’t help remembering that there’s a bunch of people being held in Guantanamo and elsewhere “under suspicion” of being terrorists.

I have been stopped before for photographing and sketching in public. Usually this happens in the privatized landscape of suburban strip malls. This is the first time I’ve been harassed for sketching on a sidewalk in Minneapolis, a city of galleries, museums and universities. I always thought Minneapolis was too smart to succumb to the terror frenzy. If sketching and photographing something “ugly” is “suspicious” in this tiny liberal outpost, we’re in big trouble.

KEN AVIDOR is an artist in Minneapolis. He can be reached through his website, Avidor Studios.

 

More articles by:
July 27, 2016
Richard Moser
The Party’s Over
John Eskow
The Loneliness of the American Leftist
Jeffrey St. Clair
The Humiliation Games: Notes on the Democratic Convention
Arun Gupta
Bernie Sanders’ Political Revolution Splinters Apart
M. G. Piety
Smoke and Mirrors in Philadelphia
Guillermo R. Gil
A Metaphoric Short Circuit: On Michelle Obama’s Speech at the DNC
Norman Pollack
Sanders, Our Tony Blair: A Defamation of Socialism
Claire Rater, Carol Spiegel and Jim Goodman
Consumers Can Stop the Overuse of Antibiotics on Factory Farms
Guy D. Nave
Make America Great Again?
Sam Husseini
Why Sarah Silverman is a Comedienne
Dave Lindorff
No Crooked Sociopaths in the White House
Dan Bacher
The Hired Gun: Jerry Brown Snags Bruce Babbitt as New Point Man For Delta Tunnels
Peter Lee
Trumputin! And the DNC Leak(s)
David Macaray
Interns Are Exploited and Discriminated Against
Brett Warnke
Storm Clouds Over Philly
Ann Garrison
Rwanda, the Clinton Dynasty, and the Case of Dr. Léopold Munyakazi
Chris Zinda
Snakes of Deseret
July 26, 2016
Andrew Levine
Pillory Hillary Now
Kshama Sawant
A Call to Action: Walk Out from the Democratic National Convention!
Russell Mokhiber
The Rabble Rise Together Against Bernie, Barney, Elizabeth and Hillary
Jeffrey St. Clair
Don’t Cry For Me, DNC: Notes From the Democratic Convention
Angie Beeman
Why Doesn’t Middle America Trust Hillary? She Thinks She’s Better Than Us and We Know It
Paul Street
An Update on the Hate…
Fran Shor
Beyond Trump vs Clinton
Ellen Brown
Japan’s “Helicopter Money” Play: Road to Hyperinflation or Cure for Debt Deflation?
Richard W. Behan
The Banana Republic of America: Democracy Be Damned
Binoy Kampmark
Undermining Bernie Sanders: the DNC Campaign, WikiLeaks and Russia
Arun Gupta
Trickledown Revenge: the Racial Politics of Donald Trump
Sen. Bernard Sanders
What This Election is About: Speech to DNC Convention
David Swanson
DNC Now Less Popular Than Atheism
Linn Washington Jr.
‘Clintonville’ Reflects True Horror of Poverty in US
Deepak Tripathi
Britain in the Doldrums After the Brexit Vote
Louisa Willcox
Grizzly Threats: Arbitrary Lines on Political Maps
Robert J. Gould
Proactive Philanthropy: Don’t Wait, Reach Out!
Victor Grossman
Horror and Sorrow in Germany
Nyla Ali Khan
Regionalism, Ethnicity, and Trifurcation: All in the Name of National Integration
Andrew Feinberg
The Good TPP
400 US Academics
Letter to US Government Officials Concerning Recent Events in Turkey
July 25, 2016
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
As the Election Turns: Trump the Anti-Neocon, Hillary the New Darling of the Neocons
Ted Rall
Hillary’s Strategy: Snub Liberal Democrats, Move Right to Nab Anti-Trump Republicans
William K. Black
Doubling Down on Wall Street: Hillary and Tim Kaine
Russell Mokhiber
Bernie Delegates Take on Bernie Sanders
Quincy Saul
Resurgent Mexico
Andy Thayer
Letter to a Bernie Activist
Patrick Cockburn
Erdogan is Strengthened by the Failed Coup, But Turkey is the Loser
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail