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Pictures at an Exhibition

by MICHAEL DICKINSON

I first tried my hand at political collage in a London bed-sit in early eighties London, using pictures from discarded magazines I’d collected from bins and skips. First efforts were vaguely about poverty and ecology, but as my political awareness increased I began to include the figures of Power at that time, mainly Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan.

I molded their well known faces onto alien bodies and put them in strange situations and backgrounds, getting cheekier as I discovered I could get away with it, and even have the pictures shown at places where people enjoyed seeing their masters ridiculed in such a manner. Thatcher’s jaws yawned dangerously as Ridley Scott’s Alien; a grinning Ronald Reagan swept down to tear the suspended body of Christ in eagle talons.

By the mid eighties I’d moved out of the bedsit into a Brixton squat and the pictures were still making themselves. Shuffling through the cut out pictures, images would suggest themselves and I’d either reject or agree and glue them down.

A front cover of the ‘Sunday Times’ supplement of the Queen gingerly sipping from the coconut in her white gloved hand during a South Seas visit, and an ‘Observer’ one of the Pope slumped on his throne, plus a hard-on cut out of a gay porno mag, merged into the image of Her Majesty giving His Holiness a blow job in the depths of Hell! (That was a popular one – black and white photocopies were seen as far as Germany.)

In a rut in 86, tired of being arrested at demos and evicted from squats, I left the country vowing never to return until Thatcher was out of power. And I didn’t either.

Yes, time passed and my collage making days seemed to be over. Until along came the eleventh of September 2001 – and the reaction to it of the American President, George Walker Bush. My itching fingers sought out scissors, gum and magazines.

A thousand images later in 2005, (of Bush, Blair, Bin Laden, Condi, the Popes, Sharon, his late pal Arafat, old Uncle Colin Powell and all), apart from exhibitions in Istanbul and London, I was showing the pictures on the website I set up in 2002, ‘Carnival of Chaos’ — named after the description a Turkish journalist wrote in a review.

Leading up to the first attack on Iraq the pictures poured out daily. A depressed cease-fire lasted for months after the invasion, but then a renewed assault began. On all of them who keep the corrupt system going — Church, Royalty, and Politicians and Corporations.

After nearly three years ‘Carnival of Chaos’ had become quite popular, sometimes with hundreds of visitors a day, making it necessary to pay for extra bandwidth every month.

So it was a bit of a surprise when I logged in on Sunday morning, only to find that the site had been removed. It was gone. Disappeared.

Checking out my Site Builder I found the following message:

“You are no longer an authorized member of Tripod. You have been removed because your web site violated our Terms of Service”

I wrote to Tripod asking them to explain the reason for the removal, but so far have only received this auto-acknowledgement:

Thank you for writing to the Lycos Abuse Team. We have received your email and will be reviewing it shortly. Please be advised that due to the volume of emails we receive, this may be the only email you receive from us regarding this matter.

During its three year lifespan ‘Carnival of Chaos’ has carried some fairly disturbing and/or amusing images reflecting the interesting times we live in, but Tripod bravely allowed all to pass.

Images such as Mother Teresa teaching Birth Control; Donald Rumsfeld performing a ceremony with the decapitated head of an Iraqi child, Jesus throwing up at the Apartheid Wall in Occupied Palestine, Blair being lobotomized, and Sharon assassinating Arafat.

Most of the images were self explanatory, but some required background information. To fully appreciate ‘The Royal Wedding’ picture of a used tampon sticking out of a souvenir mug celebrating the nuptials of Charles and Camilla, it helped to remember the infamous taped phone conversation where the future King wished he could be with her in such a form.

But President Bush was definitely the star of the show. Bush as a vampire; Bush as a baby; a monkey; a cowboy; as an insect, a madman, every kind of animal, Hitler, Crusader, Pharoah, entertainer, warrior, dummy, alien, terrorist, hostage, jester, monster, king, threat to the world. In four of the collages he is being assassinated by the only person suitable for the job — good old Jesus!

On Friday the British newspaper The Sun flashed a smuggled picture on its front page of prisoner Saddam Hussein in his underpants. Bush pledged an investigation.

‘Carnival of Chaos’ has featured nudes in the past and got away with it. Sharon’s ample form has been laid bare several times; Condi’s been done; and even Laura, the President’s charming wife has revealed all on the website without complaint or closure by server Tripod.

But it seems they finally lost patience at the posting of this latest image — TYRANT’S PANTS.

A wise friend commented:

“It seems that the act of authorities is slowly being got together. It is on the agenda to regulate the internet, but it has not been worked out how this will be done. There are legitimate reasons (e.g. pornography) behind which regulation of other things can be hidden. A number of things point to progressive regulation/control, not only in the area of the internet.”

President Bush is always going on about ‘freedom’. Where is my freedom of artistic expression? Where is freedom in general — anywhere? America should be a beacon of liberalism and freedom. It should be helping and healing the world, not attacking, robbing and raping it. Not ‘Land of the Free and Home of the Brave’ at all, but Land of the Fee and Home of the Slave!’

Whatever — here for your delectation is the last image displayed on ‘Carnival of Chaos’.

 

Probably the last straw that caused Tripod to call an end to the show with the words:

“You are no longer an authorized member of Tripod. You have been removed because your web site violated our Terms of Service”

Would that we could say the same thing to this man!

“You are no longer the authorized President of America. You have been removed because your behavior has violated our Terms of Service, over and over again!”

MICHAEL DICKINSON is a writer and artist who works as an English teacher in Istanbul, Turkey. He designed the cover art for two CounterPunch books, Serpents in the Garden and Dime’s Worth of Difference, as well as Grand Theft Pentagon, forthcoming from Common Courage Press. He can be reached at: mdickinson@kablonet.com.tr

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Michael Dickinson can be contacted at michaelyabanji@gmail.com.

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