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:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
July 21, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Kevin Zeese
Green Party Growing Pains; Our Own Crisis of Democracy
Jeffrey St. Clair
Red State, Blue State; Green State, Deep State
Paul Street
“Inclusive Capitalism,” Nancy Pelosi, and the Dying Planet
Anthony DiMaggio
Higher Education Fallacies: What’s Behind Rising Conservative Distrust of Learning?
Andrew Levine
Why Republicans Won’t Dump Trump Anytime Soon
Michael Colby
Ben & Jerry’s Has No Clothes
Bruce Dixon
White Liberal Guilt, Black Opportunism and the Green Party
Edward Hunt
Killing Civilians in Iraq and Syria
Matthew Kovac
Is the Flint Water Crisis a Crime Against Humanity?
Mark Harris
The Revolutionary Imagination: Rosa for Our Times
David Rosen
America’s Five Sex Panics
Robert Fisk
Saudi Arabia: the Kingdom Whose Name We Dare Not Speak At All
Jack Heyman
Class War on the Waterfront: Longshore Workers Under Attack
Kim C. Domenico
Marginalize This:  Turning the Tables on Neoliberal Triumphalism
Brian Cloughley
Trying to Negotiate With the United States
John Laforge
Activists Challenge US Nukes in Germany; Occupy Bunker Deep Inside Nuclear Weapons Base
Jonathan Latham
The Biotech Industry is Taking Over the Regulation of GMOs From the Inside
Russell Mokhiber
DC Disciplinary Counsel Hamilton Fox Won’t Let Whistleblower Lawyer Lynne Bernabei Go
Ramzy Baroud
The Story Behind the Jerusalem Attack: How Trump and Netanyahu Pushed Palestinians to A Corner
Farzana Versey
The Murder of Muslims
Kathy Kelly
At Every Door
David W. Pear
Venezuela Under Siege by U.S. Empire
Maria Paez Victor
Venezuelan Opposition Now Opposes the People
Uri Avnery
Soros’ Sorrows
Joseph Natoli
The Mythos Meme of Choice
Clark T. Scott
High Confidence and Low Methods
Missy Comley Beattie
Glioblastoma As Metaphor
Ann Garrison
Organizing Pennsylvania’s 197: Cheri Honkala on Frontline Communities
Ted Rall
What Happened When I Represented Myself as My Own Lawyer
Colin Todhunter
Codex Alimentarius and Monsanto’s Toxic Relations
Graham Peebles
Europe’s Shameful Refugee Policy
Louis Proyect
Reversals of Imperial Fortune: From the Comanche to Vietnam
Stephen Cooper
Gov. Kasich: “Amazing Grace” Starts With You! 
Jeffrey Wilson
Demolish! The Story of One Detroit Resident’s Home
REZA FIYOUZAT
Billionaire In Panic Over Dems’ Self-Destruct
David Penner
The Barbarism of Privatized Health Care
Yves Engler
Canada in Zambia
Ludwig Watzal
What Israel is Really All About
Randy Shields
Matters of National Insecurity
Vacy Vlanza
The Ministry of Utmost Happiness: Through Eyes of an Activist for Palestine
Cesar Chelala
Dr. Schweitzer’s Lost Message
Masturah Alatas
Becoming Italian
Martin Billheimer
Lessons Paid in Full
Charles R. Larson
Review: James Q. Whitman’s “Hitler’s American Model”
David Yearsley
The Brilliance of Velasquez
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail