FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Landscape of Fear

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:
June 21, 2018
Ron Jacobs
Divest From the Business of Incarceration
W. T. Whitney
Angola in Louisiana: Proving Ground for Racialized Capitalism
Susan Babbitt
Assange and Truth: the Deeper (Harder) Issue
Kenn Orphan
Humanity vs. the Rule of Law
Mateo Pimentel
Why on Earth a Country of Laws and Borders?
Michael T. Klare
The Pentagon’s Provocative Encirclement of China
Howard Lisnoff
The Outrageous Level of Intolerance is Happening Everywhere!
Vijay Prashad
The People of India Stand With Palestine
RS Ahthion
Internment Camps for Child Migrants
Binoy Kampmark
Rocking the G7: Trump Stomps His Allies
Raouf Halaby
Give It Up, Ya Mahmoud
Lawrence Wittner
Getting Ready for Nuclear War
Patrick Cockburn
Kurdish Women Protest After Being Told by Turkish-Backed Militias to Wear the Hijab
Dean Baker
When Both Men and Women Drop Out of the Labor Force, Why Do Economists Only Ask About Men?
Bruce Lerro
Big Brother Facebook: Drawing Down the Iron Curtain on Yankeedom
June 20, 2018
Henry Giroux
Trump’s War on Children is an act of State Terrorism
Bill Hackwell
Unprecedented Cruelty Against Immigrants and Their Children
Paul Atwood
“What? You Think We’re So Innocent?”
Nicola Perugini
The Palestinian Tipping Point
K.J. Noh
Destiny and Daring: South Korean President Moon Jae-In’s Impossible Journey Towards Peace
Gary Leupp
Jeff Sessions and St. Paul’s Clear and Wise Commands
M. G. Piety
On Speaking Small Truths to Power
Dave Lindorff
Some Straight Talk for Younger People on Social Security (and Medicare too)
George Wuerthner
The Public Value of Forests as Carbon Reserves
CJ Hopkins
Confession of a Putin-Nazi Denialist
David Schultz
Less Than Fundamental:  the Myth of Voting Rights in America
Rohullah Naderi
The West’s Over-Publicized Development Achievements in Afghanistan 
Dan Bacher
California Lacks Real Marine Protection as Offshore Drilling Expands in State Waters
Lori Hanson – Miguel Gomez
The Students of Nicaragua’s April Uprising
Russell Mokhiber
Are Corporations Behind Frivolous Lawsuits Against Corporations?
Michael Welton
Infusing Civil Society With Hope for a Better World
June 19, 2018
Ann Robertson - Bill Leumer
We Can Thank Top Union Officials for Trump
Lawrence Davidson
The Republican Party Falls Apart, the Democrats Get Stuck
Sheldon Richman
Trump, North Korea, and Iran
Richard Rubenstein
Trump the (Shakespearean) Fool: a New Look at the Dynamics of Trumpism
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
Protect Immigrant Rights; End the Crises That Drive Migration
Gary Leupp
Norway: Just Withdraw From NATO
Kristine Mattis
Nerd Culture, Adultolescence, and the Abdication of Social Priorities
Mike Garrity
The Forest Service Should Not be Above the Law
Colin Todhunter
Pro-GMO Activism And Smears Masquerade As Journalism: From Seralini To Jairam Ramesh, Aruna Rodrigues Puts The Record Straight
Doug Rawlings
Does the Burns/Novick Vietnam Documentary Deserve an Emmy?
Kenneth Surin
2018 Electioneering in Appalachian Virginia
Nino Pagliccia
Chrystia Freeland Fails to See the Emerging Multipolar World
John Forte
Stuart Hall and Us
June 18, 2018
Paul Street
Denuclearize the United States? An Unthinkable Thought
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail