THE POST-SYRIA ARTIST
30 July 2012, Cervera de los Montes
They call me a political artist. Many of my works are about the power, the authority, the economy and the social issues but I've always tried to be ambiguous about my ideas and opinions. My role as artist is not to do propaganda and to tell people what to think but make things visible and decode them, suggest alternative ways to understand the society and the global capitalism.
Syria has been a different case. It’s the first time that I’ve adopted in public a clear political position without an ironic attitude defending the secular Syrian society against the Islamist rebellion. It is easy to be sarcastic from the comfort of the Western European art world but in my two trips to Syria, the latter one during the civil war, I faced real fear and danger in the first person. My life wasn’t threaten but I was working with people who didn’t know if they were going to be alive soon. Now I continue in contact with them on a daily basis and it’s difficult to maintain a cool distance to the current events. The reality kills the irony.
Will this change my art or my way of being an artist? I don’t know but at least it is transforming my way of understanding the world. The personal experience might also influence permanently the artist known as Riiko Sakkinen.
SYRIAN PATRIOT GIRL, WAR AND KITTENS
25 July 2012, Cervera de los Montes
I've said many times that Syrian government does bad propaganda. They want to picture themselves as tough guys but I think the Westerners would prefer to buy a softer message making clear that the country is a victim of the US geopolitical agenda and Islamist madmen.
The most interesting internet personality related to the current events is Mimi Al-Laham aka Syrian Girl or Syrian Partisan Girl. She is a beautiful young lady based in Dubai analyzing on Youtube videos the situation in Syria and the motivations of the players involved exposing the hypocrisy underlying the entire humanitarian intervention farce and the real agenda that is driving the attempted overthrow of the Syrian government.
In her Facebook profile, Syrian Girl descibes herself as a Syrian patriot, anti-imperialist and anti-New World Order. Her interests are geopolitics, fashion, war and kittens. The combination sounds like my art!
This is what Syrian Girl tell about herself and her opinions: 100% Syrian to the core, many generations back. I'm of a Sunni Muslim background. My family was part of the ruling class before they were deposed from power by the Ba'athist coup. My opinion on the Syrian government - I have no illusions in any government anywhere in the world. My opinion on Bashar Al-Assad - an educated nice face for the real powers. Do figure heads ever have all the power? No. My opinion on parliamentary democracy? Hah, it's a sham! A failed and inferior system, especially when you are voting for people not for ideas, especially if it's a two-party system with two equivalent parties. But if that's what people want, that is what they should have. It will change little, but better for it to happen through a sovereign Syria, rather than the destruction of Syria and the Syria-Iran alliance by the dogs of war of Israel, NATO and company.
A LETTER FROM A WARZONE
21 July 2012, Cervera de los Montes
Now we have electricity for a while and I can write you few lines. The temperature is 47º Celsius. The rebels are shelling with mortars our neighborhood. Several friends of mine have been killed by them.
If I die, please, tell that we were here supporting our country - not a person. We wanted Syria to be strong and beautiful but the others didn't let us make it happen. They stole the country and our souls.
We don't want their "rights", "freedom" and "democracy". It seems that there is no justice in this world and I find here nothing to believe in, so I've decided to believe in God. I have nothing to lose after the death and maybe I find more justice in the afterlife.
With love and peace from the flower of the world, my lovely Damascus.
18 July 2012, Cervera de los Montes
The northern vacation is over and I'm back in the studio under the Spanish heat (the sun and the economical crises).
I just sent to Raul a list of names for the new version of my Starbucks work, which will be done and exhibited in San Diego, California, next month in a show titled Celebrity Skin.
The names written on the cups will be Britney, Justin, Paris, Kim, Avril, Miley, David, Megan, Cristiano, Oprah, Barack, Kanye, Katy, Lionel, Rafael, Johnny, Kobe, Jackie, Ashton, Selena. They are the most liked living people on Facebook.
The title All the Frappucinos Are the Same and All the Frapuccinos Are Good. Britney Spears Knows It, the President Knows It, the Bum on the Corner Knows It, and You Know It refers to Warhol's famous quote "What’s great about this country is that America started the tradition where the richest consumers buy essentially the same things as the poorest. You can be watching TV and see Coca-Cola, and you know that the President drinks Coke, Liz Taylor drinks Coke, and just think, you can drink Coke, too. A Coke is a Coke and no amount of money can get you a better Coke than the one the bum on the corner is drinking. All the Cokes are the same and all the Cokes are good. Liz Taylor knows it, the President knows it, the bum knows it, and you know it."
BAD CURATING IN HELSINKI
12 July 2012, Helsinki
We spent a fantastic week in the Finnish countryside with the postmodern luxury of living without an internet connection but now we are back in the reality in Helsinki. We've been to the Korkeasasaari zoo and the Linnanmäki amusement park and also to the two main branches of the Finnish National Gallery - Ateneum and Kiasma. Unfortunately these art experiences were worse than anything I've seen for a long time in any museum.
Ateneum boasts a large exhibition of Helene Schjerfbeck (1862-1946), possibly the most acclaimed Finnish artist. I love Schjerfbeck's still-lifes and self-portraits but it was difficult to enjoy of them because the show is so badly curated. There are too many works, many of them irrelevant early works, or not enough space for them. The small size paintings in assorted frames would simply need more solemnity but now they are installed like a flea market on multicolored zigzag walls. The special effects don't work and the basic effects were unprofessional, the lighting left dark shadows of the frames on all the works. I was dreaming to see Schjerfbeck's all self-portraits juxtaposed but to my disappointment the works were not ordered thematically but randomly. The result is like a manual of bad curating and a clear example how it is possible to make a horrible show of great works.
Maybe I shouldn't attack the Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art, because my career in Finland depends of the institution, but my dogma has always been to bite the hands that feed me. Eyeballing - The New Form of Comics showcased things done by comic artists. I say things because they were neither comics nor art works, maybe not even nothing in-between, but just unnecessary things. My friend Katja had done the flagship work of the exhibition. Her painting installation with circus lights was not bad but it was ruined by placing on the same walls comic book pages of Matti, her husband. I mention their relation because I couldn't see any other reason for mixing up these two works. Curating doesn't have to be diffcicult, sometimes keeping things simple and avoiding tricks is enough.
The other exhibition at Kiasma is called Camouflage - Visual Art and Design in Disguise. The title is good because the works were disguised, masked and camouflaged behind a disgusting and cheap exhibition architecture constructed of strange plastic nets. I didn't know if I should have laughed or cried.
THE PROPAGANDA WAR
04 July 2012, Helsinki
I'm on vacation in Finland with my family but I can't relax and disconnect totally - I'm giving interviews about my recent experiences in Damascus and opinions about the current situation in Syria. Yesterday I was invited to the breakfast show of MTV3 channel. The journalists were really happy that they could offer a different point of view compared with the story told by the Occidental media which is based on the propaganda of the Islamist rebels and their supporters in the Gulf and Washington.
My Syrian firends believe that the Western media is controlled by the governments and the capitalists. Undoubtedly they are at least partly right but I think that many journalist are just lazy - they use the best and easiest propaganda accessible and don't bother to contrast the information. What the Syrian government needs now is better propaganda - if I were their minister of information, I would hire the best media media experts from America to soften the image of the regime. The contemporary wars are not won with tanks but the TV.