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Swastika art triggers outcry in Poland

AFP · 10 Jul 2010, 13:41

Published: 10 Jul 2010 13:41 GMT+02:00

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A new art gallery is using the work titled "NaziSexyMouse" by Italian artist Max Papeschi to advertise an exhibition, but a city councillor has tried to take legal action, saying it violates a law banning the display of Nazi symbols.

Vandals have also ripped a gaping hole in the two-storey high poster, forcing the gallery to put up a new one.

"For Poles, the swastika symbolises the suffering and death of more than six million Poles," said councillor Norbert Napieraj.

"Exhibiting this symbol in the city centre is a particularly disgraceful and disgusting act."

Six million Polish citizens, half of them Jewish, died under Nazi Germany's occupation of their country during World War II.

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But the public prosecutor's spokeswoman Malgorzata Mikos-Fita told AFP on Friday that no legal action would be taken against the gallery for publicly displaying the poster as "it did not break the law."

Gallery curator Maria Czarnecka said that "we don't have to remove it as it's a work of art. If it were just a swastika, it would be propagating Nazi symbols. The law allows such symbols to be used in academic and artistic contexts."

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Your comments about this article

15:52 July 10, 2010 by Canadianhaggis
While I agree on the 6 million Jewish citizens killed through out Europe during the war I do dispute six million poles and half of them jewish. Is 6 million to be the normal for every country that had it's citizens killed in the war?

I agree the so call art should be removed , very tastless
16:19 July 10, 2010 by DavidtheNorseman
Lots of Jewish folk lived in Poland Canukhaggis, so of the 6 million Jews wiped out in total, 3 million of them were of Polish citizenship...which would about fit. The totals of exterminated folks by respected authors like Urlanis and Brzezinski estimate around 15M defenseless killed (around 12M non-combatants and 3M POW's - always mostly in the East where they never figured they'd have to account for it). Not everyone has forgotten the 7-9M non-Jews murdered by Hitlerites - the Poles, for example. See for example for more info:

18:25 July 10, 2010 by vonSchwerin
We do NOT need to get into a debate about relative victimhood here. And we don't need to play the numbers game. Victimhood in the Second World War is not a zero-sum game.

Can we please redirect the debate to the point of the article, the so-called artwork?
22:02 July 10, 2010 by DavidtheNorseman
vS the numbers issue had been raised. The particular symbol at the heart of the article was - and still is for a small minority of diehards - the symbol of the Hitlerites. It symbolizes the Hitlerites desire to murder everyone and therefore is still very offensive. To display it in a centre where such mass murder was done in living memory is beyond tasteless.

There is no relative victimhood about it. The Hitlerites rose up to murder their neighbours and steal their possessions. They were (in the main) destroyed. Making excuses for them is inexcusable and will impede future generations learning that such behaviour is only a path to self-immolation.
23:21 July 10, 2010 by Logic Guy
Well, I'm an artist too. And to me, the primary goal of an artist create exactly what they feel. I do however think that as humans, it is impolite to "say" anything that comes to mind. I have very positive feelings about Germany, yet I wouldn't do anything that would cast a negative image upon it.

I recently created a painting about Germay's history. I did however leave out the swastika. I simply saw no need to include it. Sure, it's a apart of Germay's past, however, to paint or print one is usually seen a negative thing.

The worlds has enough problems. Therefore, only positive things should be introduced.
23:42 July 10, 2010 by wood artist
I guess the real question here is obscured by the numbers debate. So, let's dispense with that.

Ignoring the "artwork" for the moment, simply answer this: Would the artwork be acceptable if the number killed was 3 million, or 2 million, or 10 million? The fact remains that although we will never know the exact number, a whole bunch of people were killed, simply because of their (presumed) ethnic heritage or their choice of religion. No number is acceptable, and a million or more is clearly not.

None of that has anything to do with the "artwork" unless you think that a smaller number makes it okay. Personally, although I strongly advocate freedom for artists, including those who create disturbing images, I struggle to see the validity of this particular poster. If its sole purpose was to create controversy...and that might indeed be the case...then it succeeded. Otherwise, it's not much "art."

09:00 July 11, 2010 by judahsmommy
ok, first of all the artist is trying to make a point, I don't know what kind of point but I know it's not good. And what's up with Mickey Mouse's head? Don't tie something for children in to your politically screwed poster! It cuts down America because of Disney, it also cuts down women by mocking them and I don't even have to tell you guys about how offensive the swastika is to the millions who were killed. And since the police can't do anything, local people could. Don't go to the gallery! Boycott it!
09:52 July 11, 2010 by snorge
Italian artist Max Papeschi needs some English lessons, the words Nazi Sexy Mouse sound idiotic to a native English speaker....
10:45 July 11, 2010 by mexican.wav
Seems like marketing on the Galleries behalf to drum up controversy and publicity for the exhibition. Why not chose another piece for the poster?
13:49 July 11, 2010 by Wrench
Any publicity is good publicity.

Anyway, are we not getting a little too thin skinned? Whatever happened to free speech. Yes, the Nazi's were bad, so were the American settlers, the Japanese, the Vikings, the Communist, the Spanish, the French. Go into any country's history and you will discover violence and hatred. So....how about we give Germany a break and finally lay their Nazi past to rest.
14:21 July 11, 2010 by hardly
With due respect to all individuals who suffered under Nazism, this is not a Nazi poster.

I am not aware of the artist's intent and I am not too interested in his works, but I am interested in how this audience ought to think more critically about it's own relationship with symbols. The meaning of symbols are evolving constructs. Remember that the swastika was once a Hindu symbol for good luck, which Hitler hijacked. Outlawing an image like a swastika does not end racism, fascism, nor brutality. I abhor the brutality of humans in the name of fascism and racism, yet to end it one must alter the situation and condition that humans finds themselves in. Humans should not hide symbols and stories of past brutalities from fear of a return to totalitarianism; humans should remember critically the horrors of the 20th century. Otherwise, we just recreate new brutalities and only the symbols, geographies, and technologies alter.

Good or bad taste should not matter with art nor with Free Speech. To boycott such art displays a knee-jerk reaction and emotional intolerance (ostensibly sympathetic towards the victims of brutality) losing awareness that the artist could be critical of the same brutality you condemn. His work relies heavily on loaded symbols which contrast Pop with horror/terror/violence. His work is quite sophomoric Post-modern Pop. This image is not a glorification of the Swastika, nor of Nazis. The use of Mickey Mouse does not offend America, that would be juvenile. The images of Mickey Mouse, Swastika, and the naked Pin Up individually have different meaning then when placed together. Together these symbols complicate each other, possibly the swastika becomes less severe (no longer a tool for Totalitarianism), the pinup becomes deformed (no longer a desire of Patriarchy), and Mickey Mouse becomes darker and brutal (no longer a benign character for Consumerism). Maybe the artist is interested in perverting the oppressive value in these images. Possibly the artist sees the symbols of Fascism, Patriarchy, and Consumerism as integrally linked, as the humorous title suggests.

I do not find this artist's work very interesting, but I fear more the knee jerk reactions and intolerance against it. Those who share those reactions seem to have forgotten some of the greater lessons of the 20th century brutalities including Hitler's Nazi Germany and Stalin's Communist Russia. It is a slippery slope from boycotting an art show because it uses a loaded symbol to potential censorship then to possibly book burning. I am not condemning the general tactic of boycotts which can be rigorously founded on reasonable critiques and strategic goals, yet the for-mentioned boycott is irrational and reactionary.
20:07 July 11, 2010 by Ich
One of the best ways to gain attention is to offend, and that's about all Max Papeschi is probaly going for: a cheap shot, in lieu of talent., befcause he probaly isn't that good lokkng, in the buff, which is another way to offend. AS far as displaying swastikas, I'm getting tired of hearing about how bad teh Nazis were-everybody already knows that. How about we move on, before we stat talking about Treaty of Versailles, Weimar Republic, Occupation of the Ruhr, Neville Chamberlain, Wilson's 1`4 Points,,,,I mean, Hitler waould have been easy to stop, at many points, and it's sort of criminal that the rest of the world did the wrong thing, so consistantly.
08:49 July 12, 2010 by Kayak
When I look at the image in the article and contemplate the three icons as they are depicted there I find myself smiling inwardly at the artist's intention.

It's Juxtaposition101 - Mickey's ears are the same black as the Swastika, a naked young woman with a cartoon-chracter's head.

What's shocking is that anyone would think that this atist's image should be banned from public display.
14:58 July 12, 2010 by judahsmommy
Yeah and I'm sure none of you guys were Holocaust victims either. If I had gone through the horrible things that they did, I would be so hurt by the display. Yes, there's freedom of speech but that doesn't mean we have to approve of it!
16:51 July 12, 2010 by Kayak
Of course, the Holocaust! Silly me. Why didn't I think of that?
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