Thursday, June 05, 2008

The Art of Assassination

When a performance artist set up shop in Manhattan yesterday with signs referencing "The Assassination of Hillary Clinton" and "The Assassination of Barack Obama," the Secret Service and New York's finest didn't take it lightly:
By 9:30 a.m., New York City police detectives and Secret Service agents had shut down the exhibition, and building workers had quickly covered over the inflammatory title with large sheets of brown paper and blue masking tape.
Mr. Arboleda, who is 27, said in an interview: "It's art. It's not supposed to be harmful. It's about character assassination — about how Obama and Hillary have been portrayed by the media." He added, "It's about the media."
The interview was abruptly ended as Mr. Arboleda was led off to the Midtown South police precinct station for what he called an interrogation.
Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly, speaking to reporters at 1 Police Plaza around noon, said, "...[W]e want to determine what his motives are. Obviously they could be interpreted as advocating harm to protectees; both of the senators, of course, are now being provided Secret Service protection, that's why the Secret Service was interested; both of them are federal employees, so, ah, of course it is a concern to federal authorities as it is to ourselves."
Understandable.

It is interesting to note, however, that no such concern was voiced by New York authorities or most American media outlets when the British film Death of a President -- a so-called "fictional documentary" about the assassination of President George W. Bush -- played for several months in New York theaters last year. In fact, the movie received high acclaim from film critics in Europe, and received both an Emmy Award and an award from the Toronto Film Festival.

Apparently whether or not a performance is "art" depends at least in part on the intended target or victim of the so-called assassination.

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