May 20th was Everyone Draw Mohammad Day. A Western counter-reaction to the Islamist reaction to the infamous Danish Mohammad cartoons. The Facebook page is now gone, after some controversy. But a web article on by Nick Gillespie and Matt Welch preserved three of the best drawings. Here they are, with some discussion:
Top left: A reference to The Treachery of Images by Belgian surrealist Rene Magritte (1898-1967). The original painting poses a philosophical question about the nature of representation. We say “it is a pipe,” but obviously it is not because it is merely a picture of a pipe. You can’t smoke it. This Mohammad cartoon takes Magritte’s mind bender one step further as it is not even a picture of Mohammad, though it claims it is. Delightfully clever reference.
Top Right: Another reference–this time to Where’s Waldo–the work could be called Where’s Mohammad (yes, I think I found him). One interpretation that immediately comes to mind is that the work criticizes people who go around looking for reasons to be offended, even if they are hard to find. They seem to find pleasure in being insulted and acting out over it. Where’s the IC commenter?
This connect-the-dots cartoon is not in and of itself a picture of Mohammad unless the viewer wishes to make it so. On the one hand it is an in-your-face statement seemingly encouraging even the clumsiest to participate in the drawing contest. On the other hand it is a meditation on how the viewer actually participates in creating a work of art even though he/she believes the artist is the sole creator. Even in the Mona Lisa we “connect the dots” to complete the artistic communication process. How Muslims connect the dots in the case of Mohammad images is a matter of free will.
Bottom right: One of the original Mohammad cartoons that started the fracas. First published in Denmark’s Jyllands-Posten in 2005, these drawings are examples of works where the word “art” cannot be applied even if to say it is bad art. Bad art is unoriginal, meaningless, boring, irrelevant, or poorly executed, but it is harmless as long as it stays confined to cheap motels. The Jylland-Posten cartoons are actually meant to hurt. They are cuss words, not art. Paradoxically, they have now acquired a meaning in the context of freedom of speech. So now they’re art in the sense that they unlock deeper ideas in us! Go figure.