Gotham Gazette

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Get The Picture, Governor?

Daily News (New York)

June 24, 2005 Friday


We have nothing against silly, self-important, half-baked pieces of "political art" per se. If someone of the "political artist" persuasion chooses to believe that a drawing of a jetliner dive-bombing a naked, spread-legged woman constitutes a sagacious 9/11 statement - "Homeland Security," this specimen is titled - then fine, draw away, and let the product freely hang in whatever private gallery chooses to display the thing, and let all who would admire it come around and do so all they please.

But not at Ground Zero..

Works such as "Homeland Security" belong nowhere near the sobering pit where the twin towers stood, but the prospect of such a sacrilege arises because Gov. Pataki and his lower Manhattan minions have given space there to a SoHo art gallery called The Drawing Center. What were they thinking? Did they even take two minutes to glance through The Drawing Center's catalogue, which, besides "Homeland Security," also features such artistic creations as: .

. The infamous hooded Abu Ghraib figure, the wires falling from his wrists to arrange themselves into the word "Liberty." .

. A connect-the-dots organizational chart fancifully linking George W. Bush to Osama Bin Laden and former Texas Gov. John Connally and some oilman here and some financier there. .

And so on and so forth. In short, it's plain as day that The Drawing Center does not bring to the downtown planning a single-minded respect for the memories of the dead - which is, after all, the point of a Ground Zero memorial, we would think. .

Need more evidence? Try this on, Governor. The following wackobabble, co-authored by The Drawing Center's executive director, is from an introduction to an exhibit staged two years ago: .

"Mobilizing the nation by portraying it as a guardian of family and home, the U.S. government has embarked on a campaign to protect the innocent through the benevolent 'liberation' of 'evil' nations." .

And: "Governmental crusades, such as the recent 'Patriot Act,' that impinge on our private lives through increased surveillance underscore that the threat lies within as well." .

And: "Global capitalism levels out difference, effectively eliminating barriers while producing abstract space. It works similarly to the paradigm of the nation-stage, which demands an assimilation of difference, suggestive of a death of otherness in some current circles of thought." .

There's a place in the world for informed political dissent. For that matter, there's a place for uninformed dissent. There's even a place for deep thinkers who can say things like "a death of otherness" with straight faces. But Ground Zero isn't that place. And The Drawing Center doesn't belong there. .

The group is one of four cultural organizations that were designated for places on the 16-acre site in the thinking that they would bring life to the area. The plans put The Drawing Center at the heart of the site, in a building that would also be occupied by the International Freedom Center, a museum designed to commemorate man's march toward liberty. .

Some 9/11 families are urging Pataki to remove the Freedom Center from Ground Zero, arguing that it's destined to become a venue for contentious political debate. We have pressed the Freedom Center's organizers to quickly clarify how they intend to fulfill the mission of creating inspirational, appropriate exhibitions. Pending further information, and hopeful that they succeed, we've withheld judgment on whether that museum belongs in the memorial. .

We need no further information to reach a conclusion regarding The Drawing Center. The works it displays are already a matter of record. You've made a mistake, Governor. Fix it, please. Show these people the door.


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