Thursday, September 6, 2007

Independence Paintings in Burlington, Vermont

Last week, I noticed that my blog was receiving an unusual amount of traffic from various cities and towns in Vermont. I was able to quickly discern that most of this new traffic was to my account of parting company with Bread and Puppet Theater over what I regarded as a distortion of the historical record of the Warsaw Ghetto, and misrepresentation of Israeli-Palestinian conflict in Peter Schumann's Independence Paintings: Inspired by Four Stories and in the show which he was having us rehearse, The Battle of the Terrorists and the Horrorists.

I was aware that Independence Paintings was being exhibited, having read it on someone else's blog, but I was more than surprised to read Jack Thurston's article, "Art Display Draws Criticism" on the WCAX website. Rabbi Joshua Chasan of the Ohavi Zedek congregation in Burlington was taking a public stance regarding the exhibition of the painting. To quote Jack Thurston's article:

The rabbi hasn't seen the art. Neither has Channel 3. In fact, only a handful of people in Vermont have because it won't be installed on Pine Street until the end of the week. But based on reviews of when it showed in Boston, [...Chasan stated that] "Peter is a very gifted artist. I have delighted in his art over the decades. I have marched behind his puppets. I think when you make the comparison between the Holocaust and what the Israelis are doing, you've gone across the edge."

Chasan has much more to say in the article, and it is well worth reading.

I did contact Rabbi Chasan by email to thank him for making a stand. He noted that he had read my blog and had found it very helpful, though suggested I might have gone too far by psychoanalyzing Schumann. Perhaps this is a valid criticism, and I will be rereading that particular entry with that in mind. At the time, however, it seemed important for me to discern why certain facts were presented accurately, others were wildly distorted, and why yet other facts were omitted.

Schumann is quoted as making a number of statements in the article but none to which I have not analyzed and responded to previously, although I am compelled to point out one line because of its disturbing implications:

[T]he self-described pacifist sees both nations as guilty of violence, he calls Israel an occupier, even instigator.

I should point out that in neither "Independence Paintings" nor in Battle of the Terrorists and the Horrorists does he ever portray Palestinian violence (except for throwing stones at the West Bank wall) and when terrorism is even mentioned, it is to make light of the deaths it causes. If he sees both nations as guilty, should not his art represent that view?

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