Quote of the week

[Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro] possesses, however, few of his predecessor’s resources, lacking not just oil revenue but Chávez’s surplus of charisma, humour and political skill. Maduro, unable to end the crisis, has increasingly sided with the privileged classes against the masses; his security forces are regularly dispatched into barrios to repress militants under the guise of fighting crime. Having lost its majority in Congress, the government, fearing it can’t win at the polls the way Chávez did, cancelled gubernatorial elections that had been set for December last year (though they now appear to be on again). Maduro has convened an assembly to write a new constitution, supposedly with the objective of institutionalising the power of social movements, though it is unlikely to lessen the country’s polarisation.

Greg Grandin
London Review of Books
20 May 2012

How to respond to art (hint: not with threats of censorship)

Canadian politicians seem to be slightly more mature about being depicted in a work of art with their private parts hanging out. The large oil on canvas painting, which Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper did not pose for, by Kingston, Ont.,-based artist Margaret Sutherland shows the prime minister reclining on a chaise lounge wearing nothing but a subtle smile, surrounded by people in suits, whose faces can’t be seen. A dog rests at his feet as a woman in business attire offers him what looks like a Tim Hortons cup on a silver platter.

As reported rather tongue in cheek by the Canadian press, the piece appeared to draw out the art critic in many Canadians. “This is just too funny – think she painted him a bit skinny – he should really be wearing his vest,” Myrtle Graham posted on Facebook.”This made my day. Nude Stephen Harper is ART,” tweeted Denise Balkissoon.

Other’s weren’t as amused: “Oh dear lord: may have to pluck eyes out now,” tweeted Paula Schuck. “I don’t know whether to laugh or be horrified,” added Kelsey Rolfe.

The Prime Minister’s Office also took to Twitter to voice a reaction to the piece. “On the Sutherland painting: we’re not impressed. Everyone knows the PM is a cat person,” tweeted Harper spokesman Andrew MacDougall, referring to the canine on the canvas.

Others on Parliament Hill took a similar tongue-in-cheek approach.”This is one case where I think we really do need a Conservative cover-up,” said Liberal MP Scott Brison. “I guess you could say in this painting it’s quite obvious that the Prime Minister has very little to hide.”

So far no one has threatened to obtain an urgent interdict to have the painting removed or destroyed. Not even cat lovers.

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