Image via Rise and Sprawl
Canadians give a shit about Karl Marx, or least that’s the way it would seem after few local citizens in Winnipeg forced the removal of the figure from a mural depicting Eastern European immigrants in the 1919 Winnipeg General Strike. Rise and Sprawl, a Winnipeg blog first to take critical stance on the mural, noted that while the image would adorn a shop selling public auto insurance, one of the most visible legacies of Manitoba’s long history of social democratic governments, sprung at least in part from the labour radicalism of 1919, it has little connection with Karl Marx.
Kelsey Shwetz, the 21 year old university student who came up with the concept for a larger inner-city beautification project, refuses to comment on whether she resisted her patron’s injunction, or whether the man in the mural was supposed to be Karl Marx. Not that her refusal to identify the man means much of anything; anyone with a whit of sense can match the first Google image result with her image.
On the subject of her resistance however, her unwillingness to reveal her position suggests a slightly more unimpassioned connection to Mr. Marx than the level of controversy suggests. The Globe and Mail‘s Joe Friesen initially intimates as much, describing a her purely by the objects she’s bought.
“…her eyes hidden behind gold-rimmed Ray Bans, with iPod headphones dangling from her ears.”
Friesen however, goes on to blow that moment saying,
Ms. Shwetz’s struggle echoes the battle over Mexican painter Diego Rivera’s mural Man at the Crossroads, commissioned for the lobby of the RCA building at Rockefeller Center in New York in 1933. The piece included a scene of a workers’ demonstration, with Vladimir Lenin at its centre. The Rockefellers objected to Lenin’s presence and asked that his image be replaced with that of an unknown man. They couldn’t reach an agreement and the mural had to be destroyed.
We don’t even know if there was a struggle. She hasn’t said. What’s more, the public debate around a mature artist’s mural commissioned for the Rockefeller Center is not equivalent to that of an art student. Neither the context nor artistic merit are comparable. Apparently a Facebook group to protest the removal of the Marx figure has been started, though frankly, I couldn’t care less. I’d pick up the “artistic freedom” torch if I thought there was enough thought put into the project to warrant it, but there’s no reason to engage a public debate in which one party refuses to make the intellectual investment it takes to issue a statement.
Link via: Mooney on Theatre