Greek Artist Demolishes His Own Work to Avoid Bizarre Government Fine (artnet news)

By Christie Chu, Tuesday, August 25, 2015 original article here.

Photo: via

Photo: via

A statue of a mermaid by Greek artist Dionysis Karipidis, which was created in 1997 on the Portokali beach in Chalkidiki, Greece, has been destroyed by the hands of its own maker.

The artist took to his statue with a sledgehammer when he was asked by the area’s tourist authorities to pay a fine for “destroying the natural landscape,” according to the Greek Reporter.

Chalkidiki is known for its three peninsulas that stick out into the Aegean sea like Poseidon’s trident. Famous as a tourist spot, the Greek peninsula is also known as the birthplace of Greek philosopher Aristotle.

The mermaid, which is carved from the natural limestone on the beach, has been a tourist attraction for almost a decade. The issue arose a little over a year ago when the artist, who has largely remained anonymous, received a letter from the local municipality leveling a 533 euro fine for the work. In March 2014, Karipidis responded with his own letter stating that if he was forced to pay the fine, he would destroy his work.

Photo: via

Photo: via

According to the town’s mayor Yiannis Tzitzios, the fine was imposed by the tourist authorities even though the municipality did not want the sculpture to be destroyed. Why did the authorities wait almost two decades to level the fine? Perhaps it has something to do with the country’s economic crisis.

“The fine has not been attested by the municipality, but since the offense took place in our area, we were forced to collect it. Once we received Karipidis’ letter we sought every legal way to delete the fine or pay it with municipality expenses,” said the mayor. “However, we found this to be illegal. Therefore, the city council chairman proposed that we pay the fine ourselves, as individuals, and not with the municipality’s money. Unfortunately, due to a misunderstanding, we did not have enough time to sort out the issue.”

What ISIS Destroys, Why, and Why We Must Document It (Hyperallergic)

by Christopher Jones on March 6, 2015 original article here.

A member of ISIS destroying an Assyrian (all images are stills from the infamous ISIS video unless otherwise noted)

A member of ISIS destroying an ancient Assyrian lamassu (all images are stills from the infamous ISIS video unless otherwise noted)

One week ago the world was shocked by a five-minute video posted online by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) showing its members toppling ancient statues inside the Mosul Museum, smashing them with sledgehammers, and pulverizing what remained with jackhammers. The destruction left scholars of Mesopotamia scrambling to figure out what exactly had been destroyed and what remained.

A destroyed statue in the Mosul Museum

A destroyed statue in the Mosul Museum

In some ways, the damage could have been worse. In April of 2003 around 1,500 smaller items in the museum were sent to Baghdad for safekeeping. A few of the items that remained, such as the Assyrian reliefs and the statues of Hercules and a seated goddess from the Roman-era desert city of Hatra, were replicas of originals kept in London or Baghdad.

Nevertheless, the losses are catastrophic. Five life-sized statues depicting kings of Hatra were smashed to bits. There are twenty-seven known statues of Hatrene kings, so this represents a loss of 15% of all such sculptures in existence. Three more life-sized statues of Hatrene noblemen and priests have likewise been destroyed, along with statues of Venus, Nike, and eagles and lions which once adorned Hatra’s temples.

Destructing in the Mosul Museum with some remaining items in the background.

Destructing in the Mosul Museum with some remaining items in the background.

Just as tragic are the loss of the four Assyrian stone lamassu, human-headed winged bulls which were installed in the Nergal Gate at Nineveh during the reign of Sennacherib sometime between 704 and 690 B.C. These were some of the few lamassu still installed at their original location, the same place where they had once greeted visitors to Nineveh over 2,700 years ago. Other lamassu survive on display in New York, Paris, London, Chicago, and Baghdad, but now only Nimrud and Susa retain lamassu at their original locations. (Recent reports indicate that the lamassu at Nimrud may have also been destroyed).

The excavation of an ancient Assyrian lamassu in the early 20th century and the statue in the Mosul Museum.

The excavation of an ancient Assyrian lamassu in the early 20th century and the statue in the Mosul Museum.

The media spokesman who narrates the video was quite explicit about why these artifacts were destroyed. According to a translation provided by MEMRI TV:

Oh Muslims, the remains that you see behind me are the idols of peoples of previous centuries, which were worshiped instead of Allah. The Assyrians, Akkadians, and others took for themselves gods of rain, of agriculture, and of war, and worshiped them along with Allah, and tried to appease them with all kinds of sacrifices.

Yet, when one takes stock of the items that were destroyed it is striking how few of them were actually depictions of gods. Of all the statues shown being shattered only four of them were actually depictions of deities: The statues of Venus and Nike, and the replica statues of the seated goddess and Hercules. At one point the video panned to a sign at the Nergal Gate and highlighted the section which identified Nergal as the god of the underworld, but the lamassu were not depictions of Nergal or any other deity but instead depicted protective spirits who guarded the doorway.

An ISIS narrator

An ISIS narrator

What’s more, several plaques depicting Hatrene gods and goddesses were shown early in the video, but at the end, when the camera pans through the rubble of the shattered museum, these plaques can be seen still hanging on the wall untouched.

But ISIS is quite open that their motives are not simply iconoclastic but also political. From later in the video:

The Prophet Muhammad shattered the idols with his own honorable hands, when he conquered Mecca. The Prophet Muhammad commanded us to shatter and destroy statues. This is what his companions did later on, when they conquered lands.

When Muhammad captured Mecca in 629 he famously destroyed the cult statues kept inside the Kaaba. In ISIS’ perverse logic, destroying physical evidence of the past serves to link themselves with an event from their own idealized version of the past.

In the Wahhabi ideology which informs ISIS, Muhammad and the Rashidun Caliphs which followed him represent true Islam, and the embrace of classical philosophy and learning by the Umayyad and Abbasid dynasties represents bid’ah or religious innovations that deviate from the teachings of the first Muslims.


The history of the excavation of the Assyrian lamassu.

Yet, when the early Muslims under Caliph Umar captured Egypt, they did not destroy the Sphinx or other clearly visible Egyptian antiquities. Churches in Jerusalem were respected rather than destroyed. Monks were left alone rather than expelled. ISIS’s videographer tries to rebut this objection, as towards the end of the video there is shown a photograph of the excavation of one of the lamassu with a caption stating that “These idols and statues were not visible in the days of the Prophet Muhammad and his companions, but were extracted by the worshipers of devils.”

The half human animal that the Muslim prophet Muhammad rode on his fabled night journey, 17th century Mughal miniature painting from India (public domain)

The half human animal that the Muslim prophet Muhammad rode on his fabled night journey, 17th century Mughal miniature painting from India (public domain)

Furthermore, the influence of pre-Islamic cultures on Islam can be seen elsewhere. Al-Buraq, the legendary steed which carried Muhammad from Mecca to Jerusalem on his Night Journey, is traditionally depicted as a horse with wings and a human head, similar to the Assyrian lamassu which ISIS destroyed.

At this point it would be easy to simply mock ISIS as poor scholars of history. After all, its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was described as “a street thug” by US military officials, who gained most of his jihadist education not in a mosque but in a prison camp where he was confined for the majority of the Iraq War. But this obscures the purpose of ISIS’s actions: By erasing all evidence of both the pre-Islamic past and alternative interpretations of Islam, ISIS hopes to create a world where knowledge of any belief system except their own interpretation of Islam is forgotten forever.

As a result, the work of documenting what is lost takes on even more importance. Not only is it vital for future scholarship, it serves to remind the world of the existence of all that ISIS seeks to destroy.

Why Banksy Is (Probably) a Woman (Citylab)


by Kriston Capps  Nov 4, 2014 original article here.


Andrew Winning/Reuters


Banksy Does New York, a new documentary airing on HBO on Nov. 17, opens on a bunch of scofflaws trying to jack an inflatable word balloon reading “Banksy!” from the side of a low-rise building in Queens. These hooligans weren’t Banksy. Neither were the police officers who took possession of the piece after the failed heist and denied that it was art. Nor in all likelihood was the silver-haired man who sold $420 worth of Banksy prints for $60 a pop in Central Park, or the drivers who slowly trawled New York streets in trucks tricked out with Banksy’s sculpture, or the accordionist accompanying one of Banksy’s installations. While the film shares a lot of insights about street art, media sensationalism, viral phenomena, and the people who make Banksy possible, it doesn’t cast a light on who Banksy is or what she looks like.

“Banksy hunters” who tracked the elusive artist over the course of her month-long residency last October never caught a glimpse of her—at least, so far as anyone can be sure. Reporters such as Beth Stebner (New York Daily News) and Keegan Hamilton (then with The Village Voice) didn’t find her. That her identity is still secret is an achievement, given her notoriety and marketability.

But what Banksy Does New York makes plain is that the artist known as Banksy is someone with a background in the art world. That someone is working with a committee of people to execute works that range in scale from simple stencil graffiti to elaborate theatrical conceits. The documentary shows that Banksy has a different understanding of the street than the artists, street-writers, and art dealers who steal Banksy’s shine by “spot-jocking” or straight-up pilfering her work—swagger-jackers who are invariably men in Banksy Does New York.

All of which serves as evidence against the flimsy theory that Banksy is a man.

A scene from Banksy Does New York depicts vandals attempting to make off with the last piece from Banksy’s 31-day residency in New York. (HBO)


This hypothesis is not completely unfounded. Eleven years ago, The Guardian‘s Simon Hattenstone met Banksy in a pub in Bristol. The reporter had his own concerns about identifying Banksy, even early into the artist’s career. (“Nobody here seems to know what he looks like. But they all know him. That is, they know of him. That is, if he is a he.”) Hesitations notwithstanding, Hattenstone was convinced: He wrote that the person he interviewed “looks like a cross between Jimmy Nail and Mike Skinner of the Streets.” Your standard bloke.

In the 2010 film Exit Through the Gift Shop, another documentary about street art, Banksy appears as an anonymous figure whose voice is disguised, but who is plainly a man. So that would seem to put the question to rest. Further to the point, the street artist Shepard Fairey referred to Banksy as “he” and “him” throughout an interview with Brian Lehrer the same year. Fairey would be in a position to know, presumably: He’s the closest thing Banksy has to a colleague. Fairey says that Banksy insists on anonymity, in part, to manage his image in the press. “He controls the way his message is put out very carefully,” Fairey says in the interview.

Yet these pieces of evidence confuse rather than clarify the issue. Exit Through the Gift Shop is a classic piece of misdirection. Over the course of the movie, the film’s would-be documentarian, Thierry Guetta, is exposed as a poor filmmaker. Partway through, Banksy takes over the production, turning it into a documentary about the documentarian instead. To complete the meta romp, Guetta, working under the nomme de rue Mr. Brainwash, proceeds to rips off Banksy’s style. All of this means that Fairey, Banksy’s co-conspirator in Banksy’s film, is an unreliable narrator.

Another piece from Banksy’s New York residency. (HBO)


During the very first interview that Banksy gave to The Guardian, another figure was present (“Steve,” Banksy’s agent). Another figure is always present, says Canadian media artist Chris Healey, who has maintained since 2010 that Banksy is a team of seven artists led by a woman—potentially the same woman with long blonde hair who appears in scenes depicting Banksy’s alleged studio in Exit Through the Gift Shop. Although Healey won’t identify the direct source for his highly specific claim, it’s at least as believable as the suggestion that Banksy is and always has been a single man.

“Since there is so much misdirection and jamming of societal norms with Banksy’s work, as well as the oft-repeated claim no one notices Banksy, then it makes sense,” Healey tells me. “No one can find Banksy because they are looking for, or rather assuming, a man is Banksy.”

A Banksy outside the Hustler Club in Hells Kitchen. (Eric Thayer/Reuters)


Part of what makes Banksy’s work so popular is that it doesn’t operate much like street art at all. Think about Invader or Fairey, artists who appear in Exit Through the Gift Shop: Invader’s 8-bit career began with a single “Space Invaders” icon that the artist reiterated endlessly. Fairey’s work started with a stencil of Andre the Giant prefaced by the word “Obey,” again, repeated over and over. While they’re both more like media moguls than graffiti writers today, Fairey and Invader started with the same strategy: to project themselves into public spaces by broadcasting themselves all over it.

That ambition to control a public space through this sort of redundant branding, to make the street your own, is a masculine one—and it’s shared by the overwhelming majority of street artists. In the theater of the public square, graffiti is cousin to cat-calling—which Slate’s Dee Locket smartly explains as the constant effort by men to “create the illusion of dominance in shared public spaces,” specifically by claiming women’s private spaces as their own. Naturally, street art is at best delightful and at worst a nuisance, whereas cat-calling is an intolerable social problem and a legitimate threat to women’s safety. So any comparison between the two only goes so far.

Still from a video graphic mapping Banksy’s October 2013 New York residency. (HBO)


Banksy does Brooklyn. (Carlo Allegri/Reuters)


Compared to the highly visible work of Invader or Fairey or dozens of other high-profile street artists, Banksy’s work is different. Girls and women figure into Banksy’s stenciled figures, for starters, something that isn’t true of 99 percent of street art. Banksy’s work has always done more than project “Banksy” ad nauseum. (In fact, a “handling service” called Pest Control exists to authenticate Banksy’s protean projects.) Banksy’s graffiti understands and predicates a relationship between the viewer and the street, something that graffiti that merely shouts the artist’s name or icon over and over (and over and over) doesn’t do.

Maybe it gives Banksy too much credit to say that her work shows a greater capacity for imagining being in someone else’s shoes. (It’s true of her themes of social justice, but it’s also formally true in the way her work anticipates interaction with the viewer.) Andrew Russeth, at the time the editor for Gallerist, the New York Observer‘s art site, finds Banksy’s work lacking in the Banksy Does New York documentary, calling it “art that hits you over the head with its message” and “worst-common-denominator art”—although he had kinder things to say about Sirens of the Lambs, a truck filled with squeaking plush animals. The fine-art world may not love Banksy, but Banksy plainly thinks of herself as part of that world: The New York residency drew on countless tropes from the art world, complete with a wry audio tour guide.

Banksy’s Everything but the Kitchen Sphinx in Queens was dismantled and removed by the owner of an auto-glass shop. (Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)


“The real show he is running is on the Internet,” says one savvy observer in the documentary. “It’s like the Internet is almost his graffiti wall.” Close: Her graffiti wall. The savvy manipulation of media to make viral art, to make art about virality, makes Banksy an innovator breaking out of a familiar form. In contemporary art today, that’s a feminine trait: The best selfie artists are women, for example. So are the artists leading the Post-Internet art world.

Given how many men rip off Banksy in Banksy Does New York—watch the film to meet the utterly vampiric art dealer Stephan Keszler, if for no other reason—it’s only fitting to presume that Banksy is a woman. Women experience the street in a different way than men do. Women experience the art world in a different way than men do. Love her or hate her, Banksy is putting herself at the intersection of the street and the art world. Why would anyone expect that position to be occupied by a man?

Works by Banksy titled Kate Moss 2005 appear in a 2009 auction. (Andrew Parsons/Reuters)


What most street art looks like. (HBO)




Lack of Air-Conditioning Warps Raphael Painting at Rome Museum (Hyperallergic)

by Jillian Steinhauer on September 11, 2014 original article here.

Raphael, "The Deposition" (1507), oil on wood , 184 cm × 176 cm (72 in × 69 in) (image via Wikimedia)

Raphael, “The Deposition” (1507), oil on wood , 184 cm × 176 cm (72 in × 69 in) (image via Wikimedia)

In order to visit the Galleria Borghese in Rome, you must buy timed tickets online in advance. The museum is so popular that it’s near impossible to get next-day, let alone day-of, tickets (tomorrow is sold out). People flock from all over the world to see its treasures, which include artworks by Bernini, Caravaggio, Titian, Rubens, and Raphael.

What this world-class museum does not have, however, is functional air-conditioning. It apparently hasn’t for six months. And now the heat has claimed its first victim: Raphael’s “The Deposition,” a 1507 oil painting on wood showing Jesus’s body being brought down from the cross. Temperatures and humidity inside the Galleria — where staff have been forced to set up fans and open the windows in an attempt to cool the place down — have warped the Raphael painting; the museum’s DIY fix was to set up a dehumidifier next to the work, a tactic they say has reduced the warping.

But the air-conditioning hasn’t been working for months. And it still isn’t. La Repubblica broke the news of this in May, at which time Galleria Director Anna Coliva told the paper that the air-conditioning system was installed in 1997 and is completely worn out by now, adding that there were also a few years of a complete lack of maintenance. “The request to redo it has already been in play for at least 45 years,” she said. After posing the question of how this was possible, the writer of the article answers his own question: “A request that it’s easy to suppose is lost in the mazes of Italian bureaucracy.”

Recovering the History of Sound in Video Games (Hyperallergic)

by Allison Meier on September 2, 2014 original article here.

Video Games Live orchestral performance of the Tetris theme (photograph by Roxanne Ready, via Flickr)

Video Games Live orchestral performance of the Tetris theme (photo by Roxanne Ready, via Flickr)

The sound of video games has transformed from something seemingly mechanical accenting action to incredibly elaborate acoustic landscapes setting the mood for play. To preserve this history, and show why it’s worth exploring, a new documentary and archive project are underway.

Beep: A History of Game Sound — currently crowdfunding for production on Kickstarter — is directed by Karen Collins. A sound designer and the Canada Research Chair in Interactive Audio at the University of Waterloo, she has written extensively on audio in video games, including in the book Playing with Sound: A Theory of Interacting with Sound and Music in Video Games, released last year by MIT Press. Beep is aiming to be the first film on video-game sound history, and also a means of gathering interviews with key figures in its development that will be available as an archive.

As the funding page for Beep states: “We can’t go back and interview early film composers, but we can interview game sound designers and composers from the early days.” The majority of those people are largely unknown, even to gamers. “Most of us could hum the theme song to Super Mario Bros., but how many people know the name of the composer who wrote that music?,” says Collins in the Kickstarter video. (It’s Koji Kondo, who also did The Legend of Zelda and a prolific number of other Nintendo games.)


Image for "BEEP: A History of Game Sound" (courtesy the filmmakers)

Image for “BEEP: A History of Game Sound” (courtesy the filmmakers)

In a technologically nostalgic way, the impetus for Beep is aligned with projects like the Museum of Endangered Sounds. Created in early 2012, the online “museum” is focused on the preservation of sounds from now obsolete electronic media, whether it’s AOL Instant Messenger, Space Invaders, or Encarta MindMaze. Exploring the museum, you start to think of how the sounds of technology have gotten more subtle, from jarring 8-bit noise to gentler, composed sounds. However, in video games, the progress of play is so concentrated on visuals that it can be easy to overlook how audio has been essential to making gaming experiences engaging. Back in 2011, “Baba Yetu” by Christopher Tin for Civilization IV received a Grammy, the first video-game music composition to do so, suggesting that the music of games may be expanding into the mainstream.

The ground Collins is hoping to cover with Beep is ambitious, stretching from Victorian mechanical games to arcades of the 1970s and ’80s, to contemporary responses like the Video Game Orchestra, which gives the full instrumentation treatment to game sounds in live performances. As video games get more recognition as an art form, it will be integral to their history to have a record of these sound creators.

Beep: A Documentary History of Video Game Sound is fundraising on Kickstarter through September 30.

ISIS Destroys Historic Sites in Iraq and Syria (Hyperallergic)

by Hrag Vartanian on July 9, 2014 original article appears here.

From the unverified video of a member of ISIS desecrating the alleged tombs of the prophet Jonah (GIF Hrag Vartanian/Hyperallergic)

The militant group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has been destroying the artistic and religious heritage of Iraq and Syria as they continue to impose their fundamentalist Sunni doctrine on the lands they’ve occupied. Recent reports, which have been hard to independently confirm, have reported that ISIS most recently destroyed the alleged tomb of the Biblical prophet Jonah (Younis). A short video (posted below) of a black-clad figure hurling a sledgehammer at the tombs, which according to Iraqi authorities includes the prophet’s tomb, is the latest visual evidence of the group’s iconoclastic cultural policy. Jonah is the Biblical figure that was swallowed by a whale, and his tale is recorded both in the Old Testament and the Quran.

The latest bout of destruction by ISIS has raised concerns that the group threatens all religious minorities, including non-fundamentalist Sunni Muslims, and imperils all the monuments and sites affiliated with those groups. Archeological sites are also under threat, and in June the Guardian reported that ISIS “was also known to have reaped windfalls from smuggling all manner of raw materials pillaged from the crumbling state, as well as priceless antiquities from archaeological digs.”

Last month, European Union observers reported that 11 churches were torched by ISIS in the Iraqi city of Mosul, while the Sunni fundamentalists also raped civilians. Among the many architectural monuments destroyed included the grave of 12th–13th-century historiographer Abu al-Hassan al-Jazari, known as ibn al-Athir, and several churches that had been “burnt to the ground.”

An image posted on social media by ISIS showing what appears to be a Sufi shrine being bulldozed. (Al-Arabiya News/Twitter)

A Shiite Islamic site being destroyed by explosives (image via Al Arabiya)

ISIS’s animosity towards local Christians is not new, and the group has been targeting Christians heavily since they took over parts of eastern Syria. According to Al Jazeera, earlier this year the group demanded “every Christian man pay a tax of up to 17g of gold, a levy that was common in Muslim states centuries ago,” while the Assyrian International News Agency (AINA) reported that ISIS has imposed a $250 minimum tax on Christians in the Iraqi city of Mosul. There are also numerous videos posted online of the fundamentalist group’s desecration of Christian churches.

The AINA has been regularly reporting about the destruction of historic and religious monuments by ISIS. Earlier this year they reported that the group destroyed Assyrian statues and artifacts believed to be 3,000 years old, while more recently they confirmed that ISIS had destroyed a statue of Arab poet Abu Tammam in Mosul last month.

ISIS is not limiting its destruction to non-Muslim sites and four shrines to Sunni Arab or Sufi figures, and six Shiite mosques have also been destroyed in the ISIS-controlled regions of Iraq’s Nineveh province, where Mosul is the capital. Al-Arabiya News is reporting that the “Sunni and Sufi shrines were demolished by bulldozers, while the Shiite mosques and shrines were all destroyed by explosives.”

Photos showing what appears to be ISIS militants destroying ancient Assyrian statues. (via



Destruction of a Shiite religious site by ISIS (Twitter via Al-Arabiya)


St. Etchmiadzin Armenian church in Mosul following attacks by ISIS. (via Asbarez)

Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia Damaged in Arson Fire (Hyperallergic)

by Kyle Chayka on April 21, 2011 original article here.

The Sagrada Familia blocked off during the fire (image via

On April 19, Barcelona’s iconic Sagrada Familia Basilica, designed by famed Art Nouveau and Proto-Surrealist architect Antoni Gaudi, caught fire. A fire burned inside the structure for over 45 minutes before firefighters could put it out, destroying the church’s sacristy (the chamber where priests put on their robes) and badly damaging the crypt.

1,500 visitors were evacuated from the basilica, which hosts over 2.5 million tourists annually. Only 4 had to be treated for smoke inhalation, reports the Guardian. A suspected arsonist, who is reportedly mentally ill, has been arrested. Bizarrely, the fire started when the arsonist sprayed priest robes hanging in the sacristy with a flammable liquid and set them on fire.

“All the robes and furniture in the sacristy were lost,” local fire chief Miguel Ángel Fuente said.

This isn’t the first time the basilica has been victim to arson. In 1936, anarchists broke into the building and burned the majority of Gaudi’s original models and designs for the structure. Construction of the basilica, begun in 1882, still isn’t complete, but architects continue to work with the plans Gaudi left behind after his death in 1926 to finish the structure.

Still, no one is yet willing to say when the legendary project will be done. The reasoning behind the arson is not yet clear, but the fact that the basilica was consecrated just last November and active services began recently may be relevant. Click through to the Daily Mail’s article for more photos and details.

Smoke billows out of the Sagrada Familia (image via