Since the dawn of mankind, art – to a great extent – has been influenced by the external world. At some level artistic expression can be defined as the result of the mingling or rather clashing of the internal with the external. Events across the world and international politics are therefore muses for several artists. Street art and graffiti probably illustrate this phenomenon the best. In the recent past, an unusual muse has emerged for artists across the globe – Julian Assange.
From a coloring book to full-fledged tribute art – the art world seems to be at the awe of the silver haired Australian. The founder of the whistleblower website WikiLeaks is easily one of the most spoken about and debated about personality in the world. Assange’s efforts to bring out the secrets that the authorities want to push under the rug have shaken the world order. A hero to many, villain to few – artistic tributes to the controversial man is now popping up in every street corner, as well as on the world of internet.
Dubbing Assange the “new folk hero”, a post on Brooklyn Street Art observed,”Pre-dating the modern ‘Street Art’ movement, the street has traditionally been an outlet for the voice of the people and social movements have almost always gained purchase there.
“Posters of underground heroes are as old as ‘Wanted: Billy the Kid’ nail-ups that people used to rip down and take home. The amount of politically motivated Street Art you see or even themes surrounding social issues seem to ebb and flow in quantity, but they are ever present. Villain to some and emerging folk hero to others, Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks, has already inspired a comic book in addition to some pieces on the street.”
At the fun end of the spectrum, a website simply called Julian Assange Colouring Book allows users to enjoy the relaxing benefits of “Coloring in” ready made outlines of the gifted computer hacker/journalist/founder and editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks.
“‘Collateral murder’, ‘Cablegate’, sexual misconduct charges against Julian in Sweden, calls for his assassination by the CIA, intrigue, suspense, and conspiracy theories – it all makes for pretty serious stuff.
“So where does the Julian Assange Coloring Book fit in? Well, simply put, it’s not “serious stuff”. It’s a coloring book about Julian Assange (with the occasional WikiLeaks page for good measure),” reads the website’s about section.
But the frivolity – so to speak – ends there as the versatility of the tribute art dedicated to Assange does not fail to awe. A point that needs to be stressed here is the fact that the pieces of reverence towards Assange come from all corners of the world. Amorfart, Hungarian street art site, showcased the making of a five layer stencil on a vinyl album, while the street art from Melbourne has been displayed for the world to see on the photo-sharing website Flickr by Regan Tamanui.
But the best of the lot comes from a French artist called Thierry Ehrmann. Ehrmann is quite a controversial figure. The artist born in Lyon is the founder and current chairman of the Serveur Group, a company that manages databases of art auction quotations through ArtPrice website. Ehrmann sparked off a row in connection with the decoration of his house, the Abode of Chaos. The house located in the peaceful village stick outs as the artist turned it into a replica war zone. Ehrmann is fighting a legal battle to sustain his house in which lives over 2,500 artworks from different artists.
Ehrmann’s photostream on Flickr contains an impressive collection of Assange-inspired art. The first of the three portraits of Julian Assange at the Abode of Chaos has been painted by an artist called Thomas Foucher. The second one has been posted on the occasion of Assange’s arrest, while the third and the most impressive one by Ehrmann has been posted to celebrate Assange being named the Man of the Year by Le Monde. The third portrait of Assange incorporates the fictitious cult-rebel hero ‘V for Vendetta’. While the right half of the portrait is that of Assange, the Guy Fawkes mask that ‘V’ wears forms the left half. This portrayal is extremely striking due to the parallel drawn between the man who fought against the totalitarian government in the Graphic-Novel series by Alan Moore and the man who is fighting against the tightlipped and seemingly scheming leaders and authoritative bodies in a world – present and real – plagued by many miseries.
From anger and contempt to ridicule – TIME’s decision to overlook WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange and recognise Facebook founder Mark Zuckerburg as the 2010 ‘Person of the Year’ continues to reign the media. After a large portion of the international media criticized the magazine’s move, Saturday Night Live (SNL) was the latest to join the bandwagon with a little comic touch.
The late-night television sketch comedy ridiculed the TIME’s decision leading to several media outlets interpreting the piece as and yet again reiterating that despite the final decision Assange has emerged the hero.
”SNL’ pits Assange against Zuckerberg’: read a headline on CNET. Mashable wrote: ”SNL’ Skewers Zuckerberg: Is WikiLeaks’ Assange the Hero?’.
Bill Hader plays Julian Assange in the SNL scene, in which the founder of the whistle blower site is depicted as congratulating Time magazine on its selection of Mark Zuckerberg as ‘Person of the Year’.
“Tonight I want to congratulate Time magazine on the excellent selection of Mark Zuckerberg as Person of the Year. Time magazine – always on the cutting edge; discovering Facebook only weeks after your grandmother.”
Among the many observations Hader (Assange) makes, one notable remark is: “What are the differences between Mark Zuckerberg and me? Let’s take a look. I give you private information about corporations for free. And I’m a villain. Mark Zuckerberg gives your private information to corporations for money and he’s Man of the Year.”
The popular live variety show, known for parodying American culture and politics, mainly chose to draw contrasts between the two men.
Zukerburg and Assange are, in fact, very different from each other.
Take for instance, Zuckerburg’s disappointing, if not completely empty, statement on WikiLeaks, released with Time’s press release:
“I mean the wikileaks story is fascinating, but I also just don’t think we’re anywhere near the end of it. And I personally feel like, from the coverage that I’ve read, that I don’t understand enough to fully comment on it, so I won’t.
But I do think it’s a fascinating kind of turn of events, and watching how the different institutions react to it is also fascinating….We definitely don’t wake up in the morning and think about toppling institutions.
But one of the things that I think happens from people being able to share their opinions with their friends or more broadly. You know I really do think there is this concept where the best stuff spreads.”
With this, Zuckerberg seemed to have intended to tell Facebook users that the social networking site is not very different from Wikileaks, while it also tried to appease those against the whistle-blower site by saying that Facebook does not “think about toppling institutions.”
By snubbing Assange, TIME seems to have contributed positively to the 39-year-old Australian’s image and rather negatively to Zuckerburg’s. SNL’s little piece has asserted that yet again.
So what if the TIME magazine chose to snub WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange for the ‘Person of the Year’ title, the Rolling Stone magazine crowned the silver-haired whistle blower the ‘Rockstar of the Year’ for 2010.
The Italian edition of the US-based magazine made thousands of WikiLeaks worshipers happy on this week by naming the 39-year-old controversial Australian the ‘Rockstar of 2010’.
There is no doubt that majority of the rock fans out there agree with the magazine’s contention that even though Assange is not a musician he “is the person who best embodied a rock’n’roll behaviour” this year.
“Assange is an icon like Che Guevara on T-shirts or Mao for Andy Warhol. He is the pop leader of the end of diplomacy and imperial security. Assange is the true rock&roll; star of the Three Thousand years,” said the magazine devoted to music, politics, and popular culture.
‘The Man Who Fell (From The Web) to Earth’ – reads the cover of the magazine, which features a “bare-chested” Assange – a detail that hit the headlines across the globe.
According to the magazine, the decision to publish tens of thousands of leaked US diplomatic cables made him a cross between a James Bond baddy, a Marvel comics superhero and a character from The Matrix films.
With the tag line ‘The Man Who Fell (From The Web) to Earth, the magazine also drew comparisons between Assange and David Bowie’s character in the 1976 movie ‘The Man Who Fell to Earth,’ in which Bowie plays a humanoid alien who is sent to Earth to secure water for his dying planet.
Besides praising him as “the exterminator of secrets held by the world’s great powers”, the magazine described him as “the popleader of the end of diplomacy and imperial security”.
WikiLeaks’ recent ‘Cablegate’ exposed confidential communications between 274 embassies in countries across the globe as well as the US State Department. Besides the latest and the massive Nov 2010 leak, WikiLeaks has a long list of achievements to show for the year, including the Iraq Apache helicopter attack, Guantanamo Bay procedures, Scientology, Climate Reasearch e-mail leaks, leaks from Sarah Palin’s e-mail account, and 9/11 pager data.
However, Assange follows another non-rockstar in winning the title. The Italian edition of Rolling Stone had in 2009 named the sex scandal-tainted Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi its ‘Rockstar of the Year’ for his “lifestyle worthy of the greatest rock star.”
Nevertheless, the 2010 selection of the Rolling Stone deserves a huge applause, especially after TIME disappointed with its selection of Facebook’s founder Mark Zuckerburg for its ‘Person of the Year’ title despite Assange winning a whooping 382026 votes from the public to head the list of the contenders for the year. [Time Public Voting Poll Results]
Julian Assange and his army at WikiLeaks are doing what legendary rockstars sang or rather screamed about. The whistle blower’s actions and the effects its having not only on the US government but also on authorities across the globe reflect the political angst of the likes of Megadeth’s Dave Mustaine, who has authored songs like ‘Peace Sells’; and that of Rage Against The Machine’s provocative lines from songs like ‘Killing in the name of’.
So hats off to Rolling stone for acknowledging the real rockstar of the day – the man who shook up the planet with the truth.