Friday, June 02, 2006

From Lip Balm to Felix Dzerzhinsky

Belarus has just unveiled a memorial statue to Felix Dzerzhinsky, of the Cheka and the Red Terror. Harry's Place compared the reputation of Dzerzhinsky with that of Che Guevara.

Now in the V&A there's an exhibition of photos of Che. In an act of turning the literary and historical into just the visual the V&A have removed "much of the text accompanying and explaining the images", and posted it on its website instead. That's helpful for visitors to the show.

The V&A website describes Che as "a symbol of fashion’s fascination with radical chic". It appears to be an exhibition devoid of context making Che yet another icon whose image can be bought and sold. There's an Argentine expression for this phenomenon:
“Tengo una remera del Che y no sé por qué,” or “I have a Che T-shirt and I don’t know why.”
In a futher show of the abandonment of politics for fashion Gerry Adams was refused an invite to the opening because "having Gerry Adams there may not be appropriate". Now opinions on Gerry Adams vary, but here he seems to have been "uninvited" because he is seen as "P-O-L-I-T-I-C-A-L" and we can't have that, can we, boys and girls.

Ms Ziff [, the curator,] remains dismayed. "It's extraordinary," she said. "The V&A have tried to turn it all [the Guevara exhibition] into just a design image and remove the resonance from it all.

"But you can't just turn Che Guevara into a commodity. The photo of Che by Alfredo Korda is the most reproduced image in history but it still has power. You can call it a storm in a teacup but it is really insidious. And on top of all that, the V&A shop is selling all these images of Che - there is even a Che lip balm.I'm amazed at the mindset."

Among items for sale during the exhibition will be a Che finger puppet, Che chocolate cigar, Che doll and Che cigar box as well as T-shirts, stickers, neon signs and badges.
I suppose that's an empty cigar box?

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