New Haven, accustomed to the picket lines and passionate speeches that accompany frequent rallies, is now host to a quieter, albeit equally fervent protest.
A new art exhibit on Chapel Street between Church and Orange Streets, “The War on Bush,” displays the strong anti-war sentiment of the Stuckist art group — an international art group formed in reaction to what they deem gimmicky conceptual art. The exhibit features paintings from cities around the world, including Paris, Rio de Janeiro, Hamburg, Melbourne, Seattle, Tokyo and London, where Stuckism originated.
“We’re opposed to the war as far as it’s being handled,” co-organizer Jesse Richards said. “We think it’s a mistake to ask for help from the U.N., only to tell them to go stick it when you don’t like what they say.”
Richards said the show started off as simply an international arts show. Just a few weeks ago, while on the phone with Stuckism founder Charles Thomson, Richards decided to change the focus of the exhibit to reflect an anti-war message.
“Obviously Saddam is a bad guy and he needs to go, but we’re opposed to how it’s being handled,” Richards said. “We’re also worried about stability in that region.”
Richards said the exhibit’s hurried opening prevented it from being complete, and the show will continue to expand in coming weeks.
In addition to the exhibit, the Stuckists staged a mock trial of President George W. Bush on March 21 on the steps of Church Street’s U.S. District courthouse.
“Our leaders are making clowns of us all with their double talk. We will be trying an effigy of the President in chains and an orange Camp X jumpsuit. There will be a clown judge, a clown defense and clown prosecuting attorney,” show co-organizer Nic Watson said in a press release.
“Charges include planning crimes against humanity outside the sanction of international law. Our leader has reduced himself to the same level as those whose terrorist actions he condemns,” he said.
Other shows are opening in conjunction with the New Haven exhibit, including “The War on Blair,” a similar protest at the Stuckism International Centre in London.
“Bush and Blair have hypocritically betrayed their own standards and principles. If there is international law it applies equally to them as it does to Saddam Hussein and Bin Laden,” said Watson. “The message they are sending is that it is OK to break the law when it suits you. What kind of example is that?”
The Stuckists were founded in London in 1999 by Thomson and Billy Childish, along with 12 other artists. The term “stuckist” comes from an insult by artist Tracey Emin, an ex-girlfriend of Childish’s, when she said to him, “You are stuck. Stuck! Stuck! Stuck!”
There are now 60 Stuckist groups around the world. They believe in painting and are against conceptual art, which they believe has no artistic value. They wish to bring spiritual values back into art, which they believe is being corrupted by shallow artists who are overly interested in publicity.
The exhibit is open for viewing on Saturdays, Sundays during the day, and Tuesday nights, through April 25.