Chances are you've probably never heard of Michael Dickinson, Turkish artists, or even collage artists for that matter. But across the pond, this guy is stirring up alot of trouble and controversy, raising questions about how the public views and interprets art. The British artist has fled Turkey for the UK after learning that he could be jailed, again, for insulting the Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan in a collage he made in 2006 called "Good Dog". This collage depicts Turkish Prime Minister Erogan as a dog on a stars and strips lead chain. Good Dog wasn't the first piece to get him in trouble though. He also created "Best in Show", which shows President Bush awarding the Turkish Prime Minister with a ribbon at a dog show. "Best in Show" was confiscated by police and Dickinson was charged with "insulting the dignity of the Prime Minister" after he refused to take the work down. In response to these charges, Dickinson stated, "it was up to the viewer to make his own interpretation; a visual artist shouldn't need to explain in words. Pictures are for eyes. Words (spoken) are for ears."
Dickinson was acquitted for the charges last September for insulting the PM when the judge decided that though the artwork was insulting according to Turkish standards, it would not be according to standards in the European Union. Turkey was trying to join the EU at the time, and according to the EU, Dickinson was in the clear, not a criminal. Dickinson carried on since then but last week he overheard that the public prosecutor was overturning the acquittal and Dickinson was up to the plate again to fight for his works. So what did he do? As Jenny would say, "Run Forrest, Run!" He dropped everything and left the country, hoping the British gov't will not extradite him back for to Turkey for a trial.
Dickinson is a member of the Stuckist movement, an International art movement for contemporary figurative painting with ideas. You can visit his web-site to see more of his works, here. This story brings up alot of issues, most of which are coincidental as we recently celebrated our own freedom here in the United States. When it comes to art and politics in the U.S., the most recent news bit was the Obama Hope portrait by my mind goes to the Obama Hope painting, by Los Angeles street artist Shepard Fairey, depicting Obama with the word "Hope." This work was one of the most memorable images from the 2008 election and is now part of the Permanent Collection at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.
I'm not sure what to think of Dickinson, as I'm not too familiar with the Turkish prime minister or the government. Many people around the world send their messages and opinions of political leaders and government systems through violence and riots. Dickinson may very well just be taking his aggression out through art, which is a much safer medium, and just as powerful. Granted, I wouldn't be happy if I saw a mural of my head on a poodle's body, I wouldn't go so far as to put the person in jail.....or maybe? I'm torn....just another day in the controversial art world.